A recent investigation from the Associated Press (AP) is finally opening the world’s eyes to the genocide against Uighur Muslims in China. In addition to the concentration camps holding an estimated one million Uighurs, the AP investigation revealed that the Chinese government is taking “draconian measures” to prevent Uighurs from having children – including forced birth control and abortion, sterilization, and even ripping infants away from their mothers while they breastfeed.
The AP’s sources for what it has labeled a “demographic genocide” include government statistics and documents, as well as interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members, and a former detention camp instructor. Uighur women, along with other Chinese minorities, are regularly subjected to pregnancy checks by government officials. They are also being forcibly sterilized, are forced into intra-uterine device (IUDs) insertion, and are even forced into abortions. The AP estimates that this affects hundreds of thousands of people. Women who do not comply with government demands are sent to a concentration camp.
Gulnar Omirzakh spoke to the AP about her experience as a victim of China’s communist regime. After having a third child, she was ordered to have an IUD inserted and to pay a $2,685 fine, though her husband was already detained and she was struggling financially. She was threatened with imprisonment if she did not comply. “God bequeaths children on you. To prevent people from having children is wrong,” Omirzakh told the AP tearfully. “They want to destroy us as a people.”
Uighur birth rates are drastically falling in comparison to nationwide Chinese birth rates, making Xinjiang —a Uighur majority area—one of China’s slowest-growing areas. Just a few years ago, it was one of the fastest-growing. “This kind of drop is unprecedented… there’s a ruthlessness to it,” explained Adrian Zenz, a China scholar and expert in the country’s minority regions. “This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs.”
The Chinese government denies these claims, as it has denied the existence of concentration camps and torture. Yet experts refuse to accept their explanations. “It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide,” Joanne Smith Finley, who works at Newcastle University in the U.K., told the AP. “These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population.”
It is estimated that the targeting of Uighurs began in 2017, with people thrown into camps simply for praying or traveling abroad. Government officials went door-to-door, looking for pregnant women and children. All minorities were required to attend flag-raising ceremonies each week, and women were forced to take pregnancy tests afterward. Abdushukur Umar was one of the people who fell victim to this terror; the father of seven children, he was put into a camp in 2017, sentenced to a year in prison for each of his children.
“How can you get seven years in prison for having too many children?” Zuhra Sultan, Umar’s cousin, said to the AP. “We’re living in the 21st century — this is unimaginable.”
Leaked data obtained by the AP revealed that one of the most common reasons for detainment was having “too many” children.
In the camps, women have been forced to get IUDs and “pregnancy prevention shots,” although they have never been explicitly told what the shots are. After being released, many have later discovered only they could no longer have children. Dina Nurdybay, one of the women forced into a camp, said married women were separated from the unmarried women. Those who were married were forced to get IUDs. An official who stopped by her cell one day insulted the women, saying, “Do you think it’s fair that Han people are only allowed to have one child? You ethnic minorities are shameless, wild and uncivilized.”
Nurdybay was eventually transferred to a facility which also had an orphanage, with hundreds of children separated from their parents. “They told me they wanted to hug their parents, but they were not allowed,” she said. “They always looked very sad.”
Tursunay Ziyawudun, another detainee, told the AP she is now sterile. While in the camp, she was repeatedly kicked in the stomach and was given numerous injections. One of the pregnant women who was detained with her disappeared. Gulbahar Jelilova, another detainee, said pregnant women were forced into abortions there. Jelilova also told the AP that one woman’s infant was cruelly taken from her, and she was still leaking breastmilk. The mother did not know where her baby had gone or what had happened to her.
Gulzia Mogdin, another victim, was forced into an abortion at two months pregnant. “That baby was going to be the only baby we had together,” Mogdin told the AP. “I cannot sleep. It’s terribly unfair.”
Zumret Dawut was put into a camp simply because she had an American visa. Later, she was forcibly sterilized. “I was so angry,” she said. “I wanted another son.”
Congress and the Trump administration recently worked together to pass legislation to hold the Chinese Community Party responsible for the genocide against the Uighurs, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wasted no time responding to this latest revelation, calling it “horrifying” and “an utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and basic human dignity.” In a statement to Reuters, he said, “We call on the Chinese Communist Party to immediately end these horrific practices and ask all nations to join the United States in demanding an end to these dehumanizing abuses.”
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