China
She who protects the border area
By Lu Yan  ·  2024-02-08  ·   Source: Web Exclusive

Arzigul Reyim, a villager from Yamansu Township, Wushi County, Aksu Prefecture in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has been working as a border guard for five months.  

She, together with 21 other female villagers, is part of a border patrol team stationed high up in the snowy mountains on the township’s China-Kyrgyzstan border at an altitude of over 2,000 meters. 

Their daily duties include patrolling the border or working at the security booth to check passing vehicles and passersby--usually road construction workers, herders and travelers. For each shift, two patrol members go out on patrol and two stay behind at the security booth. Some of them work night shifts, so there are people on duty around the clock.  

Established by the Aksu border management police department in 2017, the patrol team offers local women a new job option other than being herders, housewives, or migrant workers who have to work far from home. 

The reason 28-year-old Reyim chose to become a border guard is that she can work close to home, making it easy to take care of her child and parents. Team members work two days and then have one day off, meaning they have more time for family compared with other jobs. Reyim used to work at factories in other counties, which made it a lot harder for her to be with family. The work itself was also more arduous.  

“Life isn’t as stressful here [at the patrol team],” Reyim told Beijing Review.  

But advantages aside, working near the desert and barren wasteland isn’t easy. The icy cold winter gales can hurt their face. They wear makeup more for skin protection than for beauty purposes. 

And despite working with team members and communicating with passersby, sometimes life can get a little boring. “When we’re on break, we chat, watch videos on Douyin [the Chinese version of TikTok], or go for a walk,” Reyim said. 

  

Part of the No.8 Border Patrol Team of Yamansu Township, Wushi County, Aksu Prefecture in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on January 24 (ZHANG WEI)  

Ayguzel Amantur, a 22-year-old from the Kirgiz ethnic group who’s been working at the border for little over a month, said she uses her free time to learn standard Chinese, to communicate with passersby who are from all kinds of ethnic groups, and to watch short videos and shop online. 

The team also plants trees around the station. “Before I came here, this had been all part of the desert and barren wasteland. But then we planted trees. We have greened this place,” Patigul Mollak, a border patrol team member for five years and counting, said. “We also put up a grape vine trellis outside the door and painted it to make the grapes on it stand out.” 

To make the station a tad cozier and more comfortable, they put pictures on the wall and flowers everywhere. The station is also equipped with heating, air conditioning and household appliances such as a microwave and a TV set. The local labor union sends the patrol team food and other daily necessities on a regular basis. 

“Here, we come from two ethnic groups: Uygur and Kirgiz. We love each other like sisters, all happy and content to be living here,” Buniyazhan Hapiz, another patrol member, said. 

Soon, the Biedieli Port will open, and highways along the border are expected to increase the influx of travelers. Arzigul said she and other colleagues are learning more skills and honing the ones they already have to better serve passersby and villagers from different ethnic groups while securing the country’s border. 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon   

Comments to luyan@cicgamericas.com  

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