Tursunay Ziawudun spent nine months inside China’s interment camp in the Xinjiang region.
Ziawudun said once the women arrived, camp guards would pull off their headscarves and long dresses – religious expressions that became illegal for Uighurs that year.
Ziawudun said she shared a cell with 30 other women and they used a single bucket for a toilet.
The first two months they were forced to cut their hair and watch propaganda programs about Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Camp guards started interrogating Ziawudun and quickly became violent.
“Police boots are very hard and heavy, so at first I thought he was beating me with something,” she said. “Then I realized that he was trampling on my belly. I almost passed out – I felt a hot flush go through me.”
When Ziawudun started bleeding, the guards said, “it is normal for women to bleed.”
Ziawudun recalled masked men coming into their cell after midnight to choose women they wanted and bring them to a “black room,” where there were no surveillance cameras.
The first time it happened, Ziawudun remembered hearing screaming.
“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 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.”
Several nights, Ziawudun said, they took her.
“They did whatever evil their mind could think of,” Ziawudun said in tears. “They didn’t just rape. They were barbaric.”
“Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever.”
Some of the women who were taken from the cells at night never returned. Those who did come back were threatened against telling others in the cell what happened to them.
“You can’t tell anyone what happened, you can only lie down quietly,” she said. “It is designed to destroy everyone’s spirit.”
Ziawudun said the women were forcibly injected every 15 days with a “vaccine” that caused nausea and numbness.
Camp detainees had to comply with pregnancy checks, forced contraception, sterilizations or abortions.
Ziawudun was released in Dec. 2018 and was granted safe refuge by the U.S.
She currently lives in a suburb outside of Washington D.C. with a landlady from the local Uighur community.
A week after she arrived in the U.S., she had surgery to remove her womb because of injuries she suffered from being stomped on.
“I have lost the chance to become a mother,” she said.
Ziawudun waved her right to anonymity and now feels free to speak out about the full extent of the abuse.
It’s estimated that over 1 million Uighurs and Muslims are held inside the camps, which China says exist for the “re-education” of the Uighurs and other minorities.
Ghulzira Auyelkhan was detained in the camp for 18 months and worked as a cleaning lady.
She said Chinese men would pay money to have their pick of the “pretty, young inmates.” Auyelkhan was forced to strip Uighur women naked and handcuff them to their beds, before leaving them alone with Chinese men. Afterwards, she cleaned the rooms.
In a statement, the Chinese government said the camps in Xinjiang were not detention camps but “vocational education and training centers.”
The Chinese government “protects the rights and interests of all ethnic minorities equally,” the statement continued, adding that the government “attaches great importance to protecting women’s rights.”
“It is very obvious their goal is to destroy everyone and everyone knows it,” former camp detainee Tursanay Ziyawudun said. “They say people are released, but in my opinion everyone who leaves the camps is finished.”
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