Being Uighur in China: 'After Nazi Germany the world said never again, but it is'

In 2017 Nursiman Abdureshid was living in Turkey with her three year old daughter Zahra.

She would regularly call home to China so her parents knew all about their granddaughter’s latest developments. They were conversations of love and excitement.

And then they stopped. The phone wasn’t answered.

Nursiman’s brothers didn’t answer either. The whole family vanished.

Desperate to know what had happened she asked a friend to go to their home. Her friend’s response confirmed her deepest fears. “The house is empty, there’s no one left, they have all gone.”

The families of Uighurs living in China cling to the photographs of their missing loved ones:

Her non-political family had all been taken to a Chinese camp. She doesn’t know why, she wonders if it is because they were hoping to travel to Turkey to see her.

The reality is neither she nor the hundreds of thousands of other families will ever know. Their misfortune is to be Uighur in China at a time the state sees their very being as a threat.

“The world become a place like hell,” she told me. “When you listen to camp survivors, when they describe the torture in the camps and the prison I just can't stand it because I cannot imagine my fathers and my brothers and my mother also facing such a torture".

Six-year-old Zahra is too young to understand she may never see her grandparents again. Credit: ITV News

For years Nursiman chose not to speak out, fearful she would make their situation worse.

Three years on she has decided she has to fight for their rights and their freedom. She welcomes the Uighur Tribunal, hopeful it may force the international community to take the Uighur plight seriously.

“When these concentration camps were happening in Nazi Germany the world said never again, but it is and this is the big crime in the 21st century.”

Nursiman Abdulrachid only has a photograph to remember her lost family members. Credit: ITV News

Zahra is six and a half now.

A few months ago she asked if she could have a photograph of her grandparents, uncles and cousins by her bedside.

She talks to the photograph as other children talk to their relatives about fun and family.

She is too little to realise she may never get to speak to them in real life, may never get to sit on their knees and may never experience the love of a grandparent for their grandchild.