Nurmuhemmet Yasin was arrested in Kashgar on 29 November 2004, shortly after the publication of his short story ‘Wild Pigeon’ (‘Yawa Kepter’) in the bi-monthly Uighur-language Kashgar Literature Journal. Upon arrest, the authorities confiscated Yasin’s personal computer, which contained around 1,600 poems, commentaries, stories, and one unfinished novel. The editor of the Kashgar Literature Journal, Korash Huseyin, was also arrested and is presently serving a three-year sentence.
After a closed trial in February 2005, at which Yasin was reportedly denied a lawyer, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for ‘inciting Uighur separatism’. His sentence was upheld on appeal by the Kashgar Intermediate Court, and Yasin was transferred on 19 May 2005 to Urumchi No. 1 Jail, where he remains detained today. He has been permitted no visitors since his arrest.
The charge is believed to be based on the publication of ‘Wild Pigeon’, the fictional first-person narrative of a young pigeon who, having been trapped and caged by humans, ventures out to search for a new home for his flock. In the end, he commits suicide by swallowing a poisonous strawberry rather than sacrifice his freedom, just as his own father had done years earlier. “The poisons from the strawberry flow through me,” the unnamed pigeon remarks to himself at the end. “Now, finally, I can die freely. I feel as if my soul is on fire – soaring and free.”
Yasin’s story was widely circulated and recommended for one of the biggest Uighur literary websites in the Uighur Autonomous Region for an outstanding literary award. However, it also attracted the attention of the Chinese authorities, who apparently consider the fable to be a tacit criticism of their government in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Nurmuhemmet Yasin, aged 31, is an award-winning and prolific freelance Uighur writer and Honorary Member of English PEN. He has published many highly acclaimed literary works and prose-poems in recent years, including the poetry collections First Love, Crying from the Heart, and Come on Children. He is married with two young sons.
‘Wild Pigeon’ was translated from the Uighur into English and Chinese by Dolkun Kamberi, director of Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Uighur service. It has been adapted for broadcast by RFA’s Uighur service, edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han, and produced for the English Web by Luisetta Mudie. The English translation is available online in two parts as follows:
PEN considers both Yasin and Huseyin to be detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. To call for for the immediate and unconditional release of Nurmuhemmet Yasin and literary editor Korash Huseyin, English PEN urges its members to write to the Chinese Ambassador in London:
HE Mrs. Fu Ying
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49-51 Portland Place
London W1B 4JL
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/prisoners/nurmuhemmetyasin/