a mini rant and many tangents

From Uyghur Update 17th – 25th November:

A Pakistani journalist wrote a little bit on the life of Uyghur people in Urumchi. It doesn’t really say much except that not all Uyghurs feel oppressed, no one really talks about politics, and Pakistani visitors are welcomed by security. I guess it is important to see that there are Uyghur people who are just living their lives. It’s nice to know that not everyone feels China’s policies are an excessive restriction of human rights. Perhaps right now, ignorance is bliss for those who live there.

However, there is still a part of me that doesn’t really understand the point of this article. It offers a narrative that isn’t constantly screaming about how we are oppressed, yes, but it’s not like we ever said we’re not allowed to pray in the provided, government-sponsored, Chinese flag-baring mosques. We’re just not allowed to pray at home, if we work for the government or are a Party member, if we’re younger than 18, if we pray in a way that is not allowed by the government, in a non-Sinicised way, or taught by Imams who do not follow strict government guidelines. But we’re allowed to pray.

Old people with beards are okay, but young men are suspicious. The hijab style worn in the photos are okay because they’re not the “extremist” style. Our culture is allowed to thrive and be seen as beautiful and exotic but only if it isn’t subversive to the government’s Uyghur narrative.

I don’t want Uyghur news to only be about the abuse we receive, but I think the answer to that is to write stories that are more nuanced, rather just having two contrasting viewpoints.

Yet, this ties in really interestingly with these Tweets I found recently. The first talks of a Chinese girl’s experience attempting to travel with her Uyghur friend – she could not book any hotels because none would allow her friend to stay. One response to this led to an article published earlier this year by Uyghurs (part of the Xinjiang Communist Youth League) who apparently justified this system of “apartheid”.

The authors of the article say that we Uyghurs are being treated this way because of a small group of “scum”, and that we should cooperate as best we can (with the difficulties of booking hotels, extra security, difficulties with renting, etc) until the “Three Evil Forces” and the “terrorist” label is completely dissociated from us. Uyghurs are a simple, kind, patriotic, grateful, hospitable people with a splendid culture, and our public image has been marred by these “people”. This bares an interesting resemblance to what Muslims face in the West – we are discriminated against because we bare resemblance to those who carry out terror attacks in the name of Islam, and we do not want to be associated with this small, dangerous minority. However, while these Uyghurs are angry at their minority, they seem to believe that the punishment every other Uyghur faces is justified and necessary. In contrast, Muslims in the West are speaking out against any sort of discrimination and oppose any sort of law that will use “extremism” or “counter-terrorism” as an excuse to legalise discrimination based on race or religion.

The article continues on to say that we are an inalienable part of China since ancient times, and that China is the motherland that looks after us and keeps us safe, and we are so incredibly grateful for that. How could we possibly abandon her? This is factually untrue and pure, rehearsed, oft-repeated propaganda so I’ll just ignore it…

They defend Islam and say it’s a peaceful religion. They quote the Qur’an to prove this and then state that ignorance is a terrible thing. Again, very similar to what the Muslims in the West are saying, and I agree. We shouldn’t be associated with terrorists, and most major religions advocate peace. However, I assume if I asked whether they think that China’s discriminatory practices are the reasons why some of these people may have turned to violence, they would continue to say that the proper response to this sort of government treatment is to comply with the government until society deems us safe…

The fourth point is, why not learn Mandarin? Those who refuse to learn it are stubborn and lazy. I agree with the good points of learning Mandarin they mention (not so hot on the whole motherland, sharing culture, splendid Chinese culture stuff but whatever). They only ask “Who says they want to eliminate Uyghur and eliminate Uyghur culture?” but don’t continue down that line, which is the main point I would have wanted them to talk about. I am not against learning Mandarin or English – you do get better opportunities. I am against the steady removal of Uyghur-language learning. It’s not like Uyghurs in the past haven’t been able to study their fields in the Uyghur language and then move to different countries to pursue their field in other languages. Learning an international language is great for expanding your horizons, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of having Uyghur spoken only in Uyghur literature or culture classes. What if I wanted to learn science in Uyghurche? Will that be possible in the next few years?

The fifth and last point was the most onerous and least pleasant to read, personally: “Who gave us a happy life today?” Apparently it was only when New China and Comrade Xi Jinping stepped in that we started to live without worry. They even mention famous historical figures who “repayed” the Motherland. I am a bit confused as to why they mention people like Amannisakhan, who was a couple hundred years before the Qing empire first invaded but… anyway… this last paragraph:

…we must establish a correct world outlook, outlook on life and values, listen to the party talk, follow the party, make due contributions to realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, realize the goal of social stability and long-term peace and stability in Xinjiang, and write the youth of Xinjiang to realize the Chinese nation The Great Revival of the Chinese Dream in Xinjiang. Let us work hard together!

Fascinating. This is probably a taste of the sort of thing they are teaching in those reeducation camps. This is public propaganda. It has just enough truth in there for all the factual inaccuracies to seem true. The problem is, these people probably believe everything they write. This is exactly why China is revamping their education policies right now. It is an excellent form of control. How can you get people to believe that the removal of their freedoms are justified and necessary? I bet they also think that human rights is a suspicious Western construct. As someone who has grown up questioning authority it is so interesting to read from people who would never do so.

I could, perhaps, understand it from a religious perspective – but this isn’t religion. No matter how cult-like it is, the Party does not claim to be God. And yet it is an all-encompassing power, always watching, always knowing, wanting to protect, punishing them when they step out of line, when they have the wrong thoughts, and constantly claiming that it wants and knows what’s best for them. All the citizens must do is believe and have faith in the Party… the Party are the people who gave them peace and harmony in times of discord… the ones who will keep them safe… we just need to never question them…

Oh boy, that went straight to 1984. I suppose it’s a little like religion?

