My name is Abdurehim Gheni. I live in the Netherlands with my wife and three children. Since May 23, 2017, I have had no contact with my 19 family members living in East Turkestan. I don’t know if they are alive, in “concentration camps” or in prison.
I have been demonstrating alone in Dam Square in Amsterdam since June 23, 2018 to raise awareness of the plight of the Uyghurs, including my family. I have also peacefully demonstrated in front of the Dutch parliament, in front of the Chinese embassy in the Hague, in front of the Eiffel Tower in France, and in front of the UN building in Geneva. However, I still have not heard from my family.
I have sent letters to the Dutch King, the Dutch Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Netherlands for assistance in obtaining information about my missing family members through diplomatic channels. On my behalf, they contacted the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands, which contacted me for more information about the identity of my family members. I provided all the details I had, but after that, I did not hear back.
On August 14, 2020, I protested alone in front of the Chinese Embassy in the Hague to demand that the Chinese authorities give me the life status of my 19 family members. When I entered the courtyard of the embassy to get their answer, I was arrested by the Dutch police and released two hours later with a fine of 1,000 euros. On the second day of my demonstration in front of the Chinese Embassy, I received a phone call from my little brother Abdukerim Gheni in China, who told me to call the Chinese police. He later called me back twice to tell me that everyone in my family was fine, but I was not allowed to speak with any of them, only with Abdukerim.
On September 24, 2020, I received a letter from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, forwarding a letter from the Chinese authorities informing me that five members of my family were separately sentenced to 3–16 years imprisonments on various charges, with the other family members “living freely”.
I tried to talk to other members of my family apart from my brother Abdukerim, but haven’t been able to reach them. Abdukerim also hasn’t told me what happened to others. I do not trust what the Chinese government has told me regarding the freedom of the other 14 family members.
If they are indeed free, why don’t the Chinese authorities allow my relatives to be contacted by phone? Tragically, my situation is not an outlier, and what has happened to my family has become the norm for most Uyghur families in East Turkestan.
I ask Chinese government again ! where are 19 of my family members?
The disappearance of my 19 family members is a living proof for the millions of Uyghurs who have been subjected to genocide by China.