Paying for Paying a Visit: She Visited Her Son in Turkey, She Went to Jail

Paying for Paying a Visit: She Visited Her Son in Turkey, She Went to Jail

  • A Uyghur mother was duly authorized by the Chinese government to visit her son who was studying in Turkey. Later, the visit was regarded as a crime and she was arrested.

Imagine you have a child, and you decide to send him or her abroad to provide them with better educational opportunities. Then, during their studies, you go to visit them in their current place of residence. Do you see anything extraordinary in such a course of events? Probably not. Unless we add that, as a result of such a family reunion, you go to prison, and never see your family again—for many years.

Bitter Winter readers already know that such cases are not rare among the families of the Uyghur ethnic minority in China. When you are a Uyghur, whatever you do might be perceived as a crime by the government. And, if you have relatives abroad, that your deeds will be criminalized becomes a certainty. We have already reported many heartbreaking stories of Uyghur families torn apart, but there is no end. Jevlan Shirmemet (born 1991, from Ghulja), has shared with Butter Winter the story of his detained mother.

Jevlan Shirmemet came to Istanbul in 2011 in order to study. He enrolled on one of Istanbul’s universities in 2012, and graduated in 2018. However, the period of happiness brought about by this success was short. All because of the fact that his mother visited him in Turkey in 2013. In so-called normal circumstances, there would be nothing special to be found in this visit. However, we are talking about ethnic minorities in China. After 2017, keeping in touch with relatives abroad has been listed as a crime for the Uyghurs.

Jevlan’s mother, Suriye Tursun, was born on March 21, 1964 in Korgas, in what Chinese call Xinjiang and Uyghurs prefer to call East Turkistan. Before her detention, she had worked as a civil servant, and there was not much time left before her retirement. In 2011, her son left home to gain academic experience in Turkey. As would probably be the case for every mother in the world, she was curious to examine the conditions her son was living in.