“Disgusted and disappointed”: Uyghur student blasts new Vice-Chancellor at rally

Adila Yarmuhammad (left) with SRC International Officer, Yeganeh Soltanpour. Photos by Nick Birchall.

What you are about to read is a transcript of a speech delivered by University of Adelaide Uyghur student, Adila Yarmuhammad, at a rally held on Wednesday to protest the appointment of Peter Høj as the new Vice-Chancellor.

The Uyghur (pronounced uy-ge-hur) people are a minority Muslim group native to the Chinese-administered region of Xinjiang. Since 2017, human rights groups have documented the inner-workings of what China classifies as “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. Satellite imagery revealed hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs are being detained against their will in prison-like compounds. Their purpose is the eradication of the traditional Uyghur identity and indoctrination into Chinese Communist Party ideology. Former detainees recount torture, humiliation, rape, and forced sterilization at the hands of guards. China is currently denying human rights investigators entry into the camps.

During his tenure as University of Queensland VC, Peter Høj established close relations to the Chinese Government. Critics claim it was due to this relationship that he failed to stand up for student activist, Drew Pavlou, when he was assaulted in 2019 for, among other things, being a vocal supporter of the Uyghur freedom movement. Drew has voiced his support for Adila, and will visit Adelaide in the next two weeks to speak.

Presented now is Adila’s speech without further comment.

AsSalamuAlaikum and welcome everyone.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather on today, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. I would also like to say thank you to the Adelaide University Student Representative Council for organising this in such short time and giving me this opportunity to speak.

As many of you may or may not know, my name is Adila. I’m a student here at Adelaide University and I’m also Uyghur — so I thought it was right for me to be up here speaking considering recent events.

When I first received the email yesterday about Peter Høj becoming Vice-Chancellor, my first reaction was to send it to Drew [Pavlou]. My second reaction was to lose my shit. My sister and I had guests coming over later that night so on one hand I was decorating my house and on the other hand I was furious and messaging everyone I knew.

It’s traumatic to recount all the horrible things that happen to my people back in my home country. It is so God-damn traumatising to open almost any form of social media only to find out some more terrible news about the Uyghurs. That one of my friends found out only recently that his grandfather died a year ago.

Or that someone found out their parents they haven’t spoken to in over two years are dead.

Or that someone has finally gotten into contact with their family after years only to find out their brother is in a concentration camp.

But you’ll never understand this experience, will you, Peter?

Adelaide Uyghurs stand in solidarity.

For so many of you here, the Uyghur genocide is new news. It’s only something you’ve heard of recently, and that’s probably why many people think it’s all Western propaganda. But for me and every single Uyghur in the diaspora? This shit has been hanging over us since before we were even born. I wasn’t even six months old when my parents took me on a road trip to Melbourne for a protest. I don’t know many people whose whole life is revolved around fighting for justice in a home they can’t even visit anymore because it’s too dangerous.

How many of you that aren’t Uyghur can say they’ve lost contact with their family members overseas because of government control and because it’s too dangerous for them to even make a fucking phone call?

How many of you can say you’ve spent every year on your birthday since you were nine at a protest because of a massacre back in your home country? I was celebrating my ninth birthday when I walked into my parents room to find my mum crying because she had just received news about the Urumqi massacre.

But you’ll never understand that, will you Peter?

As a student of the University of Adelaide, I’m disgusted and I’m disappointed. I’m upset to be a student here under someone who is openly affiliated with a government that hates my guts because I’m an Uyghur. A government that commits genocide on a daily basis.

A government that puts millions of Uyghurs in so called re-education camps where they’re tortured beyond repair.

A government organisation that has literally ruined my life and every Uyghur person in the world’s life.

Poor Peter. You really thought moving to Adelaide was going to make your life a little more peaceful after UQ. But I have one thing and one thing only to say to you.

Fuck you.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Grace Atta, Habibah Jaghoori, Jenny Jung & Chanel Trezise. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com

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On Dit Magazine

On Dit Magazine

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Grace Atta, Habibah Jaghoori, Jenny Jung & Chanel Trezise. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com

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