China: End systematic torture and deaths of Uyghur women in mass-detention camps

For immediate release

November 21, 2018 12:40 PM EST

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

Since Spring 2017, over one million Uyghurs have been interned in camps in East Turkestan. Vast numbers of Uyghur women are subject to systematic state violence, including death in custody, torture, and forcible disappearance. 

Camp survivor Mihrigul Tursun has described in a recent interview how Chinese authorities tortured her for seven days while in detention. While living in Egypt, where her husband was working, she gave birth to triplets. After she returned to China in 2015 with her children, police detained Mihrigul several times. While detained, one of her children died in hospital and the other two began to suffer from a respiratory illness, despite all being healthy before returning to China.

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, the United Nations and concerned governments should call on China to end its policy of systematic torture and violence against Uyghur women.

Uyghur women forcibly disappeared into China’s internment camps include Oghulnisa Ghojaabdulla, a 55-year-old Uyghur woman from Manglay Village in Karakash County, Rahile Dawut, an internationally known folklorist, Chimengul Awut, a prominent poetand Gulshan Abbas, the sister of Washington DC-based Uyghur activist Rushan Abbas.

These individuals represent a tiny fraction of the Uyghur women being held. The true number may never be known due to the extreme secrecy surrounding these facilities. 

“Systematic violence against Uyghur women should arouse worldwide condemnation. Unchecked human rights abuses occurring in Chinese government internment camps shock the conscience,” said UHRP Director Omer Kanat.

Mr. Kanat added: “The reports from the camps of deaths, torture, and disappearances are chilling. The world needs to act forcefully and condemn the violence perpetrated against Uyghur women.”

Credible testimony of survivors indicates a high rate of mistreatment, torture, and death of women in the camps. Despite extremely tight control of information, the deaths in custody of two Uyghur women have been confirmed, including an unnamed elderly woman detained in Ili and Amine Kadir, a woman in her 30s, held in Aksu. Police told Radio Free Asia reporters, Amine “‘may have suffered a heart attack, possibly because she was frightened’ about her treatment at the camp.”

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women recognizes the distinct vulnerability of women belonging to minority groups. China must be held to account for its blatant violations of universal human rights standards contained within the declaration, as well as in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.