In an interview with BBC, Tursunay Ziawudun who spent nine months inside China’s network of internment camps reported sexual abuse. She alleges:
‘The men always wore masks even though there was no pandemic then. They wore suits, not police uniforms. Sometime after midnight, they came to the cells to select the women they wanted and took them down the corridor to a “black room”, where there were no surveillance cameras.’ Several nights, they took her, she reported
“Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever,” she said. “I don’t even want these words to spill from my mouth.”
Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and now resides in the US, said that women were taken from the cells “every night” and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men. Ziawudun previously mentioned she “lived in constant fear of being sent back to China”, and believed that if she revealed the extent of the sexual abuse she had experienced and seen and was returned to Xinjiang, she would be punished more harshly than before. And she was ashamed, she said.
‘The BBC also interviewed a Kazakh woman from Xinjiang who was detained for 18 months in the camp system, who said she was forced to strip Uighur women naked and handcuff them, before leaving them alone with Chinese men. Later she cleaned the rooms, she said.’
“My job was to remove their clothes above the waist and handcuff them so they cannot move,” said Gulzira Auelkhan, crossing her wrists behind her head to demonstrate. “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. Some former detainees of the camps have described being forced to assist guards or face punishment.
Auelkhan said she was powerless to resist or intervene and mentioned there was a system of organized rape, she said: “Yes, rape.” “They forced me to go into that room,” she said. “They forced me to take off those women’s clothes and to restrain their hands and leave the room.” Some of the women who were taken away from the cells at night were never returned, Ziawudun said. Those who were brought back were threatened against telling others in the cell what had happened to them. “You can’t tell anyone what happened, you can only lie down quietly,” she said. “It is designed to destroy everyone’s spirit.”
According to estimates, more than 1 million men and women have been detained in the long network of camps, which China alleges exist for the “re-education” of the Uighurs and other minorities. Human rights groups urge that the Chinese government has deliberately stripped away the religious and other freedoms of the Uighurs, crowning in an oppressive system of mass surveillance, detention, indoctrination, and even forced sterilization.
The policy is set by China’s President, Xi Jinping, who visited Xinjiang in 2014 in the wake of a terror attack by Uighur separatists. The US government announced last month that China’s actions are to be considered genocide. China denies reports of mass detention and forced sterilization terming them as “lies and absurd allegations”.