Mihriay is my niece, not my daughter, she died in the Chinese concentration camp in 2020. She studied plant biotechnology at university Tokyo from 2014- 2017. After that she was working as a researcher in Nara science and technology institute. She was forced back to China in June 18 2019. She had returned back to China because she faced tremendous pressure from the Chinese local police in Kashagr. The local police asked her to choose to stay diaspora with me the separatist or her choose to live with her mother in Kashagr. Her mother is the one who is living outside of the camp.
Mihriay was just like my own daughter, she was the first life I hold in my arms. I still remember the flavor of milk. She was the good news I told to my mom who was sick at the hospital. She was delighted, she said “there is new guest knocking at the door, I should bet at home, I must go back home”. just like miracle she stood up from the bed she stayed for more than six months and went back home with me.
Mom was at home, Mihriay was on my father’s arm, her parents, my brother and sister in law were busy with preparing bed to her, it is special Uyghur bed in Uyghur call it Boshuk. It was a beautiful night, our family silenced for six months without my mom was alive again that day, The moon was smiling, it was smiling from the window, shining in the dark, I called her, Mihriay, It meant “the moon of love”. Everyone liked the name, Dad called her “Mihriay” three time on her left air and right air, while he faced to the moon in the sky.
She was the one whose crying meant good news, It didn’t mean sadness any more. Every time when she cries our family got around her and smile at her, learn how to smile bright like her, and enjoy her crying.
She was the life I saw it growing, she was the spirit which made me feel warm. her innocent eyes, her bright smile, embraced me joy.
I remember every step in her life. How did I raise her, how I lead you to walk, How did I care for you, how did I taught her to talk, convinced her to learn English.
Suddenly that day she told me that she was going back to China in June 2019. It is really hard day for me to stop her, to say no to her, because if I wanted to keep her in Japan I have to stop talking about the genocide happening to Uyghur. She can only stay in Japan after stopping me what I have been doing for years.
I can’t imagine how did I lose her, how I let her go. How did I bear to see her in the cold iron cage where I was trapped in. I know it grabbed her so tight, It squeezed her, at the end it squeezed her to die.
Now, I am far away from her grave, I don’t even know she had the grave. But I am sure there is no peonies on her grave, because she didn’t even have chance to talk about her last wish. I will not see flowers on her grave in my life may be. It is raining here, the rains are dropping, creeping down my arm, Rains are digging a hole, Down into my mind. Clouds crying, my lips are dry like the desert. Rains are digging hole, down into my heart, The hole it dug is dry so dry. The hole in my heart is empty, like the well in the desert. How can my eyes cry, They were already dry. I am just like the desert far from the water, I am the desert cannot cry, the desert never be able to cry, Like me, it never can cry.
Mihriay, she sent me her last messages, one of her messages she said “if I die, if I have a grave, put a bouquet of peonies on my grave to mark it’ . I hope she has a grave, I hope Mihriay’s soul could reborn as the Peonies everywhere that freedom needs to gain despite being imprisoned for it.
There is a poem about peonies, it is a famous Uyghur poem spread real broadly among the Uygurs. It means if anyone who fought for freedom and love and died for them, that one could reborn again as peonies. The poem was written depending on the folks tales wide-spread among the Uyghurs.
When a Norwegian journalist asked me:
Why are you so strongly connected to Mihriay? Did you spend a lot of time together when she grew up?
I thought it for a while i don’t know what to say and how to answer the question. I spent my long time with my mother. However I didn’t cried so much as I did for Mihriay. When something reminds me my mother, i didn’t cry, but for Mihriay i always couldn’t control myself.
I don’t know is it because of loving her so deep like my daughter, or because of her loyalty on my way of living, or her success in academy, by the way, she would be a successful scientist according to her performance. Have I been feeling so sad it is because of her contribution to Uyghur cause, and her assistances when I need help?
I think those are the reasons, but main reason i believe that I tried to save people in the camps, not three thousand, up to three million people including my brother and sisters, i tried so hard for four years, but at the end i lost my niece.
She died in Kashgar December 20, 2020, she died at the same detention center which i was electricized and abused, I thought those are reasons what kept torturing me.
When I am answering the questions about Mihriay’s death, i feel like I am growing something, something like flowers, like peonies which Mihriay’s favorite.
I hope her death will bring us together, not pushing us separated, i hope her death remind us preciousness of love and freedom, i hope her death will grow seeds of love among us, not the hatred. None can hate peonies, the flower which symbolize love and freedom in Uyghur culture.
I believe people who love peony will not allow flowers die like Mihriay in front of their eyes.
To Europa Verlag
I am Abduweli Ayup, I allow Europa Verlag to reprint these images freely.