More than one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minority groups have been held inside internment camps in Xinjiang under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 2017, say international rights groups.
It is rare to hear many first-hand accounts from inside China’s internment camps. Still, recently several reports have surfaced of organized systems of mass rape, torture, and sexual abuse of Uighurs. According to a BBC report, information came not only from the detainees but also from a guard.
In 2011, Tursunay Ziyawudun and her husband, an ethnic Kazakh, both natives of Xinjiang, moved to neighboring Kazakhstan to open a medical clinic.
When they returned to China in 2016, local officials in Xinjiang confiscated their passports. In April 2017, Tursunay Ziyawudun was sent to an internment camp for “reeducation” for traveling to and living in Kazakhstan, one of 26 countries the CCP in Xinjiang deem sensitive.
She spent nine months inside the secretive web of internment camps in the Xinjiang region. She was eventually released. and fled to the U.S. and told how women were taken from the cells each night and subjected to rape by one or more Chinese men. Ziawudun was tortured and gang-raped on three occasions by two or three men.
“Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever,” she said.
“I don’t even want these words to spill from my mouth.”
The men were dressed in suits, says Ziawudun, not police uniforms, and were masked, even though it was before the pandemic had started.
After her first release, she was sent back to the camps as a punishment for her husband’s decision to not return to China, and instead, he remained in Xinjiang.
“On four different occasions, I was taken to an interrogation room, where I was beaten, my private part was electrocuted unbearably by an electric baton, and I was gang-raped,” Ziyawudun told VOA. She added that some of her fellow detainee women never returned to the cell after visiting the interrogation room. The ones who returned were asked to keep quiet or face the consequences.
The BBC also interviewed a Kazakh woman from Xinjiang held for 18 months in the camp system.
“My job was to remove their clothes above the waist and handcuff them so they cannot move,” said Gulzira Auelkhan. “Then I would leave the women in the room, and a man would enter—some Chinese man from outside or policeman. 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.
This pervasive rape culture is not just reserved for the women, as brave men, inspired by the women who are describing their horrific treatment, are beginning to tell their stories as well.
After the BBC’s report was aired, others came forward to tell of the torture and rape in Xinjiang and other areas. Members of the Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong practitioners are also raped and tortured.
Bitter Winter reports one ethnic Kazakh who fled the country spoke of men being raped in Xinjiang camps by male guards, saying it is a common occurrence. The younger boys are the main target.
Reports of the abuse towards men have been told to Human Rights activists in Kazakhstan and elsewhere, but so far, names have been withheld as they have not authorized their names and addresses to be published.
Within the Kazakh society, it is very difficult for a male to admit to rape, as the fear of being ostracized is real, and for many, the fear of retribution is also real.
The CCP will, of course, deny that such behavior takes place. When the truth is, they encourage and reward guards and others for such actions.
Ziawudun, in an interview with Fox News, said, “We’re humans, but the way they torture these girls and even boys it’s like we’re animals. Even boys,” she said, as the full horror of China’s camps are being revealed to the rest of the world.
“Any woman under 40 was raped,” she said. “Everyone in the camp experienced this. And, of course, I did, too. I was also beaten—I was kicked and stamped on—once so much on my private parts that I was bleeding, and I since had to have my ovaries removed.”