'Their goal is to destroy everyone': Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rapeFebruary 02, 2020
The men always wore masks, Tursunay Ziawudun said, even though there was no pandemic then.
They wore suits, she said, 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, Ziawudun said, they took her.
“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 spent nine months inside China’s vast and secretive system of internment camps in the Xinjiang region.
First-hand accounts from inside the internment camps are rare, but several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organised system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.
Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, said women were removed 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.
[S]ometime in May 2018 - “I don’t remember the exact date, because you don’t remember the dates inside there” - Ziawudun and a cellmate, a woman in her twenties, were taken out at night and presented to a Chinese man in a mask, she said. Her cellmate was taken into a separate room.
“As soon as she went inside she started screaming,” Ziawudun said. “I don’t know how to explain to you, I thought they were torturing her. I never thought about them raping.”
“The woman took me to the room next to where the other girl had been taken in. They had an electric stick, I didn’t know what it was, and it was pushed inside my genital tract, torturing me with an electric shock.”
About an hour later, her cellmate was brought back.
“The girl became completely different after that, she wouldn’t speak to anyone, she sat quietly staring as if in a trance,” Ziawudun said. “There were many people in those cells who lost their minds.”
In the camp in Kunes, Ziawudun’s days drifted into weeks and then months. The detainees’ hair was cut, they went to class, they underwent unexplained medical tests, took pills, and were forcibly injected every 15 days with a “vaccine” that brought on nausea and numbness.
Women were forcibly fitted with IUDs or sterilised, Ziawudun said, including a woman who was just about 20 years old. (“We begged them on her behalf,” she said.)
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.
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. Afterwards, 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.
Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek woman from Xinjiang, was among the Chinese language teachers brought into the camps and coerced into giving lessons to the detainees. Sedik has since fled China and spoken publicly about her experience.
The women’s camp was “tightly controlled”, Sedik told the BBC. But she heard stories, she said - signs and rumours of rape. One day, Sedik cautiously approached a Chinese camp policewoman she knew.
“I asked her, ‘I have been hearing some terrible stories about rape, do you know about it?’ She said we should talk in the courtyard during lunch.
“So I went to the courtyard, where there were not many cameras. She said, ‘Yes, the rape has become a culture. It is gang rape and the Chinese police not only rape them but also electrocute them. They are subject to horrific torture.’“
Another teacher forced to work in the camps, Sayragul Sauytbay, told the BBC that “rape was common” and the guards “picked the girls and young women they wanted and took them away”.
She described witnessing a harrowing public gang rape of a woman of just 20 or 21, who was brought before about 100 other detainees to make a forced confession.
“After that, in front of everyone, the police took turns to rape her,” Sauytbay said.
“While carrying out this test, they watched people closely and picked out anyone who resisted, clenched their fists, closed their eyes, or looked away, and took them for punishment.”
The young woman cried out for help, Sauytbay said.