The difference, from my personal experiences from going to Islamic school, is that all my Islamic teachers would tell us: question the Qur’an (the Qur’an should be able to stand up to questioning if it is true), never bow to anyone other than Allah, never bow to any person. You must respect your parents but if they tell you to do something wrong then disobey. I mean, to me, that was clear permission to only have faith in God and not any man-made state or law. Question teachers (religious or otherwise), question leaders, rebel against tyranny; that was what I grew up with. But these Uyghurs don’t have any distinction between people and faith. There is just the Party who gives and gives and gives and only wants loyalty in return. They worship the Party in gratitude.

 

Writing this, I realise I am talking to Uyghur people who side with the Chinese Communist Party. I don’t hate them, and I can see why they might want to join that team. Their views are not convincing enough for me to agree with them, but in writing this I feel a little sad that we can’t have this sort of discourse in person. I cannot go to where they are and have a proper debate about these sorts of issues because I will probably be arrested. Do they believe in freedom of speech? It seems like social criticism is fine as long as it isn’t too political.

If I think of it in a way where white supremacists in the US would be imprisoned for promoting their dangerous ideas, it makes a little sense. The question, I guess, is what constitutes as a danger to the safety of the people? I agree with locking up a Nazi who tells people to kill all Jews (an Uyghur calling for the genocide of all Chinese citizens should probably be locked up). But should the US be allowed to lock up Texan secessionists for simply wanting to be a separate country? Or, what if the parts of USA that used to be Mexico wanted to go back to Mexico?

For me, it is instinctive to say that it is wrong for the US to have internment camps and no-fly lists for Muslims, but what if they did it for actual KKK and Nazis? I suppose the question is, where would they draw the line between your casual white conservative racist and a real Nazi threat?

Right now, China puts regular Uyghurs in re-education camps until their ideas align with state ideas. Surely it is wrong for the US to put anyone who exhibits signs of racism in re-education camps – like China, you would end up with thousands of people in detainment. (Not that Uyghurs wanting to oppose government policies is the same as the structural racism in Western countries, but for the sake of argument). But what about actual KKK members? Does China see me as a Nazi? Do they really think my ideas and beliefs are that dangerous? I do not want to declare myself as superior to another race and call for mass genocide. But is that what China thinks we want to do? We are being punished for things they believe we are going to do based on our political views. Do they not see that letting us talk out our frustrations would be better than completely shutting us up? Was brainwashing really the best long-term compromise they could think of?

I suppose the short answer is they really don’t care. The idea is similar to the idea of creating a perfect race. Kill everyone with defects and undesirable traits, let the pretty, docile, grateful people breed. Kill any mutations. Perhaps they know it is impossible to completely eliminate everything they want to kill, but they keep it at bay by culling anything outside the average and keeping the rest confined. They will create the narrative that people who are much, much less extreme than me (and I’m not that extreme…) are just as bad as terrorists and will lock them up for the “safety” of the majority. The majority will agree because they are afraid or apathetic, or agree that people who think differently will behave differently and those who behave differently are a threat to peace. Literally:

People’s thinking determines their actions, actions become habits, habits affect people’s growth. The young people are the future and hope of the motherland. Everyone should correct their thinking and take every step of the road to life. General Secretary Xi Jinping sent a message to young people that they are in the period of forming and establishing values. This is like wearing clothes and buttons. If the first button is wrong, the remaining buttons will be wrong.

Policing thought has been presented to the public as normal and correct and logical. Do they really think the Party’s way of thinking is the only correct way to think? How…

 

That was a really random tangent. Anyway, my point is, I’m a little sad that I can’t have a conversation with these Uyghur communist youth league people. I have so many questions.

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my poem was translated

So part two of my interview with RFA came out today. I haven’t listened to it because I really don’t want to, however I did click on the links (Uyghur)(latin script) and, gosh, maybe I really should have provided them with my own picture lol. Anyway, I read it and was surprised to see that they had interviewed my parents as well? lmao. However, the coolest part was right at the end, where they had actually translated my poem to Uyghurche! And by they I mean TAHIR HAMUT! Wow. Wow. Wow! But that was not the only best part. What could possibly be better, you may ask. Well, sir, I was alerted to the fact that at the end of the audio someone actually reads the Uyghur version of my poem over traditional Uyghur folk music in traditional Uyghur oral poetry fashion T_T. A dramatic reading! Of the translation! Amazing. Simply amazing.

So here’s the Uyghur version of the poem:

Men aldandim shu tolun aygha,
Oranghan idi u yalghan yipekke,
Yochun makanda chachmaqta shola,
Ötmüshte mewjut bolmighan saxta eslime goya.
Tenha yashimaqtimen,
Héchbir ejdadim yashap baqmighan bir zéminda.
Tolun ay pichirlaydu,
Kümüsh qirghaqlar qargha chümkelgen perqlerni eslitidu.
Yalqunning eksi xuddi qum baraxanliri kebi,
Méning rohim uning ilkide.
Meptunluq we qorqunch ichide,
Okyangha tashlanghan menggülük sholisi
Bir yat aralning.
Ilajim yoq tengritaghqa qaytishqa,
Shundaqla
Toxarlar makanigha.

