Huseyin Celil’s heartbreaking story is the epitome of the Uyghur struggle and crisis. Long before Canada and the world realized what was happening to the Uyghur community in China, Huseyin was advocating for religious and political rights on behalf of his Uyghur community. As a consequence for his campaigning, he was imprisoned for 48 days, became a refugee, eventually settled with his family in Canada (in October 2001) and gained Canadian citizenship.
March 27, 2021 marks 15 years since Huseyin was arrested in Uzbekistan (visiting family) on behalf of China. Shortly after, the critical juncture happened when he was handed over to China. Canada was aware and chose not to intervene. It has been 15 years of numerous human rights abuses against Huseyin and uncertainty of his well-being due to China’s unwillingness to recognize him as a Canadian, therefore denying him his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Huseyin has been taken away from his wife, Kamila, and their 4 kids not because he committed a crime but simply because he is an Uyghur.
China’s oppression of the Uyghur community meets the definition of genocide. The international community’s response to the crisis has been mixed, although some countries have widely recognized the atrocities and has slowly started to use the ‘g’ word against China. Canada became the second country to formally declare China’s actions as genocide, following the United States and followed by the Dutch parliament.
Huseyin has been victim of this genocide. His sentence was reduced since he took part in a ‘re-education’ program, which aims to brainwash the Uyghur’s thoughts and beliefs, use them for labour and ultimately eliminate the Uyghur identity.
For years Canada has not spoken of Huseyin or done enough to bring him home to Canada despite making few advancements against China. Huseyin is a Canadian and should not be forgotten by the Canadian government. Unfortunately, Huseyin is caught in between Canada’s political battle against China in terms of Meng Wanzhou’s arrest and the detainment of the two Michaels. As a result, Huseyin has been abandoned by both the Canadian government and media.
15 years after Huseyin’s arrest, his whereabouts remain in question as China continues its repression against the Uyghur community. Canada must do its best to bring back Huseyin home to Canada and to his family. 15 years is long overdue.