The birthday cards will probably reach the man, but it’s not likely to be a happy birthday.
On March 1, Huseyin Celil, a Canadian, will turn 50 inside a Chinese prison.
The senders of the cards, Amnesty International’s Quinte branch members, are joining with other AI groups and human rights organizations to let Celil, and his central Ontario family of wife Kamila and four sons, know he is not forgotten and that his freedom will continue to be advocated for with the Chinese authorities.
His “crime” was being a human rights activist, peacefully supporting the religious and political rights of the Uighur people, a minority group in China.
“We do hope that the cards will help to brighten Huseyin’s day a little,” said Marianne Chapelle, a member of Amnesty’s Quinte group, at the group’s January meeting. “And we know it will cheer Kamila to know that other Canadians are remembering her husband and his situation.”
Sending Celil birthday cards was the brainchild of Marilyn McKim, a Toronto-based Amnesty coordinator who, as a volunteer group member, has made it a “personal mission” to see that he gets at least 50 cards for his birthday.
Celil will be receiving far more than that, the way groups and individuals across Canada are responding, McKim said.
The Quinte group has already written to Chinese authorities asking for a fair retrial for Celil, Quinte member Jan Sosiak said.
“We also asked that prison conditions for Celil be improved, with access to healthy food, exercise, medical care, and Canadian consular support,” she explained. “Without a fair trial, under international standards, by rights Huseyin should be released.”
After an earlier time in jail, Celil – who is Uighur – fled China with his family in 2001. They settled in Canada and Celil, who had been recognized as a refugee by the United Nations, obtained his Canadian citizenship.
In 2006, the family visited Kamila’s family in Uzbekistan. Kamila was then pregnant with their fourth son. Celil was forcibly taken to prison in China after Uzbekistani police detained him at the request of Chinese police. He has been there ever since. Given a life sentence, following a flawed trial at which Celil’s Canadian citizenship was not recognized, Celil has largely been held in solitary confinement, according to Amnesty International.
The life sentence was reduced in 2016 to a 20-year term. With time served, Celil is looking at eight more years in jail.
While Celil has been imprisoned, the situation in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has not improved. This Uighur area is resource-rich land three times the size of France in China’s far northwest. Amnesty International reports “…Chinese authorities are undertaking a campaign of systematic repression in the XUAR with up to one million people arbitrarily detained. The mass internment camps are primarily places of punishment and torture, not learning (as claimed by China). There are consistent reports of beatings, food deprivation and solitary confinement.”
Amnesty International’s Quinte Group 111 meets at the Belleville Public Library.
“We feel very grateful to the library for providing this community space,” said Connie Gallupe, who chairs the group. “It is ideal for us. Each month we gather to write letters advocating for the human rights of others.”
For more information on Huseyin Celil and how to support him, Gallupe suggests going to www.amnesty.ca/our-work/individuals-at-risk/huseyin-celil
The Quinte Amnesty meetings are on the Tuesday following the first Friday of each month, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
For more information, call Jan Sosiak at (613)-968-9659.
Original Link: intelligencer.ca/news/local-news/birthday-cards-to-cheer-jailed-canadian-in-china