Huwlighan böriler we chapqur atlar kelmeske ketti,
Owchi lachinlarning chirqiraq sadaliri bilen.
Oxshash bir tolun ayda zahir bolup,
Tenha men özüm.

U qiz deydu:
Karwanlar, tolghanghan rohlar ésingdimu?
Tilni yaridighan qoghunlarning shérinliki yadingdimu?
Nawat chaylarchu?
Yadingdimu men? dep soraydu. Etken chaydin kéyin
Naxsham bilen séni elley éter idim.
Ata-Aniliring ili wadisida
Tökken idi hörlük üchün issiq qénini,
Yételmigen armanlar qaldi uzaqta.

Emma u qiz shiwirlaydu
Kechmish hayatqa.
Téqimigha chüshken sumbul chachlar,
Teklimakanning issiq tiniqi.
Men peqet bir tashlanghan saye,
Chetellerde,
Zindangha qayta bend bolushtin qutulush üchün tirmishiwatqan.
Yurtum emma
Tolun aygha esir bolghan.
U manga, tekrar – Tekrar
Téxi menzilge yetmigenlikimni shiwirlaydu,
Taki men esliyeligüche,
Némining téxi bashlanmighanliqini bilgüche.
Emma men qaytalmaymen
Taki ashu weten hör bolmighuche,
Tolun ayning apetlik changgilidin
Qutulmighuche.
Qachaniki men qutulghanda,
Ashu saxta yipeklerdin
Oriwalghan
Méni asrap östürgen wetinimni.
Uchup barghum bar
Rohim manga tikilip turuwatqan ashu makangha,
Ottura asiyadiki derya boyigha jaylashqan ashu wadigha,
Shu tolun aygha esir bolghan we uning ichide panahlanghan wetenge.

 

I can’t believe…

So I have to thank RFA for that translation… this is like a lifetime achievement…

 

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Confrontation?

I just remembered a small incident I had a couple weeks back. My friend and I had gone to a film screening. We were sitting in our assigned seats when some older woman and her husband came and told me I was sitting in her seat. She showed me her online ticket, and I showed her the paper tickets we had just bought. There were plenty of seats so I didn’t know why she was making such a fuss, but I just thought it would all be solved if my friend and I moved up a seat. It didn’t really matter to me, and this lady was making a big deal out of nothing. I said something must have gone wrong with the system but it should be fine if we all had seats.

A couple minutes later, another older woman came and claimed the husband was sitting in her seat. She had the ticket to prove it. I looked over and explained that my ticket also seemed to have been double-booked. But no, this lady was ready to fight. She was already putting on her aggressive stance. The couple were also being incredibly stubborn about being correct. I just watched. I had not wanted to fight them because old people are always super stubborn and these people sounded like they always got their way. Plus, I have never really cared about assigned seats in theatres. Oh, but they argued lol. Maybe that’s why their ancestors managed to colonise the world. In the end, it turned out the couple were in the wrong theatre, so they left. I just laughed at the situation and took my original seat. The lady who had won her seat back looked at me and asked if they had taken my seat too. I said yes, and she huffed and said, “it’s all computerised – there couldn’t have been a mistake in the system.” She sounded pretty annoyed. I just agreed with whatever she was saying to calm her down then settled in for the movie.

Should I have argued with the couple? I was clearly in the right – I knew that myself. I assumed the older couple were just confused. However, if I had let them sit there, they would have been watching the wrong movie. I was just avoiding conflict because I am a very non-confrontational person. I went straight for the compromise rather than arguing my case. They would have lost, ultimately (watching the wrong movie), and my decision would not have been helpful to them. To be fair, I wouldn’t have wanted to help them, and when they left after realising they were wrong I would have thought it served them right lol. Why should I help them when they insist on being wrong? Not my problem. Let them learn from their mistakes.

But my very non-confrontational attitude… this may lead me to problems in the future. I think I’m gonna have to check myself.

 

Recent events in the world has had me thinking about whether we need to present “both sides” of the matter. For example, in my blog I share many papers on Uyghurs, some of which present us in a good light, and others in a negative light. Some support Chinese occupation while others state otherwise. I had always found that presenting all opinions will open my mind up to new ideas and also show the reader that I am unbiased, therefore hinting that my opinions are informed and valid. Certainly, when I write essays I prefer to show all the pros and cons and then form a conclusion that falls somewhere in between, leaning slightly more towards the side that had a stronger argument. Is it necessary to do so? Yes, if I wanted to have any say against someone who holds an opposing view to me. Perhaps, then, the question lies in the subject matter.

Say you have white supremacists and Nazis who storm a university, chant about how Black Lives don’t matter and how Jews need to be removed. Say you have this group of people ganging up on people belonging to minorities and beating them up. Say they kill people by driving a car into them. Do we need to see their point of view? Perhaps, yes, to understand why they would do such a thing – they seem to fear that their history and way of life is being erased – although, if this means that they want to view minorities as lesser beings and glorify slave-owners then maybe they need to evolve to fit the times. But the danger of listening to their grievances is that it gives their ideology a spot in the limelight. If I were to give their views a safe space to be viewed, I risk the possibility that a non-discerning mind may read it and be led astray.

Out of curiosity, I read a few articles promoted by the supremacists. I went through Trump and his supporters’ Twitter accounts. They are just as confident that they are correct as the left wing media. It was easy to empathise with them if I was not also actively debating with their points of view. The facts no longer matter – they present their own facts and the confidence with which they say it is convincing. It doesn’t help that the left-wing media brushes over some things. I am left confused. And here lies another problem – people who decide to read both sides of the argument are given such polarising “facts” and opinions that they are left unsure of where their opinions should lie.

