top of page

“Burned Alive” in Urumqi: Why Did God Allow It?

Uyghur residents were left locked in a building when a deadly fire broke out. A believer’s reflection on why God could have permitted such a horror.

By Kok Bayraq

December 7, 2022

An image of the fire captured and posted on Twitter.

You read the title correctly. Uyghurs on three floors of a residential building in Urumqi were burned alive, and those on the top four floors were suffocated by smoke. When the fire broke out at 19:47, the residents in the building were awake, neighbors were awake, and the fire brigade was next door, yet the fire continued for three hours. You might ask, why didn’t they get out? Were the dead and injured shackled to the building?

The answer is yes. Although they were not restrained by handcuffs, they were trapped due to the Zero-COVID lockdown. The doors of the building and all of its units were locked, and the fire door of the building was blocked.

Thus, residents could not escape their units. Mothers clung to children, and children clung to fathers, feeling one another’s pain as they said goodbye to the world. In the beginning, they were heard begging, “The building is on fire! We are on fire! Please open the door! Save us.” Although firefighters arrived within five minutes, they either did not or could not enter the building.

The building was not only locked but also surrounded by layers of wood and barriers.

Vehicles parked in front of the building had not been driven for months. In addition, some of their owners were in quarantine, so they could not move the vehicles. As a result, ambulances could not approach the building, and fire hoses could not spray water on the fire. People burned as the disaster spread centimeter by centimeter. Neighbors who saw the incident could not stand the tears and cries, but they could not go out to help because they were in lockdown.

This image alone is enough to capture the tragedy: a victim tries to jump out of a 16th-floor window. From Twitter.

One of the saddest stories about the victims is that while a woman named Qemernisa was burning to death with her three children, her husband and eldest son, who were sentenced to 10 and 12 years in prison, respectively, were not with them. Her burned five-year-old daughter was born while her father was in prison, and her father had not seen her yet. The girl was counting the months and years until she may see her father and older brother. My God, what a calamity this is. What a torment this is. Six members of a family were erased in two campaigns of the “super country” of China—two during a hard strike campaign against extremists and four during the zero-COVID campaign.

As a human being and a religious believer, I automatically remember God and His intentions!

It is clear that God, who created and regulated the universe and the human body with such fine regulations, would not have allowed such a huge tragedy of a family without reason.

None of the members of this family had killed or risked hundreds or thousands of lives; their lack of fame is a testament to this. They did not go astray and lead thousands of others astray; they were unable to commit such atrocities. However, it is not necessarily a punishment given to the family. God can warn others. Could it be a signal to Uyghurs? No, it cannot, because the Uyghur people have been in isolation for three months, in concentration camps for six years, and under occupation for seventy years. They have never had a chance to commit great collective sins.

The proverbial Chinese effectiveness was restored when it came to preventing Uyghur citizens from protesting after the fire. From Twitter.

Is it a signal to the world? Maybe. Perhaps God is telling the Muslim world the following: China has put millions of your brothers and sisters in camps where they are dying one by one, even if you cannot see it. They destroyed your mosques, even if you could not see them. They burned your Qurans, even though you could not smell the fire. Let me test your vigilance: Now that your brothers and sisters are being burned alive, what happens to your feelings and behaviors?

Perhaps God is talking to South and Southeast Asia: A neighboring country is oppressing 1.5 billion people, and you have not withdrawn your friendship from it. It has been committing genocide against a people for six years, and you have not been shocked by its brutality. Let me show you this “super” neighbor of yours that is burning its own countrymen. Don’t forget who was behind this fire, and don’t be naïve enough to think that fire cannot cross borders.

Victims of the fire: 14-year-old Elzat Eziz and his sister. From Twitter.

Perhaps God is trying, more than anything else, to give a signal to the Western world: China’s concentration camps were shown to the world with satellite images, you didn’t say to close them, the genocide order was revealed you didn’t say to stop it, the police files were leaked, you didn’t take decisive action; can’t you see this burning scene too? You knew that China committed genocide, you wrote reports, and you called them murderers. However, you held their hand, maintained your friendship, and embraced them in the G20. You turned a blind eye to the people who died in the camps. You did not sincerely sympathize with Uyghur activists crying at your door. You have religion and policies on human rights, so how can you ignore the cries of burning mothers? How can you remain silent while listening to the cries of burning children?

Let us finish this piece with demands of Uyghur demonstrators in front of Lincoln memorial: “The Chinese government should disclose list of the victims and provide an accurate report on the number of dead and injured in the disaster, take responsibility for the disaster, and publicly apologize to the families of the victims” said Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer, and continued, “We know that the Chinese authorities, who are committing genocide in our homeland do not take responsibility for this on their own, so we call on the international community to send an independent investigation team to the region to determine the situation and bring China to the appropriate punishment.”


bottom of page