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Chinese atrocities against Uyghur women: Harrowing tales of gang rapes, sexual abuse and torture

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been moved from their native land to detention centres. They are being 'trained' and moved to other parts of mainland China as forced labour.

In the last few years, several reports have emerged on how China is systematically destroying the ethnic communities for decades in mainland China. They have targeted especially Uyghur Muslims occupied East Turkistan (Xinjiang in China) in the name of re-education. China claims that they are taking steps to achieve ‘national unity’, but in reality, the Chinese Communist Party led by President Xi Jinping has unleashed unimaginable horrors on the Uyghur population.

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been moved from their native land to detention centres. They are being ‘trained’ and moved to other parts of mainland China as forced labour. The camps where these people are being tortured are under heavy surveillance. Some reports have suggested that China has developed special AI-based technology to distinguish Uyghur Muslims among its population.

Amidst all the reports of atrocities against Uyghur Muslims, the torture women of the community are facing at the hands of the Chinese government is beyond what one may imagine. Women have suffered the most in the detention camps. In the past couple of years, former detainees of the detention camps in China have come forward to narrate their horrifying tales of rape, sexual abuse and torture. Reports suggest that they have been subjected to forced sterilization and abortions in order to reduce the population of the ethnic community artificially.

‘The most unforgettable scar on me forever’ – Ziawudun, an Uyghur survivor

In 2014, when President Xi Jinping visited Xinjiang in the wake of terror attacks by Uyghur separatists, he ordered local officials to respond to the attacks with zero mercy. Since then, China has detained over a million Uyghurs in the name of re-education. It is rare to get a firsthand account of the atrocities Uyghurs to have to face in the detention camps. However, there are some former detainees who managed to escape from CCP’s claws.

In a report published in February 2021, the BBC narrated the stories of some women who agreed to speak about the atrocities they faced in the detention camps. Thursday Ziawudun was one of the detainees who fled from Xinjiang and now reside in the US. She said, “Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever.” Ziawudun said that the guards were never in uniform.

They used to come into the cells late at night and pick women they liked. The women were then taken to dark rooms where there were no surveillance cameras. The masked Chinese men would rape them one by one. Ziawudun said that she was gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.

‘I was forced to strip Uyghur women naked and handcuff them’ – Gulzira Auelkhan

Gulzira Auelkhan, a Kazakh woman from Xinjiang, was detained for 18 months. She said that she was forced to strip Uyghur women naked and handcuff them and leave them alone in front of the Chinese men. Once they were done, her job was to clean the room. She said, “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 women’s camp was tightly controlled’ – Qelbinur Sedik

In her interview with BBC, Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek language teacher who was brought into camps to give lessons to detainees, said that the women camps in detention centres were tightly controlled. The condition in the camps was so traumatizing that she decided to flee China. Since then, she has been talking openly about her experience in detention centres.

Sedik said that she knew one policewoman whom she approached and asked about the torture and rapes happening in the camps. She took her to a courtyard where there were no cameras. The policewoman said, “Yes, the rape has become a culture. It is gang rape, and the Chinese police not only rape them but also electrocute them. They are subject to horrific torture.”

Sedik said that one of the forms of tortures women had to face in the camps was the insertion of the electrified stick in the anus of the woman. She said, “There were four kinds of electric shocks. The chair, the glove, the helmet, and anal rape with a stick.” She further added that the screams echoed in the building.

IUDs, abortions and sterilization

According to a report published in The Associated Press in June 2020, the Chinese government is hell-bent on reducing the population of Uyghur Muslims in China. There are using different tactics, including abortion, sterilization and IUDs, to ensure Uyghur women don’t give birth to the next generation. As per the report, China regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks. Hundreds of thousands of abortions have already been performed by the Chinese government.

Several reports suggest that one of the main reasons to be sent to the detention centres was having too many children. The parents of three or more children have stripped away from the families and were allowed to return only after paying heavy fines. The homes of such families were subject to surprise raids and were forced to live in constant fear.

Some of the women were even subjected to pregnancy prevention shots at the detention camps, while others were subjected to IUDs. Several former detainees confirmed that they were force-fed birth control pills.

In 2017, a woman named Gulzia Mogdin, who was on a visit from Kazakhstan back to China, was detained by the police after they found WhatsApp on her phone. She had to undergo a pregnancy test and was found to be two-month pregnant. The officials told her to get an abortion, and if she denied it, her brother would be detained. She agreed, but the horror was yet to come. She said that the doctors inserted an electric vacuum into her womb and sucked out the fetus. She was then shifted to the detention camp and only made it back to her home after months.

The report suggested that over 200,000 UIDs were inserted in Uyghur women in 2014. In 2018, the number reached 330,000.

Reaction from the world

The US has said on several occasions that China is committing crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang. On February 4, US Spokesperson said, “We are deeply disturbed by reports, including firsthand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.” The statement was released after the BBC reported on atrocities against Uyghur women in Xinjiang.

The UK Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams said that the report showed the evil acts of the Chinese government. She called for an independent investigation. Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, also called for international observers and said that the investigators should immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang at the earliest opportunity.

Payne further added, “Australia has been consistent in raising our significant concerns with the human rights abuses in Xinjiang. These latest reports of systematic torture and abuse of women are deeply disturbing and raise serious questions regarding the treatment of Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China international cross-party group of legislators working to reform the approach of democratic countries to China raised the issue of atrocities against Uyghur women on International Women’s Day.

Janet Daby, Labour MP for Lewisham East said that the women and girls are persecuted for their faith in Xinjiang. Calling China’s actions a genocide, she urged for immediate action.

Nus Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden said that the women in Xinjiang are living a nightmere.

China retaliated by attacking women witnesses

As the pressure mounted on China over alleged human rights violations in the Xinjiang region, Beijing has started focusing on discrediting female Uyghur witnesses. The officials of the Chinese government not only disclosed what is in their private medical data but also accused some of them of having affairs and STDs. The officers tried to paint them as if they have bad character to invalidate their account of abuse.

Xu Guixiang, the deputy head of Xinjiang’s publicity department, said in a statement that to rebuke the reports published in media, they have taken a series of measures. Hours-long briefings, releasing documents of the women and footages of Xinjiang residents was part of such measures.

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Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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