On starting of her new teaching job at a China government-run detention center in Xinjiang, Qelbinur Sidik complained she saw two soldiers carry a young Uyghur girl out of the building on a stretcher.
“There was no proof of life in her face. Her jews were drained of color, there was not evidence the said lady was still alive,” said Sidik, a former employee at the school said she was forced to spend so many months teaching at two detention centers in Xinjiang in 2017.
A police woman who worked at the camp later told her the lady had passed on from serious bleeding, though she didn’t reveal the cause of the lady’s death . It was one of so much stories the policewoman briefied Sidik during the teacher’s three-month assignment at the heavily-fortified building that housed female detainees.
According to Sidik, the policewoman claimed to have been assigned to investigate reports of rape at the center by her superiors, though Xpooze Global News have no evidence of such claim. However, Sidik said what she have seen herself and have been told was so disgusting that made her fell ill.
Sidik’s revelation is almost the same to those previous detainees who have reported cases of rape and systematic sexual assault within China’s vast detention network.
Her Revelation is a rare account of a worker’s direct experience of life inside the detention centers, where the United States government alleges China is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minors through a repressive campaign of mass detention, torture, forced birth control and abortions.
The China government denied the allegations of genocide, and in a statement to Xpooze Global News said “there is no so-called ‘systematic sexual assault and abuse against women’ in Xinjiang.”
However, Sidik said the female police officer described how her male colleagues always to rant about it. “When (male guards) were drinking at night, the policemen would tell each other how they raped and tortured girls,” Sidik told Xpooze Global News from her new home in Holland.
Inside the camps
An ethnic Uzbek, Sidik grew up in Xinjiang and have been teaching elementary school students aged from six to 13 for more than 28years. In September 2016, she said she was invited to a meeting at the Saybagh District Bureau of Education and told she’d be working with “illiterates.”
In March 2017, she met her new students about 100 men and a handful of women. “They came in, their feet and hands chained in shackles,” she said.
At her first lesson, Sidik said she turned to the chalkboard only to hear the prisoners behind her crying. “I turned slightly, I saw their tears gushing out from the eyes down their beards, the female prisoners were crying loudly,” she said.
Young prisoners who arrived at the centers “fit, robust and bright-eyed” quickly sickened and weakened, she said. From her classroom in the basement of one camp, Sidik said she could hear screams. When she asked about their cries, she claims a male policeman told her that detainees were being tortured.
“During the time I was teaching in there, I saw terrible things happening,” Sidik said.
Xpooze Global News have no way of verifying Sidik’s account from inside the detention centers. However, former Xinjiang prisoners have told Xpooze Global News they were subjected to political discrimination and abuse, and Uyghurs who now live overseas have described relatives being thrown int prison. Leaked documents provided to Xpooze Global News showed Uyghurs could be sent to the camps for as little as having a beard or wearing a veil.
The Chinese government has claimed the camps are “vocational training centers,” part of an official strategy to both stamp out violent Islamist extremism and create jobs.
“There is no ’rounding up thousands of Uyghur Muslims’,” said Xu Guixiang, a spokesperson for the Communist Party publicity department in Xinjiang, at a government press conference on February 1.
“What we have cracked down on, according to the law, are a few heinous and obstinate leaders and backbones of extremist groups. What we have rescued are those who have been infected with religious extremism and committed minor crimes.”
‘Then I was gang raped’
Tursunay Ziyawudun said she had committed no crime when she was first detained in April 2017, after returning home to Xinjiang’s Xinyuan County to obtain official documents. She and her husband had been living for five years in neighboring Kazakhstan.
Her husband, Halmirza Halik, an ethnic Kazakh, was not detained and tracked her down to the Xinyuan County Vocational School. “We spoke through the iron gate of the school,” said Halik, speaking by phone with Xpooze Global News from Kazakhstan. “She cried after seeing me. I told her don’t be afraid … you have not broken the law and there is nothing to worry about.”
The authorities released Ziyawudun after a month in detention, but then summoned her back to the camp in March 2018, which she claimed marked the beginning of a 9-month nightmare.
