Teenage Life After Genocide

Written by moonsjok

novembre 7, 2022

At 19 years old, Aséna Tahir Izgil feels wise beyond her years. She is Uyghur, an ethnic minority persecuted in China, and few of her people have escaped to bear witness. After narrowly securing refuge in the United States, Aséna’s now tasked with adjusting to life in a new country and fitting in with her teenage peers. 

This week on The Experiment, Aséna shares her family’s story of fleeing to the U.S., navigating newfound freedom, and raising her baby brother away from the shadows of a genocide. 

This episode’s guests include Aséna Tahir Izgil and her father, Tahir Hamut Izgil, a Uyghur poet and author.

This episode of The Experiment originally ran on August 19, 2021.

A transcript of this episode is available.

Further reading: “One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps,” “Saving Uighur Culture From Genocide,” “‘I Never Thought China Could Ever Be This Dark,’” “China’s Xinjiang Policy: Less About Births, More About Control

Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria, with help from Gabrielle Berbey and editing by Katherine Wells and Emily Botein. Fact-check by Yvonne Rolzhausen. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Translations by Joshua L. Freeman.

Music by Keyboard (“Over the Moon,” “Mu,” “Water Decanter,” and “World View”), Laundry (“Lawn Feeling”), Water Feature (“Richard III (Duke of Gloucester)” and “Ancient Morsel”), Parish Council (“New Apt.”), and H Hunt (“C U Soon), provided by Tasty Morsels.

A translation of Tahir Hamut Izgil’s poem “Aséna” is presented below. 


By Tahir Hamut Izgil

Translation by Joshua L. Freeman


A piece of my flesh

torn away.

A piece of my bone

broken off.

A piece of my soul


A piece of my thought

set free.


In her thin hands

the lines of time grow long.

In her black eyes

float the truths of stone tablets.

Round her slender neck

a dusky hair lies knotted.

On her dark skin

the map of fruit is drawn.



is a raindrop on my cheek, translucent

as the future I can’t see.



is a knot that need not to be untied

like the formula my blood traced from the sky,

an omen trickling from history.



kisses the stone on my grave

that holds down my corpse

and entrusts me to it.



is a luckless spell

who made me a creator

and carried on my creation.


She is my daughter.

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