'Their goal is to destroy everyone': Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rapeFebruary 02, 2020
The women had their jewellery confiscated. Ziawudun’s earrings were yanked out, she said, causing her ears to bleed, and she was herded into a room with a group of women. Among them was an elderly woman who Ziawudun would later befriend.
The camp guards pulled off the woman’s headscarf, Ziawudun said, and shouted at her for wearing a long dress - one of a list of religious expressions that became arrestable offences for Uighurs that year.
“They stripped everything off the elderly lady, leaving her with just her underwear. She was so embarrassed that she tried to cover herself with her arms,” Ziawudun said.
The women were told to hand over their shoes and any clothes with elastic or buttons, Ziawudun said, then taken to cellblocks - “similar to a small Chinese neighbourhood where there are rows of buildings”.
Nothing much happened for the first month or two. They were forced to watch propaganda programmes in their cells and had their hair forcibly cut short.
Then police began interrogating Ziawudun about her absent husband, she said, knocking her on the floor when she resisted and kicking her in the abdomen.
“Police boots are very hard and heavy, so at first I thought he was beating me with something,” she said. “Then I realised that he was trampling on my belly. I almost passed out - I felt a hot flush go through me.”
A camp doctor told her she might have a blood clot. When her cellmates drew attention to the fact that she was bleeding, the guards “replied saying it is normal for women to bleed”, she said.
According to Ziawudun, each cell was home to 14 women, with bunk beds, bars on the windows, a basin and a hole-in-the-floor-style toilet.
As well as the medical interventions, detainees in Ziawudun’s camp spent hours singing patriotic Chinese songs and watching patriotic TV programmes about Chinese President Xi Jinping, she said.
“You forget to think about life outside the camp. I don’t know if they brainwashed us or if it was the side effect of the injections and pills, but you can’t think of anything beyond wishing you had a full stomach. The food deprivation is so severe.”
Detainees had food withheld for infractions such as failing to accurately memorise passages from books about Xi Jinping, according to a former camp guard who spoke to the BBC via video link from a country outside China.
“Once we were taking the people arrested into the concentration camp, and I saw everyone being forced to memorise those books. They sit for hours trying to memorise the text, everyone had a book in their hands,” he said.
Those who failed tests were forced to wear three different colours of clothing based on whether they had failed one, two, or three times, he said, and subjected to different levels of punishment accordingly, including food deprivation and beatings.
The guard said he did not know anything about rape in the cell areas. Asked if the camp guards used electrocution, he said: “Yes. They do. They use those electrocuting instruments.” After being tortured, detainees were forced to make confessions to a variety of perceived offences, according to the guard. “I have those confessions in my heart,” he said.