Caravanserai
Human Rights

Muslim women recount China's campaign of systematic rape in Xinjiang

By Caravanserai

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Two ethnic Uighur women pass Chinese paramilitary policemen standing guard outside the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, Xinjiang. [Peter Parks / AFP]

Muslim women in Chinese "re-education" camps in the Xinjiang region are systematically raped, tortured and sexually abused, former detainees and a guard recently revealed to the BBC.

The sordid details of the lengthy investigation based on witness testimonies sent shock waves through the international community, which has already made the Chinese regime's human rights abuses in Xinjiang a priority.

Witnesses and former detainees described torture by electric shock, including rape by guards using electrified sticks, food deprivation, beatings, gang rape and forced sterilisation.

Torture designed to 'destroy everyone's spirit'

Tursunay Ziawudun, 42, spent a total of nine months in Chinese internment camps -- first for about a month in 2016 and then again in 2018.

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A woman visits a Uighur graveyard on the outskirts of Hotan in Xinjiang region, China, May 31, 2019. [Greg Baker/AFP]

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Schoolchildren walk below surveillance cameras in Akto, Xinjiang region, China, June 4, 2019. [Greg Baker/AFP]

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This photo taken on June 4, 2019, shows a facility believed to be a 're-education' camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained in Xinjiang region, China. [Greg Baker/AFP]

Her first stint in detention was comparatively easy, Ziawudun said. After a month she developed stomach ulcers and was released.

Her husband, a Kazakh who was also detained, returned to Kazakhstan to work, but authorities kept Ziawudun's passport, trapping her in Xinjiang.

Two years later, Ziawudun was instructed to report to a local police station and was told she needed "more education".

Initially, the police cut the detainees' hair short and forced them to watch propaganda programmes in their cells, she said.

Eventually they underwent unexplained medical tests, received pills and endured forcible injections every 15 days with a "vaccine" that brought on nausea and numbness, she said. Authorities forcibly fitted them with intrauterine devices or sterilised them.

Ziawudun described the nightly horrors.

"Every night" masked Chinese men would come to the cells to select the women they wanted to take to a "black room", where there were no surveillance cameras, she said.

Some women who were taken away never returned, Ziawudun said. Those who returned were threatened against telling others in the cell what had happened to them.

"You can't tell anyone what happened; you can only lie down quietly," she said. "It is designed to destroy everyone's spirit."

Several nights, Ziawudun said, they took her.

"They don't only rape but also bite all over your body; you don't know if they are human or animal," she said, visibly upset by the memory. "They didn't spare any part of the body."

"I experienced that three times," Ziawudun said. "And it is not just one person who torments you, not just one predator. Each time they were two or three men."

Gulzira Auelkhan, a Kazakh woman from Xinjiang who was detained for 18 months in the camp system, said she was forced to strip Uighur women naked and handcuff them, before leaving them alone with Chinese men. Afterwards, she cleaned the rooms.

"My job was to remove their clothes above the waist and handcuff them so they could not move," she told the BBC, crossing her wrists behind her head to demonstrate.

"Then I would leave the women in the room, and a man would enter -- some Chinese man from outside or policeman," Auelkhan said. "I sat silently next to the door, and when the man left the room, I took the woman for a shower."

The Chinese men "would pay money to have their pick of the prettiest young inmates", she said.

She was powerless to resist or intervene, she said.

'Screams echoed throughout the building'

Detainees also spent hours singing patriotic Chinese songs and watching patriotic TV programmes about Chinese President Xi Jinping, Ziawudun said.

"You forget to think about life outside the camp," she said. "I don't know if they brainwashed us or if it was the side effect of the injections and pills, but you can't think of anything beyond wishing you had a full stomach. The food deprivation is so severe."

Camp staff used food deprivation to punish infractions such as failing to accurately memorise passages from books about Xi, according to a former camp guard.

"The detainees definitely experienced various types of torture," he told the BBC via video link from a country outside China.

