Book review on China: “No Escape” by Nury Turkel

Turkel pulls out all the stops, including on Uyghur, genocide and Falun Gong issues

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Nury Turkel was an Uyghur boy from the city of Kashgar, China. Granted, he was no ordinary Uyghur. His father was a math teacher. Turkel worked for an American consulting firm in Beijing.

But then, no Uyghur is ordinary anymore. They are all under the terrifying veil of genocide imposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Even most of those who live overseas have a brother, aunt, mother and friends in China they worry about. Those who don’t can feel the loss of a place they might once have called home.

While Turkel now lives in Washington, where he was elected chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in June, his mother still lives in Xinjiang. This area is occupied by the CCP, which daily obliterates Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims.

The CCP forced Turkel’s 70-year-old father, a diabetic with shaky hands, to attend daily sessions at a rehabilitation center until his death. He only recently passed away. Nury interpreted his father’s latest rehabilitation as punishment for his Uyghur advocacy. For years, Nury was unable to visit her family in China.

His story, the history of the Uyghurs and the history of China can be found in Nury’s new book, “No Escape: The True Story of China’s Uyghur Genocide” (Harper Collins, 2022).

In all transparency, I consider Nury a friend. We often talk about Uyghurs, China, and the pressure his family is under, including those who managed to flee China and settle in the United States.

Protesters supporting Tibetans, Uyghurs and Hong Kongers take part in a demonstration against the Chinese Communist Party as they march along Regent Street towards the Chinese Embassy in London, Britain, October 1, 2021. ( Matt Dunham/AP Photo)

The notion of “no escape” that Nury advances in his book, however, is that even leaving the confines of the country, Uyghurs cannot escape the veil of genocide and the long arm of transnational repression imposed by the regime of Beijing.

The book is rich in detail about Nury’s family. His grandfather was a jeweler who kept in touch with his friends since the days of East Turkestan independence in the 1930s and 1940s.

“This obviously marked him in the eyes of the Communist Party as a highly suspicious person,” Nury writes. “So he was taken to a camp, and his daughter was sent to ‘re-education’, accused of being ‘drunk on separatist ideology.’ Guilty by association.

This girl was Nury’s mother, who was pregnant with Nury while she was in the camp. Nury’s father, Ablikim, “had been sent to an agricultural labor camp”. Ablikim’s math background did little to prepare him for the long, exhausting days in the fields.

Ablikim had cousins ​​on the Soviet side of the border near Xinjiang. “By the late 1960s, China and the USSR were no longer friends,” writes Nury. “My father’s crime was listed as ‘intoxication with Soviet ideology’ and having relatives in a hostile country. And so, about a year after their marriage, both my parents entered the vast communist penal system.

His mother’s “re-education camp” was more like a prison in a building in downtown Kashgar with brutalist Soviet architecture and boarded-up windows.

“Into these dark confines I came into the world in 1970,” writes Nury. “Food was scarce and my mother was in terrible pain, both physically – there was little food for anyone, let alone the mother of a newborn baby – and mentally because of her concern for me.”

Both mother and child were malnourished. “When she tried to breastfeed me, hardly any milk came out and she was crying in pain.”

Although the account of Nury’s family lends emotional weight and historical context to the book, it is by no means a pure biography, but much more. At its core, the book calls on the peoples of the world to recognize the genocide against the Uyghurs and to take action.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese troops march through a street in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on September 5, 2009. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s also a sophisticated behind-the-scenes window into Washington’s power struggles over China, and a multi-layered exposition of the Chinese threat, of the tech-enabled domestic repression in China, that goes far beyond the Uyghurs. , to the international reaction (and non-reaction) to the CCP’s genocide from the United States to Europe.

As Hannah Arendt wrote of the genocide imposed on the Jewish people, evil is commonplace. It is all too common for ordinary citizens to look the other way when their neighbors are bullied.

We are all responsible for the genocides taking place today, which are taking place under our watch as citizens of a global community. These also include those outside China, against the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar), and those living in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Genocide is the worst crime in the world, so it deserves sustained global attention and action.

The CCP is also committing genocide against the spiritual practice of Falun Gong in China. Read the UN definition of genocide and compare that to what is happening against Falun Gong today, and it is hard to conclude otherwise.

Turkel’s book leads the way in advocating for all who suffer in China. But Uyghur angst genuinely and naturally bleeds through the pages of Nury’s lucid prose. He goes beyond his own family’s struggles to tell the personal stories of many other Uyghurs in chilling detail. Most of these stories – of torture, brainwashing, forced sterilization and rape – were told to him directly by Uyghurs involved in his human rights advocacy and work as a lawyer.

Nury does not spare any controversial subject, from the demand for independence of certain Uyghurs to the controversies surrounding the Uyghurs interned in Guantanamo and those accused of terrorism by the CCP. Nury faces divisions within the Uyghur community, for example, over how strongly to demand independence for East Turkestan.

This is what Xinjiang was called, just before the double crossing of the Uyghurs by the Soviet Union and the occupation and genocide of the CCP.

Epoch Times Photo
Falun Gong practitioners hold a demonstration of organ harvesting from imprisoned practitioners in China during a protest against the import of human organs from China to Austria, in Vienna, Austria on October 1, 2018. (Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

The suppression of Falun Gong is also addressed in three different sections, including their arbitrary detention and their subjection to slavery-like working conditions and the forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience.

Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong and other persecuted minorities in China, including even Taoists and Christians in some cases, are increasingly under pressure from the CCP which is approaching the conditions of genocide under the definition of the UN.

Nury explains it perfectly in his very personal appeal to the Uyghurs.

His book lays the experiential foundation for what I believe should be a principle of international law. When a government commits genocide against its people, including one or more minorities, the victims have the right to declare their independence from that government.

Genocide breaks the social contract. Arguably, lesser “crimes against humanity” should do the same.

What Xi Jinping in China and Vladimir Putin in Ukraine are doing are grounds for breaking up their countries into smaller, more manageable units, and renewing social contracts that grant the rights of government to new, more democratic organizational entities that have a greater respect for broad political participation and human rights.

If we’re lucky, Nury’s next book will tackle some of these tough questions.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr

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Anders Corr holds a BA/MA in Political Science from Yale University (2001) and a PhD in Government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea” (2018).