I was once again heartbroken to see the news . Witness Tursunay Ziawudun reports that Uyghur women were systematically sexually abused in the camp. I was unsurprised, however, not only because the 38 family members who were sent to this fear camp included females but also because during my six years of imprisonment, I had witnessed brutality many times by indecent, shameless, and undisciplined prison guards. The horrible reality of the camps in East Turkestan has been on my mind every day since they were established in 2017, but fearful that I would fail to convince others, I haven’t before dared to speak out.
When I was serving my sentence 17 years ago, the prison guards were assigned and ranked by authorities based on their cruelty towards prisoners; their conduct was not based on ethical or educational standards, as their only duty was to subjugate the prisoners.
It was normal for them to keep wine in the office cabinet and drink while working. No one was surprised when they inspected the cells while intoxicated; detainees had no right to complain, no matter what abuses they experienced, and there was no agency or authorities with whom to file a complaint. Today, as a strategic plan is being implemented to eradicate the Uyghur nation’s beliefs, customs, and human dignity—that is, to completely destroy this culture—it seems unlikely that the quality of guards will improve.
On the contrary, it is easy for a former prisoner like me to imagine that the guards are intentionally given unlimited rights, privileges, and opportunities to achieve their goal of eradicating the Uyghur culture by brainwashing and terrorizing prisoners.
Finally, the truth—a bitter reality—has been revealed to the world through the words of Tursunay Ziawudun, Gulzira Avulkan, and Sayragul Savutbay. The people of East Turkestan are well aware of the dangers that will befall these three brothers’ families in the homeland following their displays of courage. So, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of girls and women detained in that camp, I express deep gratitude for the sacrifices made by these witnesses. I curse not only the guards who are committing these crimes but also the Chinese leaders led by Xi Jinping who have given them opportunity to rape in a systematic way.
When a country throws 25% of a specific population under its rule into prisons and camps, including all men of military age, the females of that population will naturally be completely undefended both inside and outside the camps. Given that these camps are set up on the outskirts of counties and cities, where guards are far from their families and can thus perform their genocidal duties with eased conscience, available witness reports may only weakly reflect the full horrific reality.
The witnesses who have provided reports have been able to leave the camps and make their voice heard in the world because they are foreign nationals.
But the people of East Turkestan, the main target of the genocide, are deprived of opportunity to report these horrors. In fact, while we are discussing such horrors, many of them may be being brutally raped. As always, Chinese authorities deny these rapes, as they have denied the existence of the camps and the testimonies from tens of thousands of Uyghurs abroad about their missing relatives They also attempt to conceal rape by portraying the oppressed people dancing and singing in state media.
We expect the conscience of the international community to take action. Given these horrific facts, the number of countries, organizations, and individuals working with China should decrease.
Rebiya Kadeer, Leader of the Uyghur National Movement
International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation