In early February 2021, the BBC published chilling details of what the struggle was like for a group of Uyghur women that survived months on end in China’s mass internment system in Xinjiang. Of no shock to the international community that has for the past three years exposed China’s crimes against humanity and human rights violations against Uyghur and other Turkic minorities, these stories of survival have only strengthened our resolve to hold China accountable once and for all.
Tursunay Ziawudun, who was detained for approximately nine months in a Xinjiang camp, revealed that she will never forget the routine by which groups of women were removed from their prison cells every night and raped by “masked Chinese men.” She painfully recalled that she herself had been physically tortured and gang-raped in three separate incidents; in Ziawudun’s BBC interview, you can see as she breaks down crying at the memories of the horrors she was subjected to experience and witness:
“They were three men. Not one, but three. They did whatever evil[s] their mind could think of, and they didn’t spare any part of my body, biting it to the extent that it was disgusting to look at. They didn’t just rape me, they were barbaric, they had bitten all over my body. They had an electric baton; I didn’t know what it was. It was pushed into my private parts and I was tormented with electric shocks.”
It hadn’t been like that from the beginning of her time there, however. Ziuwudun reveals that during her first detention, she was permitted to use her cellphone and was fed well. Upon her second detention, she noticed that things had changed for the worse. She and other Uyghur and minority women were forced to hand over their jewelry and headscarves; she witnessed one elderly woman stripped nude and humiliated. Still, she was not prepared for what would happen approximately two months into her detention. She soon started to witness a 20-some-years-old woman being escorted out of her cell and into a room.
“As soon as she went inside she started screaming. I don’t know how to explain to you, I thought they were torturing her. I never thought about them raping. The girl came back completely different after that, she wouldn’t speak to anyone, she sat there staring as if in a trance. There were many people in those cells who lost their minds.”
Another interviewee, a Kazakh woman by the name of Gulzira Auelkhan who was detained for one and a half years and forced to work in the prison, revealed that her job was to strip Uyghur inmate women completely naked and handcuff them, at which point she would leave the room while Chinese guards entered. There is no question as to what happened in these rooms. Auelkhan explained that the men would pay high prices to choose the most attractive women detainees, and after the men would leave the rooms, she would take up the task of helping the women shower. Put plain and simple, Auelkhan’s confirmation corroborates what we already know to be happening to Uyghur women in these rooms: “yes, rape.”
Incidentally, just a day after the shocking BBC interview, the Genocide Amendment to the United Kingdom Trade Bill once again went up for vote in the House of Lords. The bill, which would permit the UK High Court to decide to annul trade deals with countries engaging in genocide, passed the vote with a “staggering” 171 majority (359 votes to 188 votes). Reflecting on the momentous step forward, The Board of Deputies tweeted:
“We applaud the House of Lords for voting in favour of Lord Alton’s revised genocide amendment to the Government’s Trade Bill, with a huge majority of 171. The systematic rape and torture of Uyghur women, revealed in horrific detail by the BBC yesterday, serves as yet another reminder that the world cannot turn away from the brutality of the Chinese government.”
The Genocide Amendment is set to go up for vote in the House of Commons next Tuesday, February 9th 2021.