‘Break their Lineage, Break their Roots…’
True Stories of Crimes against Humanity
Written by Raminder Kaur, Directed by Christine Bacon
Break their Lineage, Break their Roots… is a R&D play that tells the real-life stories of Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslims who have been accused of ‘three evils’ - namely, ‘separatism, extremism and terrorism’ - by the Chinese state.
Since 2014, extreme measures have been put in place in Xinjiang in northwest China, a region that is also known as East Turkestan. Ranging from surveillance and torture to sexual violence and forced sterilisation, these took on more intensity in 2016 with the deployment of Party Secretary Chen Quanguo in the region from Tibet. Reportedly, over a million people have been detained for something as simple as having a foreign app on their mobile phones. Many have disappeared.
The first of its kind, the play adds new insights to their lives before and after periods of incarceration and torture in detention that the state describes as rehabilitation centres. the story is one of oppression and social engineering that, in scale and cruelty, recalls the Nazi regime of the 1940s.
Based on interviews with Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslims including Tursunay Ziyawudun, Abduweli Ayup, Qelbinur Sidik, Abduréhim Paraç and Uyghur Tribunal statements.
In collaboration with iceandfire, a unique human rights theatre group in UK whose theatre-making is renowned as provocative, principled and innovative. Their work has been recognised by the prestigious Liberty Human Rights Arts Awards.
I am grateful for Raminder using her skills as a scriptwriter to produce this powerful and important play. I know the stories of all the survivors, many of them I have translated myself. But still, when I went to see this piece, I was moved to tears throughout that is the power of storytelling.
When you watch a piece of art like this, it makes the reality so much more immediate. It gives a glimpse of the real, human experience of this genocide. It reminds us that it is not something that happening in a remote land- it is happening in our world, on our watch, so it is all of our responsibilities to do something about it.
One of the things that has been missing from the Uyghur movement is the use of art on the world stage to bring attention to our cause.
One year since the Uyghur Tribunal's verdict, I call on more artists to use their gifts to communicate the Uyghur experience. There is a unique power to art, this play shows us what that can achieve, now I ask others to be inspired, and use their own skills to create change.
Rahima Mahmut (Director of the World Uyghur Congress (UK), Chair of Stop Uyghur Genocide and Advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China)
Theatre review by Aziz Isa Elkun and Rachel Harris: 'We did not expect to be hit so hard. We knew the stories of these people from previous public testimony and media reports, but confronting their experiences in the theatre space was completely different. Hearing their words voiced in English by young Londoners, somehow served to humanise and universalise the experience of the camp survivors. ...The actors were outstanding...We strongly hope that this production will find its way to wider audiences'
Read Full Review
'Powerful and eye opening'
'Important and informative'
'moving and comprehensive account of the crisis'
'It's truth, it's beauty'
'It brought the very anonymous news stories to life'
'Storytelling was so transportative'
'Verbatim theatre, presenting the words of camp survivors is a powerful tool'
Cast and Crew
Raminder Kaur: Writer
Christine Bacon: Director and Dramaturgy
Nadia Nadif, Avin Shah and Zolfa Zahedi: Actors
Nicola Hewitt-George: Designer
Raminder Kaur & Christine Bacon: Interviewers
Rahima Mahmut & Ekber Tursun: Interpreters
Tarun Jasani: Film
Sheikh Naz: Videography Assistant
Raminder Kaur & Tarun Jasani: Photography
Rachel Harris: Consultancy
Aakash Wankhede: Publicity
My eyes are weary from looking out for you. My hands are sore from praying for your return My heart bleeds from being torn apart. My dear son, when will you return? Everyday I wait on the road, Yearning for your appearance all day long The nights are sleepless until dawn breaks My dear son, when will you return? Without you by my side I am alone No food can pass my lips as my throat is too dry I worry if you have eaten or not My dear son, when will you return?
Lyrics by Muhemmet Abdulmejit, Sung by Rahima Mahmut
Uyghur artist, Lutpulla
The soil is a notebook closed forever.
On every page burns a single word.
Homeland, homeland, homeland!
By Ghojimuhemmed Muhemmed,
Translated by Joshua L Freeman
Like the waters of the Tarim we began in this place and we will finish here.
We came from nowhere else.
By Perhat Tursun,
Translated by Joshua L Freeman
Who I once was, what I’ve become, I cannot know
Who could I tell my heart’s desires, I cannot say
My love, the temper of the fates I cannot guess
I long to go to you
I have no strength to move
Through cracks and crevices I’ve watched the seasons change
For news of you I’ve looked in vain to buds and flowers
To the marrow of my bones I’ve ached to be with you
What road led here?
Why do I have no road back home?
By Abduqadir Jalalidin
Translated by Joshua L Freeman (poem composed in prison and transmitted through word of mouth, memorised by other inmates)
The beloved will come
Be joyful, my heart, for your beloved will come.
In harmony, walking shoulder to shoulder, freemen will come.
The snow will melt on the mountain tops,
The era of the nightingales will come.
Wearing the crown where the crescent and the star perch,
In a blue golden embroidered gown, the Sultan will come.
For his passion of love that Otkur gave his life to,
Ayhan, with Turpan’s fragrance, will come.
How shall I describe it with my feeble tongue?
With the power to take away life, a beloved will come.
Oh heart, do not explode for the excitement of reunion
The time of celebration after celebration will come.
So sweet is the taste of reunion,
Blood-thirsty tyrants, locked in cages, will come.
The once oppressed bodies,
fluttering under the open sky,
Singing joyful songs, will come.
The name of longing is Dawn,
Breaking the chains of oppression, the call to prayer will come.
Be ready, oh bleeding hearts,
The beloved you have longed for a hundred years will come.
If the desiring eyes ask a question,
When will our long-awaited beloved come?
This is my answer, please pass it on -
Racing in her way, the beloved will soon come.
By Abduréhim Paraç,
Translated by Rahima Mahmut
Uyghur narration by Abduweli Ayup
English narration by Avin Shah and Nadia Nadif
Sound edited by Tarun Jasan