Three survivors of the Uighur genocide in China are opening up about the horror of their experiences. The Associated Press (AP) spoke to all three, in advance of testimony before a tribunal in London. The tribunal will open on Friday, and is chaired by human rights lawyer Geoffrey Nice, most well known for leading the prosecution of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, as well as his work with the International Criminal Court.
Bumeryem Rozi is the mother of four living children. When pregnant with her fifth, Rozi was taken, along with other pregnant women, to be forced into an abortion. Rozi was over six months pregnant at the time. She has since fled to safety in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I was 6 1/2 months pregnant,” she told the AP. “The police came, one Uyghur and two Chinese. They put me and eight other pregnant women in cars and took us to the hospital. They first gave me a pill and said to take it. So I did. I didn’t know what it was. Half an hour later, they put a needle in my belly. And sometime after that I lost my child.”
For Rozi, she has chosen to speak out for a personal reason: her 13-year-old son was taken to a concentration camp in 2015, and remains imprisoned. “I want my son to be freed as soon as possible,” she said. “I want to see him be set free.”
Semsinur Gafur is a former OB/GYN who echoed Rozi’s claims, saying she and other doctors were made to go door-to-door with ultrasound machines to monitor for any potential pregnancies. “If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the home … They would flatten the house, destroy it,” she said in her interview with the AP. “This was my life there. It was very distressing. And because I worked in a state hospital, people didn’t trust me. The Uyghur people saw me as a Chinese traitor.”
Religious persecution, imprisonment, and extradition
Mahmut Tevekkul is another survivor who spoke to the AP about his experiences, which may give an idea of what Rozi’s son is suffering. Tevekkul said he was imprisoned because his brother published a religious book in Arabic. “They put us on a tiled floor, shackled our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe,” he said. “There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until the morning and then they took us to the maximum-security area of the prison.”
While many Uighurs escape from China to other countries, and what they believe to be freedom, the reality is still disturbing. Uighurs in Muslim countries are, according to new reports, being deported and extradited to China, often without having committed any crimes.
Amannisa Abdullah lived in Dubai with her husband, Ahmad Talip, until Talip was told to report to a local police station. He never came home. Abdullah, who was heavily pregnant, took their children and fled to Turkey at her husband’s behest, where she later gave birth. Talip was extradited to China, and has never met his daughter.
In Egypt, Maryam Muhammad has kept her husband’s deportation a secret from their sons, just 18 months old and 5 months old when he was detained. He is said to be one of dozens of Uighurs rounded up by Egyptian security services. “He said: ‘You are my precious. I love you so much,'” she told CNN through tears of her husband’s last words to her. “I’m tired of trying to be strong. I know I must try to be strong because of my children, because of my husband.”
These, according to CNN, are just two examples of many in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. Some who were deported were visiting these countries for a religious pilgrimage, while others were permanent residents. Human Rights Watch reported that China has tracked hundreds of Uighurs after they fled the country, forcing them to return for prosecution. What happened after that is not known for sure, but they were presumably forced into concentration camps like other Uighurs.
The United States, Canada, and the European Union (EU) recently issued sanctions against China for the Uighur genocide; China swiftly retaliated by issuing sanctions of their own against 10 EU politicians. One of them was the previously mentioned Geoffrey Nice. While he said he isn’t intimidated by their actions, the retaliation seems to be having its intended effect: some people are now withdrawing from the tribunal, afraid to speak out.
There are two million Uighurs believed to be currently held in concentration camps, where they are subjected to numerous horrors, such as sadistic sexual violence, forced labor, torture, vivisection without anesthesia, forced abortion/sterilization, and murder. Human rights groups have been investigating for several years, and one of the most recent reports concluded that China has violated every provision of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, with an “intent to destroy” the Uighur people.
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