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 poems, commentaries, stories, and one unfinished novel. The editor of the Kashgar Literature Journal, Korash Huseyin, was also arrested.
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 Urumqi No.1 Prison, Urumqi City, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 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 who 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:
Nurmuhemmet Yasin is an Honorary Member of the English, American and Independent Chinese PEN Centres.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/campaigns/chinacampaign/nurmuhemmetyasin/