In 2017, Tahir Hamut, a Muslim Uighur, made the difficult decision to flee with his family from his homeland of Xinjiang, China. He’d heard of Uighur friends, colleagues, and even distant relatives disappearing into what we now know are political “reeducation” camps, where China has detained up to 3 million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. In August of that year, Hamut, a well-known Uighur poet and film director, used a travel visa to visit the United States. Just four months later, spurred by reports of the worsening conditions in Xinjiang, he filed for asylum.
Hamut and his family have been waiting three years for the U.S. government to resolve their asylum claim. But he doesn’t know how much longer they’ll have to wait—he knows many other Uighurs in the United States who have waited six years or more. The fear of being returned to Xinjiang if their case is not approved has taken a psychological toll on his family, and these days, Hamut can’t help but wonder if there is a better way