The camp guards used "electrocuting instruments" to force confessions on a variety of perceived offences, he confirmed.

"I have those confessions in my heart," he said.

Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek woman from Xinjiang, was among the Chinese-language teachers coerced into giving lessons to the detainees.

There were "four kinds of electric shock: the chair, the glove, the helmet and anal rape with a stick", said Sedik in testimony to the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

"The screams echoed throughout the building," she said. "I could hear them during lunch and sometimes when I was in class.

"Rape was common," said Sayragul Sauytbay, another teacher forced to work in the camps.

She described witnessing the public gang rape of a young woman whom camp staff brought before about 100 other detainees to make a forced confession.

"After that, in front of everyone, the police took turns to rape her," Sauytbay told the BBC.

"While carrying out this test, they watched people closely and picked out anyone who resisted, clenched their fists, closed their eyes, or looked away, and took them for punishment."

'Clearly evil acts'

The latest witness testimony triggered outrage from officials in the United States and Britain, whose governments have been leading the public condemnation of the Chinese regime's actions in Xinjiang.

Beijing's actions amount to "genocide", the US government said last month.

"These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences," a US State Department spokesperson said Thursday (February 4).

The BBC report revealed "clearly evil acts", said British minister for Asia Nigel Adams.

"The evidence of the scale and severity of these violations is now far-reaching; it paints a truly harrowing picture," he told parliament Thursday.

The report spurred new calls for the Chinese regime to grant access to United Nations rights inspectors to tour Xinjiang.

More than one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, are incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang where "horrific and systematic abuses" occur, say rights groups.

After initially denying the camps existed, Beijing now defends them as "vocational training centres" aimed at stamping out terrorism and improving employment opportunities.

A BuzzFeed News investigation published in August uncovered hundreds of compounds in the Xinjiang region bearing the hallmarks of prisons or detention camps, many of which had been built over the past three years.

Further investigations published at the end of December revealed that the communist state has continued to build more than 100 new detention facilities in Xinjiang.

China's Uighur policy 'goes to the very top'

The Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed the BBC investigation as "false" and the allegations of forced sterilisation as "completely unfounded".

"The Chinese government protects the rights and interests of all ethnic minorities equally," a Chinese government spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that the government "attaches great importance to protecting women's rights".

But the birth rate in Xinjiang has plummeted in the past few years, according to independent research, which analysts have described as "demographic genocide".

Chinese diplomats give another explanation.

"The minds of [Uighur] women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines," the Chinese embassy in the United States tweeted January 7, citing an unpublished study by the Xinjiang Development Research Centre.

Chinese policy against Uighurs "goes to the very top", said Charles Parton, a former British diplomat in China and now senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

"There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this is Xi Jinping's policy," he told the BBC.

While it is unlikely that Xi or other top officials would have directed or authorised rape or torture, Parton said, they would "certainly be aware of it".

"I think they prefer at the top just to turn a blind eye," he said. "The line has gone out to implement this policy with great sternness, and that is what is happening."

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Allah, forgive us your sinful sons and daughters; God's appearance and faith don't matter, but save the souls of those who torture your children - open their eyes, make them repent and cease their sinning. Amen.

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May Allah punish the oppressors and enemies of Turkic peoples. They are scared of the Turkic peoples; therefore, they're trying to destroy us one by one. But Allah is great and almighty; he will protect his servants. Thanks to the human rights activists, to the journalists wanting to do justice, for unveiling the truth and for showing the Chinese people's true colors. It is all thanks to the real heroes who were not afraid to tell the truth openly and unequivocally. I wish you all peace and kindness! I will be praying for my brothers, and I will hand the tyrants over only to Allah.

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The Chinese are not humans; they should be burned at a large stake. They even eat children.

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We should not buy products and goods from China. Only then it will calm down.

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Therefore Turan, a Union of the Turkic countries, is needed.

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