A Birthday Wish in Absentia

Today is my mom, Dr. Gulshan Abbas’ 58th birthday. It’s also the second year that we have not been able to wish her happy birthday, and it isn’t for the reason you might think. If you are wondering how this might be possible in the technology era, I have no answer for you. The circumstances of it still seem unreal and impossible to me. I should be able to pick up a phone and hear her voice, and I wish with all my heart that I had that luxury. I have a cell phone, and so does she, but I won’t hear her voice on the other end of the phone because she disappeared 21 months ago. She was kidnapped by the Chinese government. I have no choice but to wish her happy birthday thru my letter.

Dr. Gulshan Abbas

Dear Mom,

This is the second year that we haven’t been able to celebrate your birthday. I miss your uplifting voice, I miss your jokes, I just miss you.

The day I couldn’t reach you I felt like the world was collapsing. On top of the anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion there was fear. I was terrified that the nightmare everyone was talking about had finally caught up to our family. But you always told me “negativity is bad, you have to learn to think about things in a positive way”. Which I did. I told myself “get it together, Ziba. Don’t assume the worse”. I waited for you to message me, or to send me a video chat. 22 months later, you still haven’t. Just like that, we lost connection with you. We haven’t heard your voice for the longest time. My attempts to get information about you are often answered with “everyone is studying at school; she is probably there.” “don’t worry, she’ll contact you someday.” Then there is “only immediate family members are given information.”

On May 29, 2020 we learned from RFA Uyghur Service News that you have been detained. This is the first confirmed piece of information since your disappearance on September 11, 2018. Yes, you’ve heard that right, we learned of your detention through a news report. I can’t believe I am even saying this, but I was thankful to know you are alive. Still, there are so many questions that I don’t have answers to. The fact that you are in an unknown place, terrified, wondering if your daughters are looking for you, fighting for you torments me. I wish I could let you know with certainty, that yes, we are, Mom and we always will. I will fight for your freedom with everything that I have.

Your second granddaughter turned 2 couple weeks ago. Sometimes she stares at your picture without saying anything, I wonder if she is trying to connect with you heart to heart, then she looks at me and say “Grandma”. She is one active and sassy girl! Your oldest granddaughter is now 4. She is becoming a thoughtful, cheerful, and intelligent little girl. Zamira had her second baby three weeks after your disappearance. Now, that baby is walking and talking while ruling the house! We are buckling up for the terrible twos! I know you’ll be extremely proud of your grandchildren and I can feel every breath you take inside that jail cell is for them, for us.

Mom, I left home at a young age but my memories of home and of the three of us are still very vivid. You always made sure my sister and I are happy. You made it your mission to protect us, and always made sure we were loved no matter what, despite everything else you’ve endured in your life. You taught us how to be human, you taught us to see good in others even though they don’t always treat us right. “let it go, my daughter” you always would say. “negativity is bad.”

You are not a famous scholar or renowned intellectual, but your sacrifice for your family and your compassion for your people is no less than others. A gentle soul like you were still targeted as a victim. You were used as collateral to punish us- the ones who dare to speak the truth. You don’t have an inch of malice in you, and a benevolent human like you suffering in a jail cell, helpless and voiceless, makes me sick. I refuse to accept and give in. I am your help; I am your voice! I will not stop until I hug you, until you kiss your granddaughters. This is my promise to you on your special day.

We love you, Mom! Everyone in the family misses you dearly! Stay strong, justice will prevail!

Happy Birthday, My Beautiful Mother!

This is my pain, my tragedy. I am only one in a million, many other daughters & sons are living this horror. The world must stand up against this brutality, every citizen of humanity should be outraged by this injustice.

Follow me on Twitter @Ziba116 to witness my journey to free my mom.

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