So, as someone with a sense of moral integrity, I am left with two choices: present to the world a story that will lead to the best possible outcome (peace, harmony, the abolishment of racism and slavery, etc) or present all sides of the story, some of which may be based on falsities, and leave the reader unable to make up their mind. I suppose a third option would be to present all sides with commentary so they know what think. A little cautionary word before every article. Does this mean I need to research and form an opinion on every academic paper I share? What is my duty as someone who wants to share knowledge about Uyghur people with the world? Should I present Chinese propaganda, claiming Uyghurs have been with China for thousands of years, alongside revolutionist revisions of Uyghur pride? Or should I only present thoroughly researched opinions? How will I know what is true and what is false? I am a scientist, and science is testable if the experimental protocols are legitimate. History, sociology, politics – the answers to these change based on the people and the environment and the hands that compile the research.

But my question was: should I present both sides? The difference between what I am asking and what people are accusing Trump of doing is that he wants to put blame on both sides. There are good and bad on both sides, apparently. I don’t know how Nazis can be good but, okay. The difference is his statement is an opinion. He has not presented the facts on both sides, but simply stated an opinion based on whatever facts he thought he knew. I am wondering if I should present anything that shows Uyghurs in a bad light, or in a light that makes our cause seem illegitimate or unnecessary. I don’t want to – I want to present only the writings about Uyghurs that accelerate my agenda. But then I come off as one of those heavily biased conspiracy blogs that I hate. But presenting the “other side” is wrought in falsities and the danger that people will read it and believe it.

I suppose it would be a lot easier if I knew what was true or not. But that is impossible to know most of the time. And so… we’re back at square one…

 

On a side note, I saw someone respond to a post saying that Nazis should be punched with “oh, so violence is okay as long as it’s for your side?” I am a pacifist at heart but lord, if someone were to hurt your child or your relative, would you not punch them back? If someone kicks you in the gut, would you not punch them back? Surely the world wars that America so proudly benefited from used violence to achieve that end? And if someone claims to be a Nazi, then they claim to hold the same beliefs that killed millions of people, they claim to believe that people who are not like them are not people – surely they are asking to be punched? If someone came up to me and said they were a white supremacist and wanted to purify the land of certain groups of people then surely a punch is the least I should do when they are proposing genocide? My thoughts on violence has often changed, and I would much rather no one ever used violence. But if my small violence is being used to prevent others’ large-scale violence then in the scheme of things, this is the best possible choice. Words have already been used. These people do not change. How can you go through American high school, take whole semesters on WW1 and 2, and still end up a Nazi? Despite how bad some areas of American education isthey definitely have a focus on WW2. I learned nothing about any other country in the world but oh boy did I learn about those goddamn world wars. How can you claim to be patriotic and then believe it is wrong to punch someone for being a Nazi? It is utterly baffling. Your police uses violence. Your army uses violence. Generally, when words do not work, violence is the answer. Would you let them have their freedom of speech until there are so many of them who do not care about whether violence is correct or not? They are literally calling for genocide, they will not sit and compromise, and you think violence is wrong? Again, confused as hell.

Me, a poet?

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I was published in my university’s literary journal this week! It was pretty exciting because it had a bit to do with Uyghurs so I felt like I was raising a little more awareness. Plus, I won the poetry prize, which means more people would read it and my poem was the first one in the book. I also received a $100 gift voucher for the school’s bookshop! I can probably buy 4 books with it. Or half a textbook lol. (Don’t buy textbooks it’s a waste of money).

Anyway, the bookshop hosted a launch party for the publication and I had gone just to get a copy of the journal and have some good cupcakes and falafel. As I was leaving, I decided to thank the editors for publishing my poem and was told not to leave because *hush hush* I’d won the prize and they needed to announce it. So I waited, only to hear “and the poetry prize goes to… Jamaana Abdu!” Confused, I still went up and collected it, and coming back down I meet the real Jamaana. She was confused to – she hadn’t written a poem, she was listed to read her story soon. The names had gotten mixed up. And that’s how we had the only three hijabis in the bookshop (yes, the head student editor this year was a hijabi!) come together in cacophony of apologies, confusion, and congratulations, with a few “alhamdulillah”s thrown in there – and relief that the prize had gone to the right person: “wrong name, right person! wrong name, right person!!” she went, off to tell her boss that all was good.

And all was good. I received a coaster as a consolation gift (not that I needed consolation) and then my brother and I were off to celebrate with Uyghur food. It was a memorable night, to say the least.

Here are the screenshots of the poem:

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m vs f brains?

I have always had a fairly strong stance on whether males and females were capable of the same things. I have conceded that males and females are biologically different due to differences in our chromosomes, but have always ascertained that the discrepancies between individual people were so large that, although on average males may have some difference to females, in general you could not assume those differences for an individual. Thus, you cannot assume a person would be incapable of a certain job, for example, based on their gender.

Gender is an interesting thing. Do we have these gender roles because of our biology? Perhaps men were better at leading or hunting because they have more testosterone and are therefore more generally aggressive. But there have been better women leaders and hunters and fighters. Do women stay at home because they have to have children? But there are women who can’t have children, or won’t have children, or are terrible mothers. There are households where the father is a far better caretaker than the mother – not everyone is “naturally inclined” to look after children. But here is where it gets tricky. Yes, a lot of the arbitrary social constructs like household work vs outdoor work were probably imposed by history and society, but what “gender constructs” are an actual result of our biology?

