for 25 YEARS - and the desperate message the family wants EVERYONE to read
By LEVI PARSONS FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA
13 February 2022
A heartbroken wife whose fairy tale marriage was torn apart when the man she loves was seized by Chinese officials and tortured in a concentration camp has revealed the extent of his horrific treatment in a desperate bid to save her husband.
Melbourne woman Mehray Mezensof, 27, told Daily Mail Australia her life has been 'turned upside down' over the past five years after her Uyghur husband Mirat Taher was snatched by Chinese police and sent to a 're-education' facility where he was 'strung up with no food or water'.
Beijing's internationally condemned network of prisons is estimated to hold more than one million Muslims in China's western province of Xinjiang - where detainees are forced to recite communist propaganda under threat of torture, sterilisation and even organ harvesting, the UN and human rights group claim.
The horrors of the camps were far from love-struck couple's minds when she arrived in China in 2016 to tie the knot and bring him back to Australia, but just 48 hours before they were set to fly out, their house was stormed by police and Mr Taher was arrested.
'It has turned my whole world upside down. I went there to marry the man of my dreams and for no reason at all, my innocent husband was thrown into prison and taken away from his family,' Ms Mezensof said.
'It really has taken a toll on me because I don't know how to move forward from this. It has destroyed our lives.
'I have to stay strong for him but at the same time my whole life has fallen apart and I don't know how to cope.'
Mehray Mezensof, 27, and her husband Mirat Taher, 30 (pictured), married in Xinjiang, China, in 2016
Mehray Mezensof, who lives in Melbourne told Daily Mail Australia her life has been 'turned upside down' over the past five years after her husband Mirat Taher - who is Uyghur - was snatched by Chinese police and sent to a 're-education' facility
Mirat Taher (pictured in Istanbul) became the target of China's repressive regime because he had previously travelled to the Muslim-majority nation of Turkey
Mr Taher was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 'trumped-up charge' of 'organising, leading and participating in a terrorist organisation'.
Ms Mezensof said his real 'crime' was travelling to Turkey and working as a tour guide - something China's totalitarian and 'paranoid' regime consider 'separatism'.
Uyghurs are banned from travelling to 26 'sensitive countries,' most of which have a Muslim majority population.
The 30-year-old, who was momentarily released twice before being 'disappeared' is completely cut off from friends and family and has no access to legal counsel.
The horrors of the camps were far from Ms Mezensof's mind when she arrived in China in 2016 to tie the knot and bring him back to Australia, but just 48 hours before they were set to fly out, their house was stormed and he was arrested.
In the brief period he was on parole, he told his wife he had been handcuffed and 'strung up' on a jail cell door for 24-hour straight with no food, water or toilet breaks because he accidentally replied to a guard in his native language and not Mandarin.
'Through his first detainment I was silent and I thought if I was compliant maybe the Chinese government will show compassion, will show mercy and let him go,' Ms Mezensof said.
The couple's whirlwind romance began when they were introduced online by their mothers who both went to school together in Xinjiang. Pictured together in the Urumqi Nanshan Mountains
The two (Urumqi Nanshan Mountains in in Xinjiang China) 'hit it off' from their very first interaction with the pair 'constantly cracking jokes and making each other laugh'
'But that got us nowhere and I now fear that if I don't speak out for my husband nobody is even going to know he exists.
'I can't just let him disappear in this system the Chinese Communist Party has created.'
The couple's whirlwind romance began when they were introduced online by their mothers who both went to school together in Xinjiang.
Ms Mezensof's family migrated to Australia and she was raised in Melbourne where she became a nurse.
Mr Taher was living in Istanbul at the time learning Turkish and working as a travel guide.
The two 'hit it off' from their very first interaction with the pair 'constantly cracking jokes and making each other laugh'.
After just three months Mr Taher told Ms Mezensof he knew she was 'the one' and asked her to marry him.
She said he was the 'family-oriented man' she had been looking for, so Ms Mezensof packed her bags and headed to the city of Xinjiang capital of Ürümqi in 2016.
The smitten couple had decided it would be easier for the two to get married in Xinjiang and then apply for Mr Taher to get a visa to live in Australia where he hoped to start a Uyghur-style kebab shop.
'He wasn't one person online and then a different person in real life. He was exactly the same when I met him,' Ms Mezensof said.
