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Because a Chinese Muslima wrote poems about the oppression of Muslims in China, China sentenced her to 17 years jail

A Muslim Uyghur poet, known for her poignant poems depicting the lives of Muslim Uyghurs under Chinese rule, is currently serving a prison sentence exceeding 17 years on charges related to separatism, as confirmed by Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Gulnisa Emin, originally from Chira (Cele) county in Hotan (Hetian) prefecture within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, gained recognition for her series of poems titled “One Thousand and One Nights.” She commenced sharing these works online in audiocast format using the pseudonym Gulhan in 2015.

On the 345th night of her poem releases, Gulnisa Emin’s internet connection was abruptly terminated. Within the Uyghur community, rumors circulated that she had received a lengthy prison sentence. This information was relayed by Abduweli Ayup, a Norway-based activist and linguist who documents the situations of missing and incarcerated Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Abduweli noted, “In May 2019, during a protest, I saw a picture of the poet who used the pseudonym Gulhan and couldn’t believe my eyes. I talked to the protester holding her picture and discovered the truth that our beloved poet, Gulnisa Emin, had been detained in December 2018.”

An anonymous source, a Uyghur from Chira now living in exile and well-informed about the situation, informed RFA that Gulnisa had been sentenced to 17 and a half years in Mush Prison. Chinese authorities justified this sentence by claiming that her poetry promoted separatist ideologies.

Gulnisa, aged 45, experienced multiple arbitrary detentions and interrogations starting in 2014 when Chinese authorities initiated an “antiterrorism” campaign, culminating in her final arrest in 2018. While in detention, she bore witness to the severe policies enforced by authorities under the pretext of “upholding the law.” Close friends disappeared, and court convictions led to mass executions, according to the source.

When RFA contacted officials at Chira county court and Chira county high school, where Gulnisa had worked, most declined to comment. However, a senior court official did acknowledge that Gulnisa was one of nearly three dozen county teachers arrested and sentenced in recent years. When asked about the duration of Gulnisa’s sentence, he responded, “Seventeen years and six months.”

A Chinese government official in Chira disclosed to RFA that Gulnisa had been detained once in 2017, spent a year in an internment camp in 2018, and was subsequently sentenced to prison in 2019. Although he couldn’t specify which of Gulnisa’s poems led to her arrest, the nature of her charges, or whether she had undergone a trial, he did confirm that she is serving her sentence in Mush Women’s prison in Tokkuzak (Toukezhake) township in Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture.

Chinese authorities have been systematically detaining numerous Uyghur businessmen, intellectuals, and cultural and religious figures within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for an extended period, as part of an overarching campaign to surveil, control, and assimilate members of the Uyghur minority. This is purportedly aimed at curbing religious extremism and counterterrorism efforts.

Many of these individuals have been among the estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing has defended these facilities as vocational training centers, vehemently denying widespread and well-documented allegations of mistreatment of Muslims residing in Xinjiang.

Gulnisa was a member of writers’ associations in Chira county and Hotan prefecture. Some of her poems were adapted into song lyrics, while others were translated into Chinese and Japanese. She initiated her “One Thousand and One Nights” series on December 4, 2015, and concluded it on March 28, 2018, according to Abduweli Ayup, the activist based in Norway.

This article is based on information from RADIO FREE ASIA


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