This reminds me of a time when my dad assumed that male and female brains were different, and I vehemently opposed it. In my classes at uni they had dismissed the whole thing about males having better spacial awareness than females (and boys are probably better at video games because they grow up playing it whereas girls are given less opportunities to play it since it’s a “boy activity” according to society), males have bigger brains but they also just have bigger bodies and, anyway, big brain do not equal higher intelligence. I think I read something where having a bigger corpus callosum meant women could transfer information faster from one hemisphere to the other but surely (if that’s true) that varies on an individual level, too? Perhaps I did not think about the effect that our different hormone levels had on our brains, so I probably needed to do more research in that area. It did not strike me as important because people who were biologically male or female could still be very similar and vary in different ways. But then I came across something that threw a spanner into my argument: transgender people.

Transgender people confused me a lot because, frankly, I am not trans and therefore do not understand the type of identity crisis they would go through. How can one know that they are male when they look female, and vice versa? I know, it is a very generalised, layman’s view of transgender issues so I apologise if I offend anyone, but that was the general confusion I faced. To me, the brain was genderless and your body was just your body. I had heard about body identity integrity disorder – for eg. you absolutely do not believe your arm is your arm and therefore want it gone so you get it surgically removed and actually feel good about it afterwards. There is also body dysmorphia, where you are excessively stressed about a certain aspect of your body. However, neither of these explain everything about trans people. Some people are born genderless or with the ability to become either gender because of certain mutations, such as being born with XXY, XXX or XYY etc. sex chromosomes instead of XX for female and XY for male. But again, this doesn’t explain all of it.

I asked a friend if there was a genetic basis for all this – she had been telling me about how being gay seems to be transferred from the mother’s side and may be linked to a mutation on the X chromosome. She told me that, yes, there does seem to be a genetic basis for transgender identity, and they had actually pinpointed some regions of interest. I was surprised. I had assumed that there had not been many genetic studies simply because the argument for transgender issues in public debate almost never brought it up, at least in popular media. So I went ahead and found this on Wikipedia (don’t trust Wiki but this did cite sources so):

A 2008 study compared 112 male-to-female transsexuals (both androphilic and gynephilic), mostly already undergoing hormone treatment, with 258 cisgender male controls. Male-to-female transsexuals were more likely than cisgender males to have a longer version of a receptor gene (longer repetitions of the gene) for the sex hormone androgen or testosterone, which reduced its effectiveness at binding testosterone.[3] The androgen receptor (NR3C4) is activated by the binding of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone, where it plays a critical role in the forming of primary and secondary male sex characteristics. The research suggests reduced androgen and androgen signaling contributes to the female gender identity of male-to-female transsexuals. The authors say that a decrease in testosterone levels in the brain during development might prevent complete masculinization of the brain in male-to-female transsexuals and thereby cause a more feminized brain and a female gender identity.[3][6]

A variant genotype for a gene called CYP17, which acts on the sex hormones pregnenolone and progesterone, has been found to be linked to female-to-male transsexualism but not MtF transsexualism. Most notably, the FtM subjects not only had the variant genotype more frequently, but had an allele distribution equivalent to male controls, unlike the female controls. The paper concluded that the loss of a female-specific CYP17 T -34C allele distribution pattern is associated with FtM transsexualism.[4]

These are only from 1 study each, so I suppose we need to stay skeptical. But what I got from this was that “maleness” and “femaleness” could come from a brain’s exposure to certain hormones during development stages. Certain genetics that prevent the access of hormones to the brain can induce thoughts that, although they are physically one way, their brain is the other. I guess that also brings into question gender fluidity – I once listened to an interview with a trans man who for a while had believed he was a lesbian, then thought he must be genderfluid, before finally admitting that in his mind he was male. But what sort of genetics would a gender fluid person have? I understand people who have neither XY or XX chromosomes – but perhaps there is another factor in there that turns off both the androgen receptor and CYP17 T -34C allele distribution patterns. Perhaps there is something else. That is a different tangent however.

My main point was that transgender people throw into question my beliefs that there is no such thing as male or female brains. I suppose I should have read up more on the effects of our sex hormones on the brain before saying anything. But what does maleness and femaleness mean? There are plenty of men who do not subscribe to gender roles without feeling like they are female. I am proud to be female but I dislike many “feminine” traits. (I also dislike many “masculine” traits though). Listening to the interviews of different transgender people, I tended to hear a few similarities – most people who knew them (and accepted them) reacted with, “oh, right, that makes sense” when they came out as trans. They did not always hate their bodies but they felt uncomfortable in their skin. They never fit in with the other kids of their assigned gender, and when they did, those kids turned out to be LGBT (this was in a more conservative society) or were very liberal people.

Side note: The general argument for transitioning was that the person would come to a point where they had to choose between conforming the brain to the body, or the body to the brain. Most battled for years to conform to their bodies but eventually the brain won out. I think this would make sense for a lot of people who might be against transitioning. It’s just corrective surgery. This makes me wonder if trans people would feel the need to transition if society weren’t so split based on gender. Would they feel comfortable with their bodies if what you looked like didn’t matter? But that is a different topic that is probably best discussed with an actual trans person).

Back on topic – basically, I was wrong. There is, apparently, a difference between male and female brains that isn’t completely based on societal gender roles and our environment growing up. But does it make a difference if this aligns with the gender you are assigned? I’m still not sure I’m convinced. There is still a wide variety among cis-gendered people. If anything, society and culture play a more important role in shaping our brains. Perhaps this difference in environment has had an effect on our biological makeup – some DNA methylation or other that has been passed down for generations that affects the way we think or behave. Even if there was, again, I am not sure if this makes a difference in my initial argument. Only that, now, I agree that there is a “female” and “male” brain (and maybe a “genderfluid” brain?) but this generally has lesser impact on life performance than the environment in which that brain is honed in.

