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For a long time, Tahir Hamut Izgil slept with a set of warm clothes and sturdy shoes nearby, in case the police came. If they did, he planned to slip them on. That way, he’d have something to keep him warm in his cell.
The influential Uyghur poet, who’d watched his friends be arrested one by one, instead managed to escape detention, and China. Now living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., he offers a rare first-person account of the genocide in Xinjiang, where the Chinese state has been attempting to forcibly erase the Muslim minority group and its culture.
His vivid five-part story contains countless haunting details. Tonight, we share just one of them with you—but we encourage you to read Tahir’s story in full.
A man in his 70s had come across a Quran in his house that he hadn’t been able to find following the confiscation order. He was afraid that if he turned it over now, the officials would ask why he hadn’t relinquished it earlier, accuse him of “incorrect thinking,” and take him away to be punished. So he wrapped the Quran in a plastic bag and threw it in the Tuman River. But the authorities had installed wire mesh under all bridges, and when the mesh was cleaned, the Quran was found and turned over to the police. When officers opened it, they found a copy of the old man’s ID card: In Xinjiang, the elderly have a habit of keeping important documents in frequently read books, so that they are easily found when needed. The police tracked down the old man and detained him on charges of engaging in illegal religious activities. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The news in three sentences:
(1) The seven-day average of U.S. COVID-19 cases cracked 25,000 for the first time since May, with unvaccinated people at a much higher risk. (2) U.S. drug-overdose deaths reached a record peak in 2020, according to new data from the CDC. (3) Britney Spears can hire her own lawyer, replacing court-appointed counsel, a judge said today.
Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:
Plume scroll: Soar through this gallery of extraordinary bird images, courtesy of the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards.
A break from the news:
One of biology’s strangest relationships involves a fish and the parasite that lives on its tongue. This picture is wild.
Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox