Éric Darbré, director: “I fear that in twenty years, the Uyghur culture and people will have completely disappeared”

The journalist, whose powerful documentary “Ouighurs: mechanics of an announced genocide” is to be seen in preview on Télérama.fr, has been fighting for more than twenty years to denounce the ethnic cleansing of this people, with a Muslim majority, by the Chinese government. Maintenance.

At the end of September, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the “crimes against humanity” of Chinese power in Xinjiang (northwest China) against the Uyghur people. A very late stage in the recognition of what many countries (including France) officially qualify as genocide. Éric Darbré, journalist and documentary filmmaker, has been fighting for more than twenty years to denounce the ethnic cleansing aimed at this Turkic people with a Sunni Muslim majority. In Uyghurs, mechanics of a genocide announcementbroadcast on October 18 on LCP-AN and that Telerama proposes to see in preview, the reporter documents a repression of extreme violence in and outside the country. A remarkable investigation revealing in particular the unbearable blackmail exerted against the exiles of which part of the family remained in the country. A strong film, his third on the Uyghur cause, which Éric Darbré made a personal fight.

How was this third documentary born?
It all started with a Uyghur friend who lives in Germany and who regularly informs me of what is going on. About two years ago, he informed me that he had just been contacted by a defector from the Chinese criminal police who had defected and requested political asylum in Germany. The latter wants to speak to me and the German secret services agree. I go to Germany for a first interview with this man, who tells me incredible things. I then decided to start from this story to convince a TV channel. In vain. Weeks pass and my friend in Germany offers an interview with the former policeman to CNN, which puts it on the air. Unsurprisingly, it makes a lot of noise and reminds me fondly of certain TVs which had refused the subject. This waste of time is the tragedy of my life.

In your film, there is a lot of talk about the Uyghur diaspora, which is also a victim of repression. You have acquired several mind-blowing videos that document it. How did you get them?
For twenty-five years, the date of my first trip to Xinjiang, I have never stopped following the Uyghurs. Over time, I have forged very strong ties with many members of this diaspora. I believe I have earned their trust. Complicated thing because, rightly, they are very suspicious, especially fearing spies. For this film, I went to meet refugee families in Germany, Turkey, Norway and Kazakhstan. Many have shown me their home videos and directed me to further testimonials and filmed evidence. By the number, I wanted to prove that it was not a question of isolated cases but of a method established by the Chinese power. Each time, he challenges to prove that internment camps or any kind of repression exist. These videos provide irrefutable proof.

“Their name did not permeate. I remember that in 2007 even Bernard Kouchner, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, made a mistake in [le] pronouncing.

How do you explain this media silence around what many countries, including France, qualify as genocide?
In the early 1990s, there was a lot of talk about the repression of Tibetans, which mobilized a lot of people. It was all the more shocking in that it attacked religious figures and followers of non-violence. I arrived with my Turkish-speaking, Muslim Uyghurs, who planted bombs in a place that no one knew. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard myself say: “Your “yogurts” who cares! » Even their name did not permeate. I remember that in 2007 even Bernard Kouchner, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a mistake in pronouncing their name… I fought regularly, and I still fight today to break this deafening silence.

Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities in Xinjiang have disappeared since 2014. Sent to “re-education” camps or prisons, all that remains of them are these photos to remind the world of their existence.

EGO Productions

How do you explain the lethargy of the international community?
There are several reasons. First, the situation of China, its superpower for more than twenty years. Who would dare to attack their internal politics? Economic interests outweigh everything. Then there were the attacks of 2001. In the context of the fight against terrorism, China claimed its right to subdue its “Muslim extremists” portrayed as terrorists and placed on the terrorism blacklist with the approval of the United States. Four years ago, it was these same Americans, through the voice of Mike Pompeo, then head of American diplomacy, who spoke of a genocide. This time, it was a question for the Trump administration of instrumentalizing the Uyghur cause in its trade fight against China.

“I claim to have led this fight against a sometimes very demoralizing silence. On the other hand, I refuse the term militant.

You end this film with “this documentary is the minimum I could do”. It’s about of a personal fight?
When I started working as a journalist, it was to be useful. Xinjiang was my first report in 1996. Then I met a former prisoner of the camps. At the end of our conversation, he made me promise to tell what was happening in his country and not let them fade into silence. I have always tried to be faithful to this word, even if several times I had the impression of betraying it because I failed to make myself heard. I claim to have waged this fight against a sometimes very demoralizing silence. On the other hand, I refuse the term militant. I try to have the necessary perspective. I have said and written that the Uyghurs have killed people in attacks. I really tried to process all the information by being as little Manichean as possible. However, I can’t be so involved in a subject without leaving a part of myself behind.

Can we keep hope for the Uyghur people or are they destined to disappear?
It’s tragic, but the worst scenario I imagined is coming true. The first time I went to Xinjiang, the region was officially bilingual, and Arabic script dominated Chinese script on signs. Then the proportions were reversed, and now there are only inscriptions in the Chinese language. Little by little, the Uyghur language and culture are erased with the very clear aim of eradicating their civilization. Sterilizations, forced abortions or kidnappings of children answer nothing else. It is not a question of killing a population but of preventing its generational renewal. I fear that in twenty years, the Uyghur culture and people will have completely disappeared. In addition, the power will not let go of Xinjiang, an immense region of China rich in oil and gas and gateway to the West. We woke up too late.


To have
r Uyghurs, mechanics of a genocide announcement, documentary by Éric Darbré (France, 2022). 52 mins. Unpublished. To see in preview on télérama.fr and on October 18, at 8:30 p.m., on LCP-AN.

To read
The Uyghurs, a people who refuse to die. Comic strip by Éric Darbré (screenwriter) and Eliot Franques (draughtsman), ed. Marabulles, 160 pages, €20.95.

Éric Darbré, director: “I fear that in twenty years, the Uyghur culture and people will have completely disappeared”