Ah and our bacteria! Our gut microbiota has a direct effect on our brains and the way we think (moods, etc) — what we eat and how we digest it has an effect on our minds! With so many different things affecting the way we think, how much does maleness and femaleness have to do with it? Perhaps, as with anything, it depends on the individual. However, I will still say that males and females are generally capable of the same things. Until proven otherwise. End rant.

I wrote for another blog.

I wrote this little piece comparing China’s hold on Uyghurs to Mother Gothel’s hold on Rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled and it was published today, a month later, on UHRP’s blog. A lot has happened since then so it is a little bit out of date already, but I thought it would be neat to throw in a Disney comparison to the mix of Uyghur news — to humanise us more in the Western world. Is it ironic that comparing us to cartoons is humanising? I don’t know. Here’s the article though: China’s Rapunzel. Enjoy.

July 5th 2017

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Today marks the 8th anniversary of the July 5th Urumqi riots/incident/massacre (depending on where you get your news from). I remember waking up to the news as it happened – my mum had just moved to a different country (a month before the rest of us followed) so I was at my grandfather’s or aunt’s with my dad. Reports were slowly pouring in and it wasn’t too long before I realised this was something big; this was not just the regular news of small disturbances or quickly-quelled attacks; this was going to have a large scale impact. I had just started blogging that year and it was the first time I blogged about anything political. In my own 15 year-old’s words:

For the last couple of months, hundreds of Uyghur workers were forcibly taken to Guang Dong to work in Xuri toy factory for cheap labour. On June 25th a brawl between the workers and the local Han Chinese broke out that killed 2 and injured 118 (according to Chinese media). According to other sources, more than 50 had died. This brawl had come about after a “disgruntled” former worker had started a rumour saying that some of the Uyghur workers had raped 2 Chinese females. This was soon proven false, but the results were the same.

On June 5th, thousands of Uyghur people, mainly students, came out to protest in Urumqi about what happened in Guang Dong. It was meant to be peaceful – they were even carrying Chinese flags instead of Uyghur flags. The government’s response was force. They deployed at least 20,000 armed police to stop the protest with brute force. Official death toll is just above 150, but other reports claim thousands of Uyghur people died. Then the local Han Chinese, thinking that the Uyghurs had killed their Chinese people, came out to kill more Uyghur people, vowing revenge.

The Chinese troops went in to a lot of Uyghur homes to take away the men under “suspicion”. Many men who hadn’t even gone to the protest were also taken away.

This injustice sparked more protests all over Eastern Turkistan. Women in Kashgar came out to protest, saying that the government had taken away their husbands and sons. Now there are thousands of armed troops in cities such as Urumqi, Ghulja, Kashgar, Hotan, Karmay and other cities. They have been told to shoot anyone who looks “suspicious”, and will not be charged if they kill anyone. Many people are afraid to leave their homes. No electricity or water, as they’ve been cut off. Communication to outside of China is near impossible.

The rest of the world though, have heard. We in Australia protested in Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra, with officials such as Kris Hannah, Tony Zappia, Libby Hogarth and Tibetan spokespersons giving speeches. In Canberra you could see the Chinese people hiding behind their curtains and taking pictures in their embassy, not showing their faces. There was even this Chinese guy who came out to protest with us.

Protests have been going on for days in places like California, Washington DC, Turkey, Netherlands, and Sweden, among other countries. We hope the rest of the world can help us too.

I forget that 15 year olds can be aware of things, despite being an aware 15 year old myself… children are smarter than they look. Gotta give them credit sometimes…

Back then it wasn’t even called the “July 5th incident”. The following year, articles like this came out describing eye witness accounts to make some sense of what happened. I will attempt to expand on what I have learnt of the event 8 years since. Note: I will be quoting numbers but they are mostly from Chinese sources which are usually drastically understated:

  • The protest occurred in response to the deaths of 2 Uyghurs in Guangdong, killed by a mob of Chinese who falsely claimed that Uyghur workers had sexually assaulted two Han women
  • The protest started peacefully on July 5th but turned violent
  • The Chinese government claim the violence was pre-planned and masterminded by Uyghurs outside of the country, like Rebiya Kadeer and the WUC
  • Uyghurs say the violence occurred in response to the excessive force deployed by the Chinese government in response to the peaceful protest (stating they started to fire their guns first)
  • The WUC claim no involvement, instead stating there may have been agents provocateurs within the crowds
  • Police used batons, live ammunition, tasers, tear gas and water hoses to disperse the rioters, and set up roadblocks and posted armoured vehicles throughout the city
  • By July 7th, officials reported that 1,434 suspected rioters had been arrested. Personal account state that police took men from their homes indiscriminately, whether they were involved in the protests or not:

Rebiya Kadeer claimed that “nearly 10,000 people” had gone missing overnight.[93] Human Rights Watch(HRW) later documented 43 cases of Uyghur men who disappeared after being taken away by Chinese security forces in large-scale sweeps of Uyghur neighbourhoods overnight on 6–7 July,[63] and said that this was likely to be “just the tip of the iceberg”;[15] HRW allege that young men, mostly in their 20s, had been unlawfully arrested and have not been seen or heard from as of 20 October 2009

