The Ghulja Massacre: remembering China’s brutal crackdown on a peaceful Xinjiang protest

By Zubayra Shamseden, Chinese Outreach Coordinator, Uyghur Human Rights Project
7 February 2020 19:12

It was horrifying to hear that my sister Mesture, who was in severe pain going into labour with her first child Nazife, was unable to go to the hospital in Ghulja city on February 5, 1997 because a blockade had been enforced in the city. My parents had just come to visit me in Australia at the time and we felt utterly tormented as we sat helpless, unable to do anything while our family suffered.

I was constantly on the phone to my brother, Abdurazzak Shamseden, telling him to find a way through the backstreets and alleys of Ghulja to take my sister to the hospital. They managed to get there in time for baby Nazife to be born, surrounded by her dad and uncle.

Outside, a bloody massacre was taking place. That day was the beginning of a period of mass arrests, deaths, and disappearances. Those who could, fled the country. My parents decided to go back sooner than they had planned to, in order to stay with family and support the community. I begged them not to but by March 1997 they had gone home. They witnessed the loss, suffering, and devastation that every family in Ghulja experienced until they returned to Australia in 2001.

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