Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The word you need to know is occupation
The very definition of a land without a nation
David Rovics

Redoubtable Uighur freedom fighter Rebiya Kadeer is currently in Melbourne for the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) screening of an Australian documentary about her life - The 10 Conditions of Love.

China occupies Rebiya Kadeer's homeland - East Turkistan (Xinjiang). Israel too is an occupying power. However, while China is not an official sponsor of MIFF, Israel is. It is difficult to imagine MIFF director Richard Moore ever accepting China as an official sponsor of the festival. So why then has Israeli sponsorship not been dropped?

Spot the difference:

"It is like being in a small room with your family. You have bolted the doors and all the windows to keep strangers out. But they come anyway - they just walk through your walls as if they weren't there. They say they like your room. They bring their families and their friends. They like the furniture, the food, the garden. You shrink into a corner, pretending they aren't there, tending to your housework, being a rebellious son, a strict father or an anxious mother - crawling about as if everything was normal, as if your room was yours for ever. Your family's faces are growing pale, withdrawn - an ugly grey, as the air in their corner becomes exhausted. The strangers have fresh air, they come and go at will - their cheeks are pink, their voices loud and vibrant. But you cling to your corner, you never leave it, afraid that, if you do, you will not be allowed back." (The Third Way: A Journal of Life in the West Bank, Raja Shehadeh, 1982, p 133)

"Our people were branded as 'nationalists' trying to destroy unity between the Chinese and other ethnic groups. The number of arrests increased dramatically throughout the entire Uyghur nation. Hundreds of schools were closed. Thousands were forbidden to work. Tens-of-thousands of people were subjected to searches and scrutiny. Officials and youth under 18 were no longer allowed to pray. Birth control mandates were more strictly enforced. Uyghurs permitted to work had an even harder time finding employment. For example, among 60 employees at a company in our own nation, at most 10 would be Uyghurs. The rest of the employees would be Chinese planted in our land to grow free and to take all of the sunlight, while we were to wither away underneath them." (Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China, Rebiya Kadeer, 2009, p 209)

"An English friend who works for an international organisation was returning at night to Jerusalem from a work visit to Nablus. The road was deserted, he told me. On both sides were large stretches of olive fields which he had enjoyed looking at during his morning drive north to the city. When he got halfway to Jerusalem he saw to his right an entire olive orchard on fire. It was a dark, moonless night. Above he could see the glittering lights of the settlements dominating the hills and down below the unprotected Palestinian orchard, its thousand trees ablaze, beacons of the anger and destructive transformation of this ancient, cursed land. 'It was an awesome sight', he said. 'These trees were not planted in clusters - there was some distance between them. This could not have been a bushfire. It was arson'. Not only had the settlers prevented the farmers from reaching their orchards to pick the olives during this last olive-picking season, they were now burning these ancient trees." (When the Bulbul Stopped Singing, Raja Shehadeh, 2003, pp 150-151)

"I went from house to house, but Chinese people were watching me from every doorway. In the past, there had always been colorful flowers blooming in the gardens and fresh bouquets in lovely vases on the tables outside. But I saw no flowers anywhere as I turned my head, and then my whole body three-hundred-and-sixty degrees in search of a flower. The streets stank of trash... The brook along the village road looked as if it had dried up long ago. And the weeping willows looked like they were indeed weeping in their withered state. The Communists had no relationship with nature, and because the people owned nothing, they felt no sense of responsibility for the environment or property around them... The next morning, we saddled two horses. We wanted to go up into the mountains to the places where we had been so happy as children. Along the Irtysh River, we saw Chinese panning for gold with a sieve. The forest we had loved, which had been full of evergreen and deciduous trees, had been cut down to the ground. I spurred my horse forward. On top of the mountain we had once found only nature, alone with herself. But even here there were Chinese gathering things from these mountains and placing them into their baskets. When I saw so many Chinese even in this place where I had hoped to find peace, I remembered a friend's prediction that I had heard in childhood: 'One day it would rain Chinese from the sky'." (Kadeer, pp 118-119)

"As we neared the top of the hill the clods of soil began to feel wet even though there was no spring nearby and it hadn't rained. We soon realized that we had walked into the open sewers of the Jewish settlement of Talmon to the north. This settlement might have had a rubbish collection system but it did not have one for treating sewage, which was just disposed of down the valley into land owned by Palestinian farmers. We tried to step lightly so as not to drown our shoes in the settlers' shit. As we trudged through the soggy ground we met two boys who showed us the way out of the bog. We noticed they were taking us away from the paved road and told them that was where we were headed. 'It's too dangerous', they said. We asked them why. 'The settlers', they said. 'If you're walking and they drive by they swerve and hit you. They ran over Mazen. And if an army jeep comes they shoot. No one uses the road'." (Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape, Raja Shehadeh, 2007, pp 170-171)

"It was as if the walls to our cells were closing in on us a bit more every day. We Uyghurs already felt like we had been locked up, but the confinement was getting even tighter. If a Uyghur boy wanted to learn boxing out of a simple interest in the sport, he was detained as a separatist. If a countryman with a mustache applied for employment, he was forced to shave it off. If someone recited a Uyghur poem, he was considered a fundamentalist. This was a time during which those in power dropped their masks. The high functionaries decided that our Uyghur nation was a part of China and should therefore be settled by even more Chinese. There were scenes in the streets where Chinese would beat Uyghurs, forcing them off sidewalks or buses with the words, 'Get out of here! This is our land!' Women working in civil service were prohibited from wearing long skirts because that garment was considered a symbol of religious values. In the job market there were positions offered exclusively to Chinese - it said so on the signs." (Kadeer, p 306)

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