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Waiting to Be Arrested at Night : A Uyghur Poet's Memoir of China's Genocide - Tahir Hamut Izgil

Waiting to Be Arrested at Night

A Uyghur Poet's Memoir of China's Genocide

By: Tahir Hamut Izgil, Joshua L. Freeman (Translator)

Paperback | 31 October 2023

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A poet's account of one of the world's most urgent humanitarian crises, and a harrowing tale of a family's escape from genocide

A poet's account of one of the world's most urgent humanitarian crises, and a harrowing tale of a family's escape from genocide

One by one, Tahir Hamut Izgil's friends disappeared. The Chinese government's brutal persecution of the Uyghur people had continued for years, but in 2017 it assumed a terrifying new scale. The Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim minority group in western China, were experiencing an echo of the worst horrors of the twentieth century, amplified by China's establishment of an all-seeing high-tech surveillance state. Over a million people have vanished into China's internment camps for Muslim minorities.

Tahir, a prominent poet and intellectual, had been no stranger to persecution. After he attempted to travel abroad in 1996, police tortured him until he confessed to fabricated charges and sent him to a re-education through labour camp. But even having endured three years in the camp, he could never have predicted the Chinese government's radical solution to the Uyghur question two decades later. When he noticed that the park near his home was nearly empty because so many neighbours had been arrested, he knew the police would be coming for him any day. It soon became clear to Tahir and his wife that fleeing the country was the family's only hope.

Waiting to Be Arrested at Night is the story of the political, social, and cultural destruction of Tahir Hamut Izgil's homeland. Among leading Uyghur intellectuals and writers, he is the only one known to have escaped China since the mass internments began. His book is a call for the world to awaken to the unfolding catastrophe, and a tribute to his friends and fellow Uyghurs whose voices have been silenced.

About the Authors

Tahir Hamut Izgil is one of the foremost poets writing in the Uyghur language. He grew up in Kashgar, an ancient city in the southwest of the Uyghur homeland. After attending college in Beijing, he returned to the Uyghur region and emerged as a prominent film director. His poetry has appeared, in Joshua L. Freeman's English translation, in the New York Review of Books, Asymptote, Gulf Coast and elsewhere, and has also been extensively translated into Chinese, Japense, French and Turkish. He lives near Washington, D.C.

Joshua L. Freeman is a historian of twentieth-century China and a translator of Uyghur poetry. His writing and translations have appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere. He is an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, in Taiwan.

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