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Pacific Daily News
03-01-06, 13:56
Article published Jan 4, 2006
Chinese imprison Uyghur author for publishing fable about freedom

In 2004, a fictional first-person story, "Yawa Kepter," or "Untamed Pigeon," by 30-year-old freelance writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin, a Muslim Uyghur, was published in Xinjiang Uyghur, China. It won acclaim among the Uyghur people.

On Nov. 29, 2004, Yasin was arrested. In February 2005, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail in a closed trial, without a lawyer. Yasin's computer, with poems, commentaries, stories and one unfinished novel was seized.

In early 2005, Radio Free Asia broadcast the pigeon fable in the Uyghur language.

The story begins with a young pigeon narrating his flight, in his dream, in Uyghur's deep blue sky: "I love this place as I love my hometown -- with all my heart -- all of it so beautiful beneath my wings."

His mom taught him that "Mankind's tricks are legion." But the human creatures don't seem so terrible to him. He descends.

He talks to an elder in a group of pigeons he meets and becomes appalled. Their ancestors came from the strawberry shoal, the young pigeon's home, yet the elder has no idea where it is. He is just happy with "a branch for resting and a cage for living, and everything ... ready-made" for pigeons.

The young pigeon asks how true it is that if the humans "catch us, they will enslave our souls," but nobody knows what he's talking about. What do they teach their children?

"Neither your soul nor your freedom can be bought or given as a gift, nor acquired through praying," he learned from his mom. "Without their souls, generations of pigeons would be enslaved by human beings -- who can make a meal of them at any time. Without your soul, even if they set you free, you will not leave your family and your rations of food behind. ... You will let your descendants become mankind's slaves. You will need a leader, but first you must free your soul -- and understand what a soul is."

The elder pigeon laments he's old, near death and says his cage is safe and life is peaceful. "How can I ask others to give up such a life to find something whose value we cannot see?"

What "soul-less birds?" wonders the young pigeon.

When a group of pigeons descends beside them, a young one tells his elder he's hungry, but was told not to fly off to look for food, for "someone will catch you and eat you." The humans "keep us in the pigeon cage to feed us, and it is right that they would eat us if necessary." An acceptable arrangement, says the elder. Pigeons, he counsels, should be content with their lot.

The young pigeon awakens and realizes he has had a nightmare. His mom wakes him up and tells him he sees destiny in his dream: Humans are taking over "your land, the land of your ancestors" to build factories.

She tells him about his dad, "the pigeon king with regal spirit," who led pigeons to look for food and was trapped by humans who wanted him to mate with another pigeon to produce mixed offspring. His dad could not accept his children's enslavement.

"A thousand deaths would be preferable to a life like that." So he bit off his tongue and bled to death in his cage.

In tears, his mom tells him to go find a safe home for all the pigeons. The young pigeon flies off far away to find a new home. He meets a group of pigeons. They fly to a millhouse and see piles of wheat. They descend to eat. Two humans catch him, bind his wings, grasp his neck and stare into his eyes.

Caged, the young pigeon wants to die. He eats nothing for five days.

Then he hears his mom's voice. He apologizes to her. She tells him, "I have come to bring you freedom." She pushes a poisonous strawberry toward him and he takes it.

"True freedom comes only at a high price," she says.

The story ends with the young pigeon gazing at his mom as the poisons "flow through me like the sound of freedom itself, along with gratitude that now, now, finally, I can die freely."

A group of pigeons watch, puzzled and surprised.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at peangmeth@yahoo.com.

Originally published January 4, 2006

Source:

http://www.guampdn.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060104/OPINION02/601040331/1014/OPINION