'He just had this really friendly and open personality and was so easy to talk to and get along with.
'My husband is just a very loving, caring and sweet person and that is what drew him to me. He was constantly smiling and laughing.'
Mr Taher had his Australian permanent residency approved and the couple were all set to fly out on April 12, 2017 but just two days before take-off, their joy turned to horror when Chinese police burst through their door demanding to know which countries the newly-wed had been to.
After explaining he had travelled to Malaysia and Turkey in years gone by, he was taken to the police station and questioned for three days before being hauled off to a detention facility without charge for 10 months.
He was then imprisoned in a re-education camp for another year.
Chinese police burst through their Mr Taher's (pictured in Istanbul) door demanding to know which countries the newly-wed had been to
Pictured: Mirzat Taher and Mehray Mezensof meet for the very first time outside Urumqi Diwopu Airport in Xinjiang in 2016
After Mr Taher (pictured in Istanbul) explained to Chinese police he had travelled to Malaysia and Turkey in years gone by, he was taken to the police station and questioned for three days before being hauled off to a detention camp
Unable to visit him and restricted from knowing how he was being treated, his distraught wife waited in Ürümqi as long as she could before her visa eventually expired and she was forced to return to Melbourne.
After an agonising two-year wait, Mr Taher was released on parole in May 2019 but was placed under strict surveillance, made to report to police everyday and not allowed to leave the capital.
Ms Mezensof jumped on a plane immediately to be with him but had to leave after six months when her visa expired.
On May 2020, the authoritarian state swooped in again, arresting Mr Taher and alleging he was 'organising, leading and participating in terrorist organisation' - something Ms Taher says is ludicrous.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and is currently being held in the notorious Yizhou District's detention centre in the city of Hami completely cut off from the outside world.
The love-struck couple visit the historic city of Turpan together in a remote part of Xinjiang
On May 2020, the authoritarian state swooped in arresting Mr Taher and alleging he was 'organising, leading and participating in terrorist organisation' - something Ms Taher says is ludicrous (pictured together in Bai Yun Ski Resort in Urumqi, in Xinjiang China)
The painful situation has left Ms Mezensof unable to work.
'I loved being a nurse but I had to step down,' she said. 'Many of the things I used to love I just can't do them any more.'
'Just making it through the day when such a huge part of your life is missing is really hard. I'm a mess. I'm falling apart.'
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has identified more than 380 sites in Xinjiang which are being used to detain China's Uyghur population.
Among the most disturbing aspects of the vast prison network is that factories are located alongside the camps, suggesting detainees are being used as forced labour.
Mr Taher (pictured in court) was sentenced to 25 years in prison and is currently being held in the notorious Yizhou District's detention centre in the city of Hami completely cut off from the outside world
Beijing first denied the camps existed but in the face of international pressure have now acknowledged their existence.
State-run news outlets relentlessly roll out propaganda pieces showing happy, smiling people, outside playing sports and dancing.
Mr Taher told his wife detainees are never allowed to go outside - only to the classroom and to their cells.
'He said the camps consisted of political indoctrination, with prisoners being forced to read and recite Communist Party propaganda and writings praising Xi Jinping,' Ms Mezensof said.
They are also made to renounce their religion and cultural identity communicating only in Mandarin.
Ms Mezenof said: 'My husband is just a very loving, caring and sweet person and that is what drew him to me (pictured together in Hongshan Park in Urumqi, in Xinjiang China)
Uyghurs living in the diaspora say in the past six months leading up to the Beijing Winter Olympics, the oppression of minority groups has intensified even more. Pictured: Mirzat Taher and Mehray Mezensof in the historic city of Turpan in Xinjiang China
'My husband had accidentally replied to one of the guards in his native language instead of Chinese and for that he was subjected to brutal punishment,' Ms Mezensof revealed.
'They handcuffed him and strung him up to the door, leaving him hanging there for a whole day without food, water or toilet breaks.
'My husband said he would be able to hear the excruciating screams of fellow detainees throughout the night.'
'I tried to ask my husband if he was ever tortured in that way but wasn't ready to open up about what happened.'
Uyghurs living in the diaspora say in the past six months leading up to the Beijing Winter Olympics, the oppression of minority groups has intensified even more.