If you took an Uber in Washington DC a few years ago, there’s a chance your driver was one of the greatest living Uyghur poets, and one of only a handful from his minority Muslim community to escape the genocide being visited upon his homeland in western China.
A successful filmmaker, innovative poet and prominent intellectual, Tahir Hamut Izgil had long been acquainted with state surveillance and violence, having spent three years in a labour camp on fabricated charges.
But in 2017, the Chinese government’s repression of its Uyghur citizens assumed a terrifying new intensity: critics were silenced; conversations became hushed; passports were confiscated; and Uyghurs were forced to provide DNA samples and biometric data.
As Izgil’s friends disappeared one by one, it became clear that fleeing the country was his family’s only hope.
Escape to America spared Izgil’s family the internment camps that have swallowed over a million Uyghurs.
It also allowed this rare personal testimony of the Xinjiang genocide to reach the wider world.
Waiting to Be Arrested at Night charts the ongoing destruction of a community and a way of life.
It is a call for the world to awaken to a humanitarian catastrophe, an unforgettable story of courage, escape and survival, and a moving tribute to Izgil’s friends and fellow Uyghurs whose voices have been silenced.
‘Essential’ – Ai Wei Wei
‘Deeply courageous’ – Philippe Sands
‘A wake-up call’ – Tracy K. Smith