Kazakhs Speak Out About Rape in China's Xinjiang Camps

2021-02-10
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Kazakhs Speak Out About Rape in China's Xinjiang Camps A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture's Lop county, April 2017.
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A former inmate of China's mass detention camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has spoken out about sexual violence against fellow inmates after Uyghur women testified to the BBC that they were serially and gang-raped in the camps.

The woman, who gave only the single name Dina, said she hails from the same county -- Xinyuan county in Xinjiang's Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture -- as Tursunay Ziawudun, whose testimony sparked international condemnation of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

One woman told the BBC that women were removed from their cells "every night" and raped by one or more masked Chinese men.

Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled the region after her release and is now in the U.S., said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men, the BBC reported.

Dina said she had personally seen evidence that young Uyghur women were being targeted for sexual violence during her time in the camp.

"What [Tursunay Ziawudun] said is true," Dina, a former Chinese national who has since obtained citizenship of Kazakhstan, told RFA. "

"They always go for the young, beautiful Uyghur women," she said. "There was one woman [in the camp], about 20 years old. They took her away about 9.00 p.m. one night, and sent her back just as we were getting up in the morning."

"From that day on, she was in a daze and said nothing to anyone. She wouldn't eat."

Dina was held in a "re-education" camp in Xinjiang from October 2017 to September 2018.

She shared a cell with a dozen other women, who were forced to eat and urinate in the same room.

Forced into sexual relationships

She said many of the women were forced into sexual relationships with the men in charge of the camp.

"We were sent later to a [reconstructed camp called a] party school, and many of the women [were forced into sexual] contact with the camp leaders," she said.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has denied the reports of rape, saying the camps are there to "retrain" Uyghurs for the labor market and to combat "terrorism."

But as evidence of its genocidal policies in Xinjiang mounts up, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress told RFA that the international community now knows what is going on in Xinjiang.

"They are trying to cover up the truth, use diplomacy and state-controlled media to spread lies and mislead the international community," Dilxat Raxit said.

"But these victim testimonies have once again made the international community more aware of the genocidal policies that the Chinese government is pursuing against the Uyghurs," he said.

Serikjan, who founded the Kazakhstan-based rights group Atajurt that played a key role in exposing the reality of the Xinjiang camps to the rest of the world, recently went to the U.S. on a lobbying trip, he told RFA.

"We focused on the 're-education' camps in Xinjiang, and we also talk about how to get more information and expose more crimes against humanity that are happening in the Xinjiang camps," he said following meetings with former inmates and human rights groups.

"We also discussed how to ban cotton and tomato imports from Xinjiang around the world, because those products ... involve forced labor and are linked to the ... camps in Xinjiang," he said.

We have provided a lot of evidence for forced labor, sexual slavery, sterilization, and forced abortion. Therefore, the US government recently decided to ban the import of any cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang."

Meanwhile, Xinjiang officials are gearing up to forced Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities -- especially those in government employment -- to show loyalty to the CCP by performing Han Chinese culture in the form of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

"China is using the Spring Festival to identify whether Uyghur cadres have resisted Chinese culture," Raxit told RFA. "Uyghurs are being told to write poetic couplets and hang up lanterns across the region, and these will be inspected by stability maintenance teams."

"[Those who fail the inspections] will be accused of boycotting Chinese culture, labeled 'extremists,' and locked up in the concentration camps, where they will be subjected to political brainwashing," he said.

Assimilation parties

The World Uyghur Congress sent a number of video clips to RFA showing Uyghurs beating gongs and drums to celebrate Lunar New Year, as well as Uyghur residents praising the "beauty" of decorations.

"The Chinese government has adopted coercive measures in a bid to force the Lunar New Year celebrations on Uyghurs ... as part of their political goal of assimilation," Raxit told RFA.

Dina said similar moves are afoot in her former hometown in Ili.

"All Kazakhs and Uyghurs are expected to hold family gatherings for Lunar New Year to demonstrate national and family unity," she said. "The [Han Chinese] visit your home and you are expected to visit theirs as well, to socialize and eat with them."

"All the village committees must arrange a program of events, and attendance is mandatory," Dina said. "If you are refuse, they will send you straight to the [camps]."

She said some of the camps have been rebranded "entrepreneurial centers," and are used to source forced labor from inmates.

"There are two in Nilek county: one is making clothes, the other naan bread," she said.

Kazakh scholar Reis Khan said the authorities have also forced Muslims to eat pork as part of the "festivities" since 2017.

"The authorities have forced people to put up poetic couplets and distributed pork to Muslim families," Khan said.

"But now, in the name of 'easing tensions,' they are arranging for Han Chinese visit Muslim families," he said. "They then have the Muslim families go regularly to Han Chinese people's homes to eat pork with rice."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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