‘Pain is not gone’: Women in Xinjiang reveal horror of China’s brutal campaign of forced abortions and imprisonment


AAt around midnight on December 25, 2017, police went to Gulziya Mogdin’s home in the Xinjiang region, west of China. They took her to the hospital. Mogdin knew that a medical examination was the first step in a process by which ethnic minorities like herself, Kazakhs, were forced into political indoctrination camps by the Chinese government. Mogdin, 39, had moved to Kazakhstan to live with her husband, a Kazakh citizen. But earlier this year, Chinese police demanded that she cross the border back to China, along with her two children from a previous marriage.

Five days before the police visit, Mogdin had discovered that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy was also manifested during the medical examination. The next day, she said, the authorities began to pressure her to have an abortion. She resisted, saying she couldn’t terminate the pregnancy without her husband’s consent. The following month, Mogdin was summoned to the local administration office. An official told her that if she refused an abortion, her brother would be held responsible. Fearing that her brother would be locked up because of her, she gave in. She had an abortion on January 5.

Mogdin is among thousands of women in Xinjiang targeted in China’s campaign to assimilate ethnic minorities through methods such as mass internment, family separation, restrictions on language and religion, forced labor and so-called forced abortions and sterilizations. Families are forced to separate, and government documents appear to show thousands of Uyghur children being left without parents, according to Xinjiang lead researcher Adrian Zenz.

Xinjiang, a resource-rich region the size of Iran, is home to around 11 million Uyghurs, a Turkish-speaking minority, as well as Kazakhs, Huis, Tatars and other predominantly Muslim minorities. The Chinese government launched the multi-faceted campaign in 2016, after ethnic clashes and sporadic attacks blamed on Uyghurs rocked the region in previous years. Beijing says policies are needed to fight terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. But internment camp survivors, rights groups and foreign governments say people are arbitrarily wiped out for reasons like prayer, overseas travel or banning apps like WhatsApp. on their phones. Experts estimate that more than a million members of ethnic minorities have been placed in internment camps since the start of the campaign.

Thirty-nine countries, including Britain, the United States and Germany, condemned China last week for its policy in Xinjiang. The move was quickly rejected by Beijing, which accused nations of spreading “false information and political viruses” and interfering in China’s internal affairs.

As the Xinjiang campaign gains international notoriety, the plight of women is also at the center of concern. Women, along with their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons, are locked up in internment camps, where survivors have reported beatings, abuse, forced medication and sterilizations. In addition, the government has put in place policies to reduce birth rates in the region, with local governments being encouraged to implant intrauterine devices (IUDs) and carry out large-scale sterilizations, according to a report. published in June by M. Zenz. In 2018, 80% of all net added IUDs implanted in China occurred in Xinjiang, although the region only accounts for 1.8% of the country’s population. As a result, Xinjiang’s birth rates fell 24 percent last year, down from 4.2 percent nationally, according to official statistics.

The image of the life of a former detainee inside the camps(Simina Mistreanu / Roxi Pop)

But at the same time, women in Xinjiang are rising up against Beijing more and more. Mogdin is one of several Kazakh and Uyghur women who, after fleeing China, denounced their ordeals in an attempt to hold the country responsible.

“I can tell the pain of the loss is still there; he’s not gone yet ”, says Mogdin The independent. She returned home to eastern Kazakhstan in May 2018, after four months of house arrest during which her husband, Aman Ansagan, appealed to the Kazakh government, the Chinese embassy, ​​NGOs and journalists , trying to get his release. The couple could not get pregnant again and are seeking to sue China for the alleged forced abortion.

For Zumret Dawut, a businesswoman in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, a nightmarish couple of months began, just like for Mogdin, with a visit to the hospital. Dawut says she was called to the local police station in late March 2018. Police questioned her about her travels, phone calls and bank transfers related to an import-export business she ran with her husband. Pakistani. They detained her overnight.

Zumret Dawut says she was beaten in a camp(Roxi Pop)

The next morning, they took her to a local hospital where Dawut said several Uyghur women were lined up accompanied by police. The hospital collected his biometric data, including voice recordings, blood samples, iris and x-rays. Then she was taken to one of Xinjiang’s political indoctrination camps, which the Chinese government calls “vocational education centers.”

Inside the camp, said Dawut The independent she shared a cramped cell with 27 other women. Each day, they were taken to a “classroom,” where they would study Mandarin Chinese and the ideology of President Xi Jinping sitting on the cold concrete floor. “Every day when we left the room, we were asked, ‘Is there Allah?’” Dawut said. “On the first day, I didn’t want to say no. [The guard] used a plastic baton to hit me and asked, “Why don’t you answer? I was afraid of being beaten, so I said, “No, there isn’t. Allah remained in my heart.

One evening during dinner, Dawut shared his ration of bread with an elderly prisoner who suffered from diabetes. The following night, she did the same. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two guards came and started beating her. She cried, “Allah! To which one of the guards said, “If your Allah is so great, call him and let him save you.” Dawut says she was forcibly given an unknown drug, which had a tranquilizing effect. She says the women in her camp have been divided into three categories, based on their perceived offense: being religious; have a travel history or have relatives abroad; or have banned apps such as Facebook or WhatsApp on their phones. Of these, religion was considered the most serious offense.

The Chinese government wants to reorganize the Uyghur woman in order to completely conquer the Uyghur nation, but it is impossible [due to] the testimony of camp survivors

Zubayra Shamseden, Uyghur Human Rights Project

Dawut was released after her Pakistani husband repeatedly appealed to her embassy and the public security bureau in Urumqi and threatened to speak to foreign journalists. The couple and their three children left the country and eventually settled in Virginia, United States. But before she could leave Xinjiang, Dawut says she was fined for having a third child and forced to undergo sterilization.

Although Mogdin and Dawut’s stories cannot be independently verified, they are consistent with the testimonies of other people who fled Xinjiang. The region itself is tightly controlled, and state security officials prevent foreign journalists from speaking to residents. Dawut testified last September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City because, she says, she wanted to help other women in Xinjiang with her predicament.

The image of a former inmate from the classrooms inside the camps(Simina Mistreanu / Roxi Pop)

The women speaking out exemplify courage and hope for the cause of Xinjiang, says Zubayra Shamseden, Chinese outreach coordinator for the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP). “The Chinese government wants to reorganize the Uyghur woman in order to completely conquer the Uyghur nation, but it is impossible [due to] testimony from camp survivors, ”Shamseden says. “These women are so brave, so hopeful. They still live with dignity. “

Sophia, a woman from Xinjiang who did not want her real name revealed because her overseas documents are still pending, spent six and a half months in an internment camp in her hometown because she had gone to Kazakhstan. She describes a daily program of bullying, boredom and beating.

Sophia showed The independent medical documents indicating that she had swollen internal organs as a result of physical trauma. She also showed a receipt of 1,800 yuan (around £ 200) for the food she consumed inside the camp, for which she was forced to pay. Sophia says recounting her experience is traumatic, but she does so in the hope that it will prevent others from sharing the same fate.

“I can’t even say that I hate [my oppressors] because I lived with them for a while, ”she says. “I just hope this ends and no one else suffers.”

Additional reporting by Dinara Saliyeva


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