For many Canadians, the most difficult part of self-isolation during the COVID-19 crisis is being away from loved ones.
For the majority of the population, that will end once the pandemic subsides.
But for members of the Uighur diaspora living in Canada, not having any contact with their family and friends back home in China, and worrying about family members who have disappeared, is an everyday reality with no end in sight.
LISTEN: Uighur exile in Canada shares COVID-19 fears
“It’s really hard when you are out of your home town and you are alone, plus you can’t have any contact… it’s really hard,” said Grace, a Uighur who has been living in exile in Canada for nearly four years.
Global News has agreed to conceal her name to protect her identity. She fears retaliation for speaking out about China’s widely documented persecution of Uighurs, an ethnic Muslim minority group in the semi-autonomous northwestern province of Xinjiang.
“Physically and emotionally, I am down. I don’t know how I am going to pass these days,” she said, describing how several months have passed since she last spoke with her husband. Global News has also agreed to protect his name out of concern for his safety.
She remembers telling him to stock up on groceries, as the novel coronavirus emerged in China’s Hubei province and began to spread across the country.
She regrets not having had the chance to say, “I love you.”
[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]
“He disappeared,” she said. “I tried to FaceTime him but he didn’t reply. I called his mobile but his mobile was turned off. I just felt there was something wrong with him.”