It is definite that each of us has something in our memories that would last forever. This maybe something very pleasant that would bring smiles to our face when we recall; This maybe something that is horrible that brings fear and tears to eyes.

I had one of those horrible memories in my life. It was in February 5 and 6, 1997. When I think of those days, may heart would be torn apart and I want to cry out loud; I would be terrorized by the memories. Because in those days, a peaceful demonstration of defenseless Uyghur people to voice their demand for better treatment was brutally crushed by heavily armed Chinese military and police forces. This was not the first time that Uyghurs were silence by their rulers. In fact, Uyghur people have been subjected to intimidations, arrest, torture and genocide for decades. But, in these two days, the government brought upon the people the brutality that has never seen before in public. The senseless shooting, burning, using police dogs to bite people. Innocent young men and women were shot to death in front of my eyes, bite by hungry police dogs. Because I have seen my Uyghur brothers and sisters tragic death, felt their lifeless bodies and warm blood, when I recall the horrible scenes, I would be traumatized and loose conscious. All this happened in my hometown Gulja, in Eastern Turkestan.

It was very cold in February 5, 1997. Early in the morning, I went to meet my friends (as informed by a friend) to join the demonstration. Our objective was to voice our concerns and opposition against the government’s oppressive policy towards Uygur people in our homeland, peacefully. The demonstration was planned to take place in front of or nearby the different levels of government organs including the communist party head quarter in the region and the police head quarters. When the demonstrators approached the part of the town where the Ili District Communist Party Headquarter, Ili prefecture Public Security Department, Ili district Public Security Department, and Ili district Riot Police Department, riot police and police came our from nowhere and arrested 200-300 youth. Majority of the protestors was young people. Police used their bats and guns to hit the young people, used their heavy boots to kick them, they dragged the women by their long hair. Police load the arrested into trucks and police vehicles and took them away. That was the first wave of arrest at the beginning of the day.

Despite the arrest, the number of protestors grew. The authorities were trying to use every means possible to disperse the crowd. On TV and the radio, the demonstration was portrayed as willfully organize separatist activity, counter-revolution. This only made the general public more aware of what is going on in the streets of Gulja, and drew more support form the public. Regardless of how the government labels the event, Uyghurs know what the cause of the protest, what will happen to those who participate and support it. Because this is not the only time that Uyghurs raise their voice against the government. People fed up with Chinese government’s human rights violations, unfair treatment and the discriminations that face in all walks of life, groundless arrests, intimidation, endless destruction of the environment and the Uyghur culture using their political and military advantages.

On this day the weather was extra-ordinarily cold (-20~-30 oC). After arresting people did not work, the authorities brought in firefighters and started to use high-pressure cold water to force people to leave. The front row was soaked wet in a matter of minutes. The aggressive authorities turn this type of treatment into a game and use all the means available to them to enjoy torturing the people. After draining the last drop of water on the demonstrators, police fired tear-gases to the crowd. After that, bloodthirsty police dogs were unchained and released towards the people. People soaked and exhausted by the cold water plus tear gasses were easy targets to well-trained hungry police dogs. The front row turn into a bloody battle field between dogs and humans. After a heavy fight dogs were exhausted biting people and retrieved. That was not the end, and worst was coming. This time authority used Gasoline fire weapon to spray fire on the people. Suddenly roaring fire burst through the smoke flew towards the people; people’s clothes started to catch on fire. There was no other way to hold up against the burning flame but to run away. It is hard to describe the scene. We could not take the wounded to any hospitals or clinics. The authority banned the treatment of any separatists in the hospitals. Taking the patients to any hospital would be turning ourselves into police. The only treatment came from our traditional and folk medicine. Seriously burned and frozen could not get the needed treatment, and only suffer and die in front of their friends. Some people lost a leg or an arm due to bad infection and the lack of treatment.

In this crucial situation, 60-year-old women showed up between the police and the protestors. She came out to look for his son, later we found out. Two policemen ran up to grab her and dragged her towards the police vehicle, she tried to explain something to them, apparently, and she did not speak Chinese. She tried to tell them that she was looking for her son. The police did not pay any attention to her, and one of them swung his bat to hit her. She struggled to escape from the police. Dozens of us exhausted by police assaults, saw this situation and could not hold ourselves back. We tried to rescue her. Before we got close to her, we were surrounded by dozens of police. At the same time a tall Uygur youth got around the police and caught up with the police that were taking the lady. He asked the police to release the old lady in Chinese. He said that she is a mother, should be treated with respect, and reminded that they both have a mother at home. The police pushed the young man away and continued to drag the old lady. The angry young man tried to stop the police one more time, with a gunshot he was down on the ground. Outraged by this, we tried to break away from the circle to help the brave man. It was impossible; We were surrounded by more than a few layers of heavily armed gunman. The dead body was picked up by police and thrown into a truck like a garbage bag and taken away. (This was what I saw with my own eyes.) By this time gunshots were coming from the sides and the back of the crowd, as well as from the other streets nearby. At the same time people were scream and shouting " People are dying, bloody people, stop killing us!" We did not have any weapon to protect ourselves from this horrible oppression and killing. We prayed that the international community would hear and listen to what we have gone through.

Although frozen by water and the cold weather, burned by fire and injured by dog bites, our young people refused to leave the scene for the cause of our country, Eastern Turkestan, for the future of our nation and generations to come. It was getting dark, weather was getting unbearably cold, the injured were exhausted and many of them passed out. The more and more people got arrested. Because of a heavy loss of lives and massive arrests, protest was sadly come to an end.

The next day, February 6, 1997, we continued our demonstration. Chinese armed forces were even worse than yesterday. They started to fire tear-gases again, they even started to shoot at the people. By that afternoon, a rumor spread that the government gave a secret order to the armed forces that "If the protestors will not disperse in a few hours, everyone of them should be shot to death" With this rumor, our leaders decided to stop the protest to prevent more killing. We believed that this would be true, because we know what happened to the student protestors in Beijing, in June 4, 1989.

Our peaceful protest against the Chinese government’s policy ended in a bloody oppression. The whole Eastern Turkestan was under arrest. Gulja City was under martial law. Travel in and out of Gulja City was banned. Authority started to search each household to arrest young people who have participated in the demonstrations. There was no peace for Uyghurs during the day or at night. Every minute of our lives was under danger. After the news reached other parts of the Eastern Turkestan, anti-government protests spread all over the ET to support the fellow Uyghurs in Gulja. Chinese authority not only arrested people for no reason, but also set bombs and blamed this on Uyghur people to arrested more people to justify their ruthless action.

This is not the beginning of the anti-Chinese activities, and certainly not the end of it for the Uyghur people, who has been subjected to arrest, destruction, and genocide for more than a century under Chinese rule. Our fight for freedom will continue until the independence of Eastern Turkestan. I appeal on behalf of Uyghur people, to caring international community, please do not ignore the oppressed people in China, we need your help and support.