Uighur Women Endure Sexual Violence, Torture in Chinese “Re-Education” Camps

Imagine returning home from a trip abroad only to be detained in your own country for having WhatsApp downloaded on your phone. You are placed under house arrest. You must submit to an examination by doctors at a local clinic. They discover you are 10 weeks pregnant with your fourth child. One month later, doctors are cutting the fetus out without anesthesia.

Your unborn child so violently ripped from the safety of a mother’s womb.

Your crime: downloading an app on your phone. Being Muslim. An unwanted citizen of China.

This is not a dystopian science fiction novel.

It’s Gulzira Mogdyn’s reality, a 38-year-old ethnic Kazakh and Chinese citizen now living in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, her story is not unique. Other women seeking refuge in neighboring Kazakhstan have reported forced abortions and implantation of contraceptive devices as well as rape and sexual humiliation. The Washington Post reports that women were filmed while showering and had their “intimate parts rubbed with chili paste.”

Although, local rights groups and lawyers are unable to verify all the reports, they believe the claims are in line with treatment faced by Uighurs over the years. The Chinese government in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region has exhibited patterns of abuse against women aimed at curbing reproduction.

The “Re-Education” of China’s Uighurs

MuslimGirl.com first reported human rights abuses in the region last year. Under the guise of a war on terror, the Chinese government has detained between 800,000 and 2 million Muslims in re-education camps.

China first created the camps in 2014 and greatly expanded their “re-education” program in 2017. Reuters reports that the 39 camps in the Xinjiang region tripled in size from April 2017 to August 2018.

People are detained for visiting a mosque, texting Qur’anic verses, and being Muslim.

Most individuals within the camps have not been charged with a crime, and have no legal means to challenge their detainment. Uighurs can be sent to re-education camps for contacting people from one of the 26 countries China has red-flagged, including Afghanistan and Turkey.

People are detained for visiting a mosque, texting Qur’anic verses, and being Muslim. When Uighurs enter the camps, they must pledge loyalty to China and renounce Islam. Former detainees say they were constantly monitored by cameras and microphones placed strategically throughout the camps. Others accuse Chinese officials of engaging in torture tactics, such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations. These claims are in addition to the most recent reports of sexual violence committed against Uighur women.

U.S. Restricts Chinese Officials’ Visas

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “China has forcibly detained over one million Muslims in a brutal, systematic campaign to erase religion and culture in Xinjiang. China must end its draconian surveillance and repression, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease its coercion of Chinese Muslims abroad.”

Despite, both international and domestic criticism of America’s southern border detention camps and Muslim surveillance programs following 9/11, Trump’s administration seems to be taking a rather bold stance against human rights abuses in China.

Ahead of tense trade talks, the U.S. also blacklisted 28 Chinese companies who are believed to provide support to the surveillance and detention of Uighur Muslims.

In a statement released this Tuesday, the Chinese government urged the U.S. to cease meddling in internal Chinese affairs and to “stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang.”

What Can I Do?

As the oppression of Uighurs continues, there are ways for the average person to take a stand and speak out. No action is too small when it comes to uplifting the voices of the oppressed and dismantling systems of violence.

  • Contact your members of Congress.
  • Write a letter to the editor.
  • Hold a vigil or teach-in on the abuses faced by Uighurs.
  • Urge local religious leaders to discuss the human rights abuses with the local community.
  • Increase awareness by sharing articles and posts about what’s going on in China.
  • And, never underestimate the power of dua.

Jessica Daqamsseh is a freelance writer, published poet and educator based in North Carolina.