The Call of Nuzugum

by Nurmemet Yasin (Orkishi)

translated by Aziz Isa Elkun

Where are you our heroic men?
Let us go to the desert,
The brave hunter finds freedom there,
It flows in his spirit and his blood.

The reeds sing a desert song,
Horses neigh on the horizon.
The heroic people who once lived by the sword,
Now lie quiet beneath the earth.

The floating moon becomes a beautiful girl,
Telling a story in the blue* sky,
Oh the reed bed fiercely burns,
And with it the hopes of a whole nation.

We are listening to it silently,
Not only with our ears but in our hearts,
The sand encroaches on the fertile lands,
But we are the real sandstorms.

Let us go to the desert,
There the delicate moon is telling a tale,
Perhaps it is a book of warriors,
Containing many beautiful myths.

It would be not strange to meet,
Freedom’s son, heroic Chin Tomur*
Let us live in a free world,
Singing desert songs all our lives.


* Nuzugum (Nazugum) is an iconic heroine in Uyghur recent history. She is a symbol of the nationalist movement which fought the Manchu-Qing empire in the 1820s. She was also a poet and folk singer. In the 1820s during the rebellion in Kashgaria against Manchu-Qing rule, along with thousands of other people she was forcibly moved to the Ili region. After she arrived in Ili, a Manchu millitary official forced her to marry him. On the wedding day she killed the official and escaped to the mountains. She survived there for a month living in a cave until Manchu soldiers discovered her and killed her by setting fire to the reeds which surrounded her cave. Since then Nuzugum has become a popular Uyghur legend, and a nationalist symbol of resistance to foreign invaders. Her tomb is situated in the Uyghur Region of eastern Kazakhstan. 

* Refers to the East Turkistan flag, which has a crescent moon on a blue background. 

*Chin Tomur is a legendary Uyghur hero who defeated foreign enemies.

(footnotes provided by the translator)

Read original version of this poem in Uyghur:


Please leave your comments