Millions of Uyghurs have been detained in what China calls “re-education” camps, which are being called by human rights groups as the largest mass incarceration of peoples since the Holocaust.
UN experts and activists say at least one million ethnic Uighurs, and members of other Muslim minority groups, have been detained in camps, many of them blindfolded and shackled.
China describes the camps as vocational training centres to help stamp out religious extremism and terrorism by teaching new work skills, but former prisoners say they are being used to curb the country’s Muslim population.
Many Uyghur women, who managed to escape or seek refugee, have regrouped in neighboring Kazakhstan. Most report experiences of either rape, sexual abuse, forced abortions, and even forced sterilization.
As reports of sexual torture, rape, and forced abortions by Chinese authorities continue to emerge from escaped Ugyhur women who were held in the numerous detention camps across the northwestern province of Xinjiang, human rights groups are now calling the Chinese campaign against the Muslim Uyghur population of the country as a genocide.
Gulzira Mogdyn, 38, spoke of her forced abortion after being detained in Xinjiang. Placed under house arrest after authorities found WhatsApp on her phone, she was forced to go under a medical examination when they found her 10 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. Officials told her she was not allowed to have the child, and removed it from her body without anaesthetic the next day.
She said the men would put ‘bags on the heads of the ones they wanted’ during the 18 months she spent in the camp. She further told that female guards used chewing gum to pull on her pubic hair and inmates were filmed in the shower.
Another woman, Ruqiye Perhat, 30, spoke of the systematic rape that occurs while being detained by Chinese authorities. She states that any woman or man under the age of 35 was ‘raped and sexually abused’ inside the camp.
Held in various prisons across China for four years following the 2009 Uyghur protests against the Chinese government, Perhat describes being raped numerous times by Han Chinese officials, resulting in two pregnancies which were both aborted while she was in prison.
Other women describe similar experiences, with stories of younger and unmarried women being taken away from their packed cells at night only to be “returned” the next day.
Not only this, China is destroying burial grounds where generations of Uighur families have been laid to rest, leaving behind human bones and broken tombs in what activists call an effort to eradicate the ethnic group’s identity in Xinjiang.
According to satellite imagery analysed by AFP and Earthrise Alliance, the Chinese government has, since 2014, exhumed and flattened at least 45 Uighur cemeteries — including 30 in the past two years. These graveyards are being turned into playgrounds or car parks.
Human rights activists, journalists, and whistleblowers have testified for years to China’s policy of cutting open political prisoners to extract their organs while alive, without anesthesia, and sell them to willing buyers.
China’s abuse of not only the Uyghur population and religious minorities but of women in particular showcases a common but brutal aspect of genocide: the targeted rape and torture of women attempts to ensure the entire bloodline of the ethnicity is corrupted and abused for the future generations to come.
China’s continued abuse of Uyghur Muslims remains of the most horrifying cases of human rights abuses in modern history. Claiming to target Uyghur Muslims in order to combat foreign terrorism and extremism, China’s detention camps across the northwestern province of Xinjiang have been at the center of an almost uncountable number of humanitarian abuses.
Women across the world have often been the most vulnerable during times of war and oppression, and as seen in the case of China, Uyghur women are at the heart of the targeted abuse towards the Muslims of the country.