Speaking to Xpooze Global News from the US, Ziyawudun said that she was taken to a cell with about 20 other women, where they were given little food and water and only allowed to use the toilet once a day for three to five minutes. “Those who took more time were electrocuted with shock batons,” she said.
During her detention, Ziyawudun says guards interrogated her about her years in Kazakhstan, asking whether she had ties to Uyghur exile groups.
During one of these sessions, she claims police officers kicked and beat her until she passed out. Another time, while still bruised from her beating, Ziyawudun claimed two female guards took her to another room where they laid her on a table. “They inserted a stun baton inside me and twisted and shocked me with it. I blacked out,” she said.
Ten days later, she says a group of male guards took her away from her cell. “In the next room I heard another girl crying and screaming. I saw about 5 or 6 men going into that room. I thought they were torturing her. But then I was gang raped. After that I realized what they also did to her,” Ziyawudun said, through tears. She said it happened multiple times while she was detained in the camps.
“They were extremely sadistic, causing pain and damage to the body by beating and smacking my head on the wall … it was their way of punishing us.”
Ziyawudun’s allegations of rape and torture were first reported by the Xpooze Global News is unable to independently verify Ziyawudun’s claims, but they are similar to accounts from Gulbakhar Jalilova, an ethnic Uyghur from Kazakhstan.
Speaking to Xpooze Global News in July 2020, Jalilova, described being locked in a “prison-like” room with about 20 other women after she was detained in May 2017.
Jalilova said she confronted one guard who sexually assaulted her. “I told him, ‘Aren’t you ashamed? Don’t you have a mother, a sister, how can you do this to me like that?’ He hit me with the electroshock prod and said, ‘You don’t look like a human’,” she said.
On the night of September 26, 2019, after being warned by Chinese authorities not to speak of her experiences in detention, Ziyawudun said she walked across the Kazakhstan border to her waiting husband.
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But in the days that followed, Ziyawudun’s health deteriorated, and she suffered vaginal bleeding.
In 2020, Ziyawudun was rushed to the US for medical treatment. Shortly after her arrival, doctors surgically removed her uterus, with medical records seen by Xpooze Global News showing she was diagnosed for a pelvic abscess and vaginal bleeding, as well as tuberculosis.
She said she blamed her medical complications on her treatment in the Xinjiang camps, although Xpooze Global News cannot verify this conclusion.
“(After she got out) she didn’t tell me anything about her experiences in the camp,” Halik says. “Sometimes she would cry at night and I was very angry. I knew that these things she experienced were not good, but I didn’t dare to ask.”
Tursunay Ziyawudun now lives in the US after being rushed there for medical treatment for problems she says are related to her detention.
Denials and shame
In a statement to Xpooze Global News, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not address the allegations made by the three women directly but instead issued a broad denial.
“We hope that the relevant media can distinguish right from wrong, not be deceived and misled by false news and biased reports,” the Foreign Ministry said, adding that their training centers “protect the basic rights of trainees including women from being violated, and it is strictly forbidden to insult and abuse trainees in any way.”
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region administration has not responded to requests for comment.
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In a news conference on February 3, Chinese officials introduced some ethnic minority women who they said had “graduated” from the system, and “shared how they got rid of extreme thoughts.” They also said reports of mass rape and forced sterilization were “sheer nonsense” and state media has sought to personally discredit the women’s claims.
For example, in an article published on February 10, the Global Times accused Gulbakhar Jalilova of being “an actor” and Tursunay Ziyawudun of lying about her forced sterilization, quoting a senior official saying that “all her family members know that she is inherently infertile.” Ziyawudun told Xpooze Global News she had a forced IUD insertion, not sterilization.
Ziyawudun said she had no reason to make up her allegations. “I am a woman in my forties. Do you think this is something I can be proud of sharing with the world?” she said.
“I would tell them I am not afraid of them anymore, because they already killed my soul.”
For her part, Sidik said she was told by her husband that government officials had come to his house and coached him for four hours about how to film a short video denying his wife’s claims of being in a detention center.