Why we don’t know more about the Uyghurs
WHEN RAYHAN ASAT met her younger brother Ekpar for dinner in Washington, DC one February night in 2016, they each had reason to celebrate. In three months, Rayhan would graduate from Harvard Law School with a master’s degree, the first Uyghur to do so and thus a source of Asat family pride. But Rayhan was just as delighted by her brother’s success. A tech entrepreneur and social media star in their hometown of Urumqi in northwest China, Ekpar had been invited to Washington by the U.S. State Department under its prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program.
As they strolled down M Street after dinner at Clyde’s, a popular Georgetown restaurant, Ekpar told his sister about the people and places he was encountering as part of his three-week program and how it was giving him confidence about China’s own future. “Look at me,” Rayhan recalls him saying. “I am in Washington, representing China as a Uyghur. China wants us to be innovative and creative.” Before he flew back to China, they met again over pizza in Manhattan. Ekpar told his sister he and their parents would come to Cambridge in May to attend her law school graduation.