Letter from Rebiya Kadeer
Letter from Rebiya Kadeer
The last time I heard my son’s voice, he was screaming, as Chinese police brutally beat him and dragged him away in a car.
That was eight years ago. I haven’t seen my son, Ablikim, or spoken to him again since that day. But I know that he is gravely ill from years of torture.
My son needs help. Amnesty International believes that his life is at serious risk, and that he is a prisoner of conscience. They are campaigning for his freedom.
This letter is my appeal for help. For my son. And the rest of my family.
My name is Rebiya Kadeer. You may remember me. I certainly remember Amnesty supporters like you from around the globe. Nine years ago, it was you who helped free me when I myself had been thrown into a dark and horrible prison in China.
Knowing how much you care about human rights – and how instrumental Amnesty members like you were in securing my own freedom - I appeal to you:
Send a message of hope
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Will you help my son? Will you make a gift to Amnesty today, to help them campaign for his release?
I believe my son’s life is at risk. And so does Amnesty International. With your help, Amnesty will fight for his release, and ensure he gets the medical treatment he so urgently needs.
Four months ago, I received news from a man who had been held in the same cell as Ablikim. He told me that my son was beaten so badly that he bled from his nose and from his ears. That he was on the verge of dying.
Right now, I am not even certain where Ablikim is being held. He may have been moved to a different prison. With his whereabouts unknown, this puts him at even greater risk of further torture and ill-treatment.
You can imagine my fear. How my heart is broken every morning when I wake up and think of Ablikim again. Just as every mother feels when her child is in danger.
And the worst part is knowing that these tormentors – acting on the instructions of the Chinese government – are hurting my son in part to punish me. You see, like me, my son is a passionate defender of our people. We are Uighurs, an ethnic minority group. Our homeland is now part of China. We have been persecuted, tortured, killed, and robbed of our culture.
Like me, Ablikim has defended the rights of the Uighurs. And like me, the Chinese authorities have thrown him in jail for standing up for human rights.
They want to silence us. China is trying to strangle my people in their cradle, and kill them before their voice reaches the world.
I am proud of my son. But I am desperately worried about him.
Once I’ve told you our story, will you help Amnesty International and my son? Please support Amnesty – and free Ablikim - by making a donation today.
How did this oppression of my family begin?
Many years ago, the Communist Liberation Army of China arrived in my beautiful homeland – a place of mountains and rivers called Altay, in what is now north-west China. I was just a child, swimming in the rivers, riding horses, picking flowers.
But with the arrival of the Chinese army, my peaceful childhood was over.
At first they played a smart game to gain our trust. Soldiers started to clean everywhere. They helped old people carry water. They treated people who were sick.
But then they began persecuting the Uighurs. Uighurs were executed in every village. Anyone who spoke out was killed or imprisoned.
Growing older I began to ask why this was happening to my people. And what I could do to change this? And so I began to speak out about their persecution.
On August 11, 1999 I prepared a paper on the situation of the Uighur people, and tried to hand it to a delegation of U.S. congressional staff visiting Western China.
But the police accused me of leaking national security information. They interrogated me for 2 days and threw me in prison. They sentenced me to eight years, although I had committed no crime.
Before I go on I must warn you. My story is very dark. You’ll see why I’m so terrified for my son, having experienced the inside of a Chinese prison myself.
Although I was familiar with the brutality of the Chinese government, I never imagined that Chinese prison conditions could be so bad. Chinese law says prisoners’ rights should be protected, and that there be no torture or mistreatment of prisoners. But those laws only exist on paper.
I was in solitary confinement in a dark, waste-filled room for two years. They took me outside once every 45 days. I was not able to speak to another person for years.
They brought Uighur prisoners into the room next to mine. I know this because I heard their screams all night.
You see, as I was an influential person and internationally well known, they were not able to torture me as severely. So they tortured young Uighurs in front of me. And showed me how they would kill them.
I’ve witnessed the terrible torture of Uighur political prisoners. And every time I think of them and my son Ablikim at the hands of these jailors, I feel sick inside.
But I know that Amnesty International – and you – can help my son. I know because you are a part of a very special group of people. A group who helped me and gave me the strength to keep going.
When I was in prison I became very sick, but the authorities didn’t care. Only when Amnesty International got involved did they take me to see a doctor.
Because of Amnesty International, because of supporters like you, I am alive.
I know from personal experience the profound impact that Amnesty’s involvement can make. My own jailors admitted it:
Because of Amnesty’s pressure I was transferred from solitary confinement with no light, into better facilities with sunlight. They said, “Because the world has known you, you will now get professional treatment.”
As an Amnesty supporter you should be very proud. You champion people around the world whose rights are being abused. You stop torture. You save the lives of prisoners of conscience. You stand in defense of people who cannot defend themselves.
Will you stand up for my son, Ablikim? Will you save his life just as mine was saved nine years ago? Please support Amnesty with whatever gift you can afford today.
I have to tell you that once I was released, the eyes of the Chinese government turned on my family. They want to break my heart, because I am a mother.
The government forced me from China. Away from my children. I’m now exiled in the United States. I would never be safe if I returned to China. But the government is not content with just exiling me from China. They want to silence my family as well.
And they have attacked my family in order to intimidate and prevent other Uighurs from speaking out.
On the day eight years ago when they came for my children, it was Children’s Day in China. A horrible irony. Ablikim and his brothers and sisters decided to have a picnic in the countryside with my grandchildren. But when they arrived, 50 police were waiting for them.
They began to beat Ablikim and my other sons. They made my daughter call me on the phone so that I could hear their suffering. “They’re killing my brother,” she screamed. And then the phone went dead. I could do nothing.
My sons were driven to a re-education camp outside the city, where they were severely beaten by police. Ablikim lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital. Later that month he was taken to prison. People have told me that he was interrogated again and again for many months, and denied medical treatment.
Ablikim was later put on trial and found guilty of trying to turn the public against the Chinese government. All because of two articles he allowed a Yahoo webmaster to publish. He was given no lawyer. And our family was not told of his trial.
It wasn’t until eighteen months after his arrest that anyone from our family was allowed to see him. He could barely recognize them. He had already been in a coma twice and faints frequently. He has spent long periods of time in solitary confinement.
My son is extremely ill. He needs help. Amnesty International believes that his life is at serious risk, and that he is a prisoner of conscience. They are campaigning for his freedom. Will you help us?
Please support Amnesty International’s new Stop Torture campaign. You can help free prisoners like my son. And you can help stop torture. Please make as generous a donation as you can today.
Will you take a moment to send Ablikim a message of hope?
Could you uplift my son's spirits by sending him a message of hope in prison? Alex Neve will work with me and others to try to find a way to get it to my son. I pray that your words of support will give him the strength and the hope he needs to survive.
I am living proof that Amnesty International changes lives. For the sake of my son – and all those unjustly imprisoned for speaking out – please support Amnesty. And please know how grateful I am for your dedicated commitment to human rights. Kop rakhmat. Thank you.
Kop rakhmat. Thank you.
P.S. I truly believe that Amnesty International is the one organization that can make officials in China realize there are repercussions to their actions. They may be my son’s only hope. Please click here to make your donation to Amnesty International today. Thank you for caring about my son.