To distract me and my brothers, my cousin took us to another room to play a game but we weren’t allowed to switch the lights on. We weren’t allowed to talk aloud either. It didn’t matter for us children as it just became another adventure to figure out what we could do in the dark without speaking. This ended when my mum told us to stay in the same room as them. I sat there in uncomfortable silence. Soon it was night time and we fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night to see my mother crying in prayer. I didn’t understand what was happening and they wouldn’t tell me. They told me to go back to sleep – so I did.
It wasn’t until recently, when I started doing my own research, that I finally heard my mum’s side of the story. We were staying in my aunt’s apartment and some relatives came over to visit. At around 5pm when they were expected to return, they heard what sounded like bombs and shootings. Everywhere was dark and filled with smoke. She could hear pleas of “don’t shoot me!” They were shocked and completely unknowing. My aunt went to the door to see what was happening but witnessed only the sheer panic of the civilians. She was told to shut the door and stay inside because the army was killing people – so that’s what she did.
My mother received a phone call: it was my dad calling from England. He asked if we were okay and she replied with “Why? What’s wrong?” He said news broke that there was conflict in Urumqi but then suddenly the phone cut off as well as all electricity. All my mum’s cousins started calling their families via mobile phone to figure out what was happening. Their families were also instructing them to stay inside because of the conflict – people were dying.
We all began to panic and stay in one room. We were scared. Around 3 hours later, my mum’s cousin went to the corridor to see how she could go home and she came back and cried, hitting herself, describing how there were trucks piled up with both dead and living bodies, and how the soldiers were stabbing the bodies with bayonets; how there was blood flowing everywhere. She cried and blamed my mother – if it wasn’t for her, they wouldn’t bet here in the first place, she said, but now they were probably going to die there. We were all silent and scared and so we prayed before we died, but nothing happened to us.
Around 1 or 2 am, shouts of “Allahu Akbar” could be heard from outside. She thought people were protesting and coming outside so she dared to look out from the corner of the window, covering her face with the curtains. But what she saw was completely different to what she thought. She was left speechless. There was no one there. The ground was covered with corpses and a loader truck was gathering them. There were more trucks, but weaponised – the soldiers holding the guns were covered. On top of the trucks were speakers and the “Allahu Akbar” sound was coming from the speakers. She saw many young people come out of their homes and they were immediately shot down by the soldiers inside the trucks. She started to vomit. Nobody from outside could see us – we were on the 14th floor. The sound would come on every half an hour for another 2 hours. Then, it was just silence. She heard water… they were washing the blood from the streets.