'Pray for me,' Celil asks in first letter from prison
May 22, 2008
OTTAWA — For the first time, imprisoned Canadian Huseyin Celil has spoken out in his own words about his 2½-year ordeal in the Chinese legal system, saying he is quickly losing hope that he will ever see the outside world again.
In a three-page letter sent from prison and obtained by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Celil asks his mother to forgive him for all the suffering he has put her through.
"Do not cry for me too much," he writes in the Uyghur language. "I cannot stand this unjust world - I am supposed to serve you as your son; I am supposed to help you under your knees all day and night, but now you are helping my son and taking care [of my children] for me. You have raised my two children as you did all my brothers and sisters. This is painful."
The letter is dated March 10 and appears to have originated from a prison in Urumqi in northwestern China.
It is important not only because it represents a rare firsthand communication from the imprisoned Canadian, but also because Mr. Celil's family has recently been denied access to him in prison and are not sure where he is being held.
The Globe reported in late March that Mr. Celil's whereabouts in China had become unknown to Canadian officials and his family.
The Globe also reported that the Chinese ambassador in Ottawa had been called into the Department of Foreign Affairs to discuss the situation. According to a Foreign Affairs spokesman at the time, Canadian officials asked the ambassador that Mr. Celil's family be allowed to visit him in prison, "if only on humanitarian grounds."
His supporters believe he is being kept away from visitors until the Beijing Olympics end later this summer. It is unclear whether the letter was written before he was moved to another prison.
Mr. Celil, a member of the Muslim Uyghur minority in China, was travelling on a Canadian passport when he was arrested in Uzbekistan two years ago and eventually handed over to Chinese officials. Beijing accused him of terrorism and sentenced him to life in prison in April of 2007. He and his supporters have always denied the charges against him.
Even though Mr. Celil is a Canadian citizen, he has not been given access to Canadian officials. Ottawa went to great lengths to press Beijing on his case in the months leading up to his sentencing. But while the case garnered much news-media attention at the time, it has largely dropped off the public radar. Chinese officials have privately and publicly made it clear that Beijing will not change its position on the case.
In his letter, Mr. Celil maintains that he has done nothing wrong. But it is clear that he has little information about how his case has progressed outside the walls of his prison. In a portion addressed to his wife, Kamila Telendibaeva in Canada, he asks her to tell officials in Canada's Chinese embassy about his situation.
"So far for nearly two years I have not seen anyone from Canada," he writes. "I am a citizen of Canada and I belong to this great country."
Mr. Celil said he has no idea what has been going on in the outside world since his arrest. He added that he has written to his mother twice but received no reply, even though "I can feel from the bottom of my heart that you came to Urumqi many, many times" to try to visit. He asks whether his wife is coming to visit him, and says he dreams about her every day.
But the majority of the letter is addressed to Mr. Celil's mother, and reflects both the prisoner's affection for her and his increasing resignation to the possibility that he may spend the rest of his life in jail.
"Please forgive me if I have ever done anything wrong to you in my life," he writes to his mother. "Please forgive me if I have ever spoken loudly in front of you.
"It is only God who can help me meet with all of you."
Translation of Huseyin Celil letter
Globe and Mail Update
May 22, 2008 at 4:10 AM EDT
Best Greetings of God over you
From Huseyin Celil
My Lovely, gracious mother, how are you doing?
I caused you tremendous suffer and pain. You spent whole of your life with my suffer. As a your child I only beg your pardon and pray for me.
I missed you very very much. If they allow, if your financial situation permits, I would be feel like myself in heaven with your one more visit along with my two children. Last time I was blessed seeing my sister when she visited me.
I missed my mother and two son from the bottom of my heart. I really want to see them one more time. I wrote twice to you but received no reply so far. Maybe you did not get my letters or the letter you send did not reach me.
I can figure out the reason. How about my all relatives? Are they fine?
How about my son Abdusemi, Abdugheni and Esma?
How about my lovely wife Kamila and my children in Canada? (naming his all children one by one) . were you able to continue to contact with my wife Kamila and my children in Canada? How are they doing? What is my wife Kamila saying on my bad luck? Please ask Kamila, let her continue to do something for me in Canada. I am now loosing my all hopes of returning back to my country and see my wife and children. I can not sleep by thinking my old handicapped son. Because I am in Prison now I am not aware of any thing about outside world. My days are passing with hoping of a miracle that can save me from this place and gives me chance of hugging my wife and children in Canada. I am worrying for my children all days scratching my head as a hopeless and helpless person. When I met with my sister last time she mentioned me in brief that Kamila would be coming to see me?
Any thing new about this? Please if you know any thing let me know with any possible ways.
Dear Mother, you are getting old. Please take care of yourself well, even though this is an empty wish, Please rest well. Do not cry for me too much. I could not stand this unjust world. I am supposed to serve you as your son, I am supposed to help you under your knees all day and night, but now you are helping my son and taking care of them for me. You have raised my two children as you did all my brothers and sisters. This is painful. This is indigestible.
Dear my sisters and brothers, Please take care of my mother well. Every thing can be found, not father and mother. We have only one mother who are precious for all of us. Think of me for a second, now I can do every thing to be able to see the face of my mother, I am thinking all day and night to serve her for a second, but I can not. Therefore you should know the value of our mother when she is alive and take this golden opportunity to serve her.
Please send my heartfelt greetings to my wife Kamila if you have a chance to talk with her on phone.
Dear Kamila, if possible please contact with the Embassy personal in Beijing and let them know my situation. So far nearly two years I have not seen any one from Canada. I am citizen of Canada and I belong to this great country.
If I am in jail know it is just because I got a bad luck. Otherwise I have not done any thing wrong in my whole life. I really want to talk with some one from our Embassy in Beijing, I would like to tell them that I am absolutely innocent person. I want them to know my story. Why they are not coming to see me? I want them to ask for me why I am in jail for so long? What went wrong? What is the reason? I want to know all of these. I could not find any one here to listen me. But our Embassy personal can ask these questions on my behalf.
I am always dreaming of Mehmet Salih and my wife Kamila. I can not pass any single minute without thinking them. So many things presses me all the time. In one hand my children in Kashgar grown up without seeing my fatherhood. Another hand my children in Canada living without knowing what has happened to their father. Also my mother is suffering and crying for me all day and night. Worst thing is I can not do any thing for my mother, children, wife and relatives except pray in my heart.
I pray my mother all the time. She has raised my children without me since years. I can not pay it back in my whole life. When I was about to be a person who can do some thing for my children and family, I ended up in jail for nothing. Please pray for me. That is the only thing that I can ask from you.
I can feel from the bottom of my heart that you came to Urumqi many many times and spent days and night for the hope to see me, visit me. I am grateful, I am thankful for the hardship you have experienced in cold and hot, snow and rain. I know you are doing it. I know the thin heart of my mother and my children and all of my relatives.
I hope my paper is enough to pour ( I think it meant to express) my heart.
I would like to put each and every name of my relatives on this paper and send my greetings from my heart.
He names all of his relatives one by one.
Dear mother, Please forgive me if I have done any thing wrong to you in my life. Please forgive me if I even have spoken loudly in front of you.
It is only God who can help me to meet with all of you.
March 10, 2008
No: 5th subdivision of 6th district, Number 1 prison in Urumqi