  • Women in the hundreds came out to protest these arrests on the 7th July
  • Han Chinese also came out to protest “in revenge” on the 7th July in Urumqi and caused more violence, attacking and killing groups of Uyghurs
  • By July 10th, all but 2 mosques had been closed in Urumqi. This resulted in another protest where the Chinese detained “another 5 or 6 people”
  • The last official update on July 18th placed the tally at 197 dead, 1,721 injured. The WUC claims the death toll was around 600
  • By August:

Over 300 more people were reported arrested. According to the BBC, the total number of arrests in connection with the riots was over 1,500.[10] The Financial Times estimated that the number was higher, citing an insider saying that some 4,000 arrests had already taken place by mid July, and that Ürümqi’s prisons were so full that newly arrested people were being held in a People’s Liberation Army warehouse.[104]

According to the Uyghur American Association, several other Uyghur journalists and bloggers were also detained after the riots; one of them, journalist Gheyret Niyaz, was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for having spoken to foreign media.[105] In the most high-profile case, Ilham Tohti, an ethnic Uyghur economist at Minzu University of China, was arrested two days after the riots over his criticisms of the Xinjiang government.[106][107][108]

  • Mobile/telephone services were cut for months afterwards, and internet and international calls in the region was not restored for almost a year, until May 14th 2010
  • In early August, the Ürümqi government announced that 83 individuals had been “officially” arrested in connection with the riots.[203][204] China Daily reported in late August that over 200 people were being charged and that trials would begin by the end of August.[205][206] Although this was denied both by a provincial[204] and a local Party official,[7] Xinjiang authorities later announced that arrest warrants had been issued to 196 suspects, of which 51 had already been prosecuted. Police also requested that the procuratorate approve the arrest of a further 239 people, and detention of 825 more, China Daily said.[207] In early December, 94 “fugitives” were arrested.[208]
  • Around mid-August to September, syringe attacks were apparently perpetrated by Uyghurs on Hans (although evidence is weird??)
  • On September 3rd, thousands of Han came out to protest and at least 5 people were killed. 3 Hong Kong journalists were attacked and detained by paramilitary police for filming
  • By October:

14,000 security personnel were deployed in Ürümqi from 11 October, and the next day a Xinjiang court sentenced six men to death, and one to life imprisonment,[210] for their roles in the riots. All six men were Uyghurs, and were found guilty of murder, arson and robbery during the riots. Foreign media said the sentences appeared to be aimed at mollifying the anger of the Han majority;[211][212] the WUC denounced the verdict as “political”, and said there was no desire to see justice served.[211] Human Rights Watch said that there were “serious violations of due process” at the trials of 21 defendants relating to July protests. It said the trials “did not meet minimum international standards of due process and fair trials” – specifically, it said that the trials were carried out in a single day without prior public notice, that the defendants’ choice of lawyers was restricted, and that the Party had given judges instructions on how to handle the cases.[213]

  • As schools opened in September, they were guarded by heavily armed police. From personal accounts, many Han and Uyghur students were sent/moved to their respective schools for fear of the other. Uyghur students were made to go through bag checks to make sure they were not carrying weapons, and generally discriminated against in similar ways
  • By January 2010 there were still police patrolling the streets at least 5 or 6 times a day
  • By February 2010 there were at least 26 official executions, although it should be noted that the Chinese media often understates these figures
  • By July 2010 at least 40,000 surveillance cameras were installed in Urumchi
  • To this day there are still people missing after being taken by the police. They have not been accounted for through official reports. According to the Uyghur Human Rights Project: (click on link for more sources)

“The unrest in Urumchi changed the lives of Uyghurs. The use of live fire on Uyghur protestors sent a clear message the Chinese state has run out of solutions to legitimate Uyghur grievances. Since 2009, we have witnessed tighter controls on religion, loss in status of the Uyghur language, suppression of rights to free speech, association, and assembly, as well as accelerated economic discrimination and marginalization,” said UHRP Director, Omer Kanat.

Mr. Kanat added: “However, for the families of Uyghurs disappeared by Chinese security forces in sweeps of Uyghur neighborhoods after the 2009 unrest, there is a personal loss that cannot be reconciled without transparency from China. It is the responsibility of the international community to speak out for these Uyghur families and tell China it should disclose details of their loved ones’ cases.”

On July 5, 2009, Uyghurs peacefully assembled in People’s Square in Urumchi to protest government inaction over a deadly attack on Uyghur factory workers in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province. The details of what happened that day, and over the following months, have been unclear. What is known is that the city erupted into unprecedented unrest that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of people. Reports issued by Amnesty International and the Uyghur Human Rights Project described eyewitness accounts of state security forces firing on peaceful Uyghur protestors.

In the eight years since the unrest questions remain over enforced disappearances of Uyghurs. A report issued by Human Rights Watch in October 2009 documented large-scale sweep operations conducted by security forces in two predominantly Uyghur areas of Urumchi beginning July 6. Human Rights Watch’s report recorded enforced disappearances of 43 Uyghur men. Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called the documented disappearances the “tip of the iceberg.”

In an article dated May 14, 2012, Radio Free Asia described how 36 Uyghur families had come forward with accounts of missing family members since the July 5, 2009 protest. The report on the 36 missing Uyghurs followed a Radio Free Asia article dated May 11, 2012 describing the disappearance of Imammemet Eli. Eli’s mother, Patigul, told Radio Free Asia reporters her son was detained on July 14, 2009 and the last information she had on his condition was obtained nine months after his arrest. For her persistent questioning of Chinese authorities regarding her son’s fate, Patigul was detained for two years. Further troubling aspects of state security actions post-July 5, 2009 are reports of minors arbitrarily detained, tortured, sentenced, or simply disappeared.

