When I was born, the Uyghur region -- like the rest of China -- was in the throes of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. It was a period of totalitarian zeal: Almost anyone suspected of not being adequately communist was beaten, jailed or killed. Religious and ethnic minorities were particular targets.
Mao's zealots, called the Red Guards, came to the traditional Uyghur homeland to enforce the brutal policies of the tyrannical regime. The Red Guards burned religious texts, destroyed mosques, banned Uyghur-language books and ordered millions of Uyghurs -- including my mother -- into reeducation camps to be indoctrinated in Maoist doctrines and to be "reformed" through hard labor.