Southern Mongolia: Herder Released After 25 Months in Prison
Photo Courtesy of SMHRIC
On 15 July 2017, Mongolian herder Nairalt Borjigin has been released after more than two years-imprisonment for having stood up for herders’ rights. Following his release, a large crowd welcomed him and expressed its support for his struggle for Southern Mongolians’ grazing lands. In an inspiring speech, he addressed the challenges that the pastoral communities face in Southern Mongolia, especially regarding their land rights, asserting that ‘’We can lose our land and lose our properties. But we must not lose our spirit.’’.
Below is an article published by the SMHRIC
The following is an English translation of a short address made by Mr. Nairalt Borjigin, an ordinary Mongolian herder from Bayan-undur Sum of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Ar-Horchin Banner. He gave the address before a crowd of local Mongolian herders who came to cheer for his release from Chinese prison. Serving 25 months in prison for defending the local Mongolian communities’ grazing land and the right to maintain their pastoralist way of life, Nairalt was released from prison on July 15, 2017:
Today is an ordinary day. Yet it is a day that will go down in history of our struggle. Even though I was charged guilty by Chinese laws, I am not guilty before my people. The struggle that we have taken up for our cause is not an act of guilt before our people. I have received numerous phone calls and welcoming messages from my fellow herders upon my release and found out that many more from our Bayan-undur communities wanted to come here today but were not able to make it due to the severe drought and shrinking pasture that made them unable to leave their livestock unattended; Due to the involuntary migration to distant pastures in other banners [a banner is an administrative unit equivalent to a county] for temporary relief; Due to the policies that outlaw and criminalize the herders of local communities if their livestock trespasses the “protect areas;” And also due to the ever-worsening poverty that made some local herders leave their land for other means of living.
With a heartfelt understanding of the enormous hardships our fellow herders are facing today, I firmly believe that each and every one of you here today represents hundreds more courageous herders in your respective communities. I am truly happy that our fellow herders fully understand the true meaning of my 25-month imprisonment and what cause I represented and fought for. I know that you all are here today not to welcome me as an individual, but you are welcoming and paying respect to our collective idea of defending our legal rights and our determination to the struggle for our future and the well-being of our children and future generations.
It is a strong proof that the conscience of our people never fails to judge what is right and what is wrong. It correctly values and pays a high regard to the struggle for the noble cause of our people and our nation. I have no problem going home alone today after my release from prison. Yet it is particularly meaningful that all of you gathered here to walk the path home with me, giving me not only the warmth and love from my people, but also the sense of solidarity that I am not alone in this struggle.
Therefore, I believe that I did not spend 25 months in prison in vain. Serving in prison for 25 months is nothing fearful to me as long as my people are awakened and stand up for our rights and our future, and as long as the spirit of fighting for justice and the right to a happy and dignified life is instilled in the minds of my people. What is most fearful to me is that my people fail to wake up and languish in despair and spiritual backwardness.
But today I have felt more confident than ever before. Thousands of welcoming calls, text messages, and social media greetings from young Mongolians and tearful well wishes from elders made me feel more confident in our struggle. I am truly happy to be home today and am proud of my beautiful people and beautiful land. We can lose our land and lose our properties. But we must not lose our spirit. We will be the richest and happiest people as long as we do not lose our spirit, hope, and wisdom. This is all I have to say.