Not much has changed since. Every person I know who has gone back there since these events have said they have been harassed by security and have had their IDs, travel permits, bags and phones checked multiple times as more and more security checkpoints were been set up over the years. The region is only becoming more and more of a police state, with soldiers posted basically everywhere.

Annual protests in other countries have been held ever since to remember those who died and those who have disappeared, and to voice our concerns of the resulting policies the government has implemented to force “harmony”. The Chinese government has yet to account for all the questions that have risen from these events. Instead, various officials have been replaced by Party members who are enacting much more stringent security measures and oppressive policies. I outline some of these policies in my article: I Am Uyghur and I Will Protest.

Is there something we can do other than protest and lobby foreign governments? Can we do something other than online activism? In this political climate it all seems a little hopeless. But don’t lose hope. Remember. Remember what happened and who we are. Be vocal. Pray. Nothing lasts forever.

Identity and Mobilization in Transnational Societies: A Case Study of Uyghur Diasporic Nationalism

Guang, T., & Debata, M. R. (2010). Identity and Mobilization in Transnational Societies: A Case Study of Uyghur Diasporic Nationalism. In China & Eurasia Forum Quarterly (Vol. 8, No. 4). [Link]

This paper begins with a definition of certain terms like “transnationalism” and “diaspora”, gives a quick summary of Uyghurs living abroad through statistics and an outline of the sort of work and culture they partake in, and then focuses on Uyghurs in the US. After a brief introduction of the Uyghur American Association and the East Turkistan Government in Exile, they move on to the crux of the paper: the Uyghur Diaspora Nationalism Movement and Cultural Rights Approach.

The authors state that organisations to preserve Uyghur culture and language have been created, however there are different factions as well as disagreements between these organisations with regards to “strategies to be adopted in their mobilization and the nationalism movement overseas connected with their homeland.” The group they focus on is one that wants complete independence from China. They say that this will be impossible without violence as China would not “be willing to compromise its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national interests in this case” unless there were immense changes within the current government. They briefly mention a couple more reasons. The authors believe that independence might not be the best idea for Uyghur people because of some jargon about the difference between a cultural nation and a political state – they seem to think independence and nationalism will lead to extremism and ethnic cleansing which, to me, sounds like a slippery slope argument with no factual basis (they didn’t cite any papers either). Anyway, they mention other authors who also believe the best thing for Uyghurs would be to achieve full autonomy while staying within the borders of China, since independence would be costly and unsupported by the international community. Their solution to the problem:

The authors, therefore, propose a cultural rights approach for the Uyghur diaspora communities to consider – in terms of Uyghur political mobilization and nationalism movement. The culture rights-based nationalism requires that national self-determination be based on individual self-determination by legal, peaceful and rational measures at its best. Cultural rights-based nationalism consists of special national rights and national cultural developing rights in terms of national identity. This demands that nationalism must take individual rights as its core value, and regard individual liberation as its end. Collective rights should not displace individual rights.

Hence Uyghur nationalists need not only the task of protecting their traditional culture but also to develop it, which is much more crucial. The uniqueness of the Uyghur national culture should not only be dug out and preserved, but also be promoted to a higher level of cultural identity and refreshment. Thus, it could serve as the basis for the Uyghur nation to get a deal with China. At the same time, Uyghur nationalists should use every opportunity to appeal for cultural rights peacefully, to demand for true national autonomy, and to share the benefits of Chinese progress and prosperity. Both the authors believe that such a cultural-nationalist approach would surely win international sympathy and support.

…and from then on it sounds a little bit like a patronising lecture rather than an academic paper on nationalism in the Uyghur diaspora. The conclusion states:

The Chinese central government, in turn, should be tolerant and flexible in dealing with Uyghur nationalists advocating cultural rights. The central authorities of China should make an all their effort to help integrate the hapless and hopeless Uyghur minorities into the national mainstream, putting an end to all forms of discrimination against Uyghurs and enabling maximum autonomy. This way, the Uyghur goal for achieving cultural rights and Beijing’s aim at securing unity, territorial integrity and stability in Xinjiang can be realized. As long as both sides are willing to enhance cultural rights of the Uyghurs, a win-win situation will definitely emerge.

…which sounds great and amazing but I don’t think the authors realise how impossible that is for the Chinese government. “Tolerant” and “flexible” are words that do not seem exist in the Chinese dictionary.

In general, I agree that having true autonomy would be a vast improvement for Uyghur people and I can see how it could be a strategically smarter move to stay within the economic growth of China. However, based on what is actually happening, this sounds quite naive and I highly doubt the Chinese government will be willing to enable maximum autonomy for Uyghurs without first getting rid of all forms of contradiction against current Party policies, or implementing an ethnic cleansing of their own upon the Uyghur people.

To be fair, this paper was written in 2010, before people like Ilham Tohti were arrested for attempting to do exactly what the authors suggest. It would be interesting to know if their ideas and suggestions have changed in the last 7 years in response to the government’s new policies.

I did hope this paper was going to be an analysis of the diaspora rather than suggestions for how the diaspora should tackle the issue of independence vs autonomy. Oh well.

I Am Uyghur and I Will Protest

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I recently wrote something (a personal essay?) which was published in The Diplomat today. This is officially my first foray into the public debating sphere, if it can be called that, so here it is: I Am Uyghur and I Will Protest. The reaction so far is good. Well, my parents liked it so I suppose that is all that matters. Hopefully this inspires someone in some way, somewhere..!