From Melbourne to Prague and Back
Who is Rebiya Kadeer?
Who is Rebiya Kadeer?
I asked myself while watching
'The 10 Conditions of Love'
that my Czech friend had invited me to see.
"You have to see this controversial documentary about her life."
So I attended the Melbourne premiere one Sunday night.
With popcorn and a coke in hand,
I expected some excitement at least.
Black and white images of ancient Sunni Uighurs
in their embroidered caps singing in Turkish
about their oil-rich empire appeared onscreen.
They twirled about in their long dresses in front of my eyes.
Then colourful images came in the fifties
when the People's Republic of China reclaimed the rich land,
taking their golden caps and leaving the robbed Uighurs in a swirl of dust.
"Look! Rebyia is coming,"
my Czech friend laughed excitedly.
"We call her the fearless Grand mum 'in my homeland, in Prague."
A tiny woman with smooth silver hair under her embroidered cap appeared on the screen, shouting at a Chinese official that her homeland is called the 'East Turkestan'.
I forgot all about my popcorn, seeing her rising from the dust
to become the richest person in China, then return back to the dust.
Leaving the Chinese Parliament to join her countrymen in a rotten jail,
and then being exiled to Washington as an outcast.
And finally, being nominated for a Nobel Prize.
We left the cinema feeling confused,
passing through the joyful Melbourne streets
full of carefree people. We felt a bit of guilt.
"They hacked into and shut down the Film Festival's website,
because of her. The Chinese did." My Czech friend exclaimed."
I think you have forgotten all about growing up
in Communist Czechoslovakia," I smiled at him.
All those accusations and lies."
"And then came the Velvet revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall."
nodded my Czech friend. "Which divided us even more."
"Before, we were countrymen, brothers in arms..." I laughed.
"Now, we are foreigners.
I stayed home, listening to the old folks praising the Communist past,
while the young people chased the Western ideals
of hard cash and greed which will not last.”
My Czech friend smiled at me: “And you, my poor Slovak cousin,
left for an easy life, here in Australia. Are you satisfied?"
I looked at the Melbourne sky:
"Let's talk about Rebiya's 10 Conditions of Love.
The first one is independence,
because everyone has the right to decide and find their own path."
"Then the second one is connecting with others,"
my friend added: "Rebiya travelled far and wide
to find her soulmate for life and fought."
"The third one is continuity," I quickly said.
"Do you remember that she had six children to pass her knowledge on to?
Although two of them are rotting in jail."
"Then the fourth one is strength of mind," my friend nodded.
"How, otherwise, would a mother manage to sacrifice
her own children for her countrymen."
"The fifth one is strength of body," I managed to say:
"There were at least two attempts on her life."
"The sixth one must be culture," my friend said,
thinking about his 'thousand spirals in Prague'.
" She is fighting for 1,500 years of Uighur knowledge,
trampled on and destroyed by thugs."
"The seventh one is homeland, then" I exclaim:"
Everyone needs to belong and feel home somewhere.
20 million Uighurs lost their rights."
"The eighth one is non-violent fighting,"
my friend laughed: "The Chinese fear her.
She does not need a gun."
"The ninth one is her fearlessness," I said, trying to sound wise:
"Who would like to have been an international symbol,
paying such a terrible price?"
"The last one must be her patriotism." my friend ended cleverly:
"One has to admire her relentless campaign at least.
When most of us would choose to disappear in Washington and forget about the past."
"Are you looking at me?" I laughed, pushing my Czech friend aside.
"Come on, my lost countryman," he took my arm:
"At least you understand why I cannot nominate you for a Nobel Prize.
"We skipped along the noisy street, full of neon’s and cheerful smiles.
We felt less guilty and happier to be just ordinary people - grateful to be FREE AND ALIVE.