The U.S. Needs to Stop Paying Lip Service to the Uyghur Cause and Start Acting | Opinion
Nury Turkel, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
For the past two decades, I have lived with a heavy burden: My human rights advocacy has come at the cost of my family. My parents have been unable to see their American children and meet their grandchildren. I could not participate in my father’s funeral after he passed away in April last year.
China has sanctioned me due to my role in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which has been vocal in its critiques of the Chinese government and recommendations to hold them accountable for violations of religious freedom and atrocity crimes. In particular, my work on Uyghur human rights for the past two decades has resulted in retaliation against my family members back in China.
My late father remarked a few years ago that he wished he had passed away already so he could have left this world with good memories. It pains me beyond words that I could not be there to carry my father’s casket in the end and to hold my mother to mourn together. Upon receiving the news of my father’s passing, I still carried on with my trip on behalf of the U.S. government agency. But I will feel forever deprived of what should be a fundamental thing in the free world: to attend a loved one’s funeral and say final goodbyes.
My experience is commonplace in the Uyghur diaspora.
A year after losing my father, I am still struggling to reunite with my mother and introduce her to my children. The Chinese officials’ refusal to let my mother go shows they are waiting for her to die as my father did, which would allow them to close the case without being pressed to account for their actions.
I have not seen my mother since 2004. This Chinese brutality is beyond the pale. My mother lost the life she knew and her husband of 53 years. She deserves to spend whatever time she has left in this world surrounded by her American children and grandchildren.