Women systematically raped and tortured in Uighur ‘re-education’ camps, says report

Women systematically raped and tortured in Uighur ‘re-education’ camps, says report

Kate Ng

Updated ·3-min read
 
 
Uighurs demonstrate in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul to ask for news of their relatives (AFP via Getty Images)
Uighurs demonstrate in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul to ask for news of their relatives (AFP via Getty Images)

Women detained within Uighur internment camps in China’s Xinjiang province have experienced mass rape, sexual abuse and torture, it has been reported.

According to the BBC, a number of former detainees and a guard have come forward to speak about what they experienced and saw within the camps, which China says are to “re-educate” Uighurs and other minorities.

The testimonies detail the traumatic abuse women went through while in the camps, described by Adrian Zenz, a leading expert on China’s policies in Xinjiang, as “some of the most horrendous evidence I have seen since the atrocity began”.

He told the BBC: “This confirms the very worst of what we have heard before. It provides authoritative and detailed evidence of sexual abuse and torture at a level clearly greater than what we had assumed.”

One of the former detainees, Tursunay Ziawudun, said that in her nine months spent in the camps, she was tortured and gang-shaped on three occasions, by two or three men each time.

Another woman, Gulzira Auelkhan, who was detained for 18 months, told the broadcaster she was forced to strip other women naked and restrain them “so they cannot move”, before leaving them alone with Chinese men.

She said she would sit “silently next to the door, and when the man left the room I took the woman for a shower”, adding that the men would “pay money to have their pick of the prettiest young inmates”.

When asked if there was a system of organised rape within the internment camps, she said: “Yes, rape.”

China has been roundly condemned for its treatment of Muslim Uighurs. In January, Washington accused the ruling Chinese Communist Party of committing genocide and crimes against humanity for “arbitrary imprisonment” of more than a million people, torture and forced labour.

Last year, Mr Zenz published a report accusing China of using forced sterilisation, forced abortion and coercive family planning against minority Muslims – allegations which Beijing has said were groundless and false.

The report was corroborated by Ms Ziawudun, who told the BBC that women detainees were forcibly fitted with IUDs or sterilised. They also underwent “unexplained medical tests, took pills and were forcibly injected every 15 days with a ‘vaccine’ that brought on nausea and numbness”.

A guard, who spoke to the BBC on the condition of anonymity, said he was “sure” that the detainees he brought into the camp “definitely experienced various types of torture”.

He said he did not know anything about rape, but said the camp guards used “electrocuting instruments” on the detainees, who were forced to make “confessions” to perceived offences.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denied the testimonies in the report, telling Reuters that it “is wholly without factual basis” and accused the people interviewed by the BBC of having been “proved multiple times” to be “actors disseminating false information”.

Beijing has strongly denied and rejected accusations of abuse in the “re-education” camps and has said the purpose of the camps is to provide vocational training and help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism, and to teach the Uighur people new skills.

In a statement to the broadcaster, a spokesperson insisted the Xinjiang camps were not detention camps but “vocational education and training centres”.

She added that the Chinese government “protects the rights and interests of all ethnic minorities equally”, and that it “attaches great importance to protecting women’s rights”.

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