International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: Victims of sexual and gendered violence in China’s concentration camps must be heard

For immediate release

November 24, 2019 11:25 am EST

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

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25), the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls for survivor accounts of sexual and gendered violence in Chinese government concentration camps to be heard.

Since knowledge of the mass internment and genocidal intent of the Chinese government toward Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples has been revealed, several brave women have come forward with accounts of rape, forced sterilization, and other sexual violence while held in camps.

UHRP asks all concerned parties to mainstream these accounts and to declare China in violation of the rights standards outlined in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women should visit East Turkestan and perpetrators of crimes against women brought to justice.

“The accounts of women survivors must form a core element of the evidence that Beijing is committing crimes against humanity in East Turkestan. These individuals have been through unimaginable trauma and are taking personal risks to come forward with details of state enabled violence against women,” said UHRP Executive Director, Omer Kanat.

Mr. Kanat added: “We must first support the victims of sexual and gendered violence by believing them. We should then seek accountability from the Chinese government and justice for crimes committed. The sexual and gendered assault of women is the extreme end of a long-standing state effort to control the bodies of Turkic women.”

Evidence of rapes and sexual assault in concentration camps has come from detailed accounts by Sayragul Sauytbay, Tursunay Ziyawudun, and Gulbahar Jalilova.

In an interview, Sayragul told reporters: “On an everyday basis the policemen took the pretty girls with them, and they didn’t come back to the rooms all night. The police had unlimited power. They could take whoever they wanted. There were also cases of gang rape.”

Uyghur women survivors have also presented detailed accounts to the media and Congress of forced sterilization in the camps, including Zumrat Dawut, and Mihrigul Tursun. Testifying before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Mihrigul described the torture in camps that comprised of “little food, a tiger chair, electric shock treatment and a liquid that stopped her menstrual cycle and likely resulted in her sterilization.”

An October 5, 2019 article in The Washington Post reported several accounts of Kazakh and Uyghur survivors detailing forced abortions, forced fittings of IUDs, and rape. When she was detained after a visit to Kazakhstan, authorities discovered Gulzira Mogdyn was ten-weeks pregnant. She told The Washington Post, “doctors ‘cut my fetus out’ without using anesthesia.”

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women describes sexual violence and harassment as “rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, and cyber-harassment.” Reports of forced marriages of Uyghur women to Han men, as well as accounts of Uyghur women forced to share sleeping spaces with Han men constitute further evidence of China’s violation of international rights standards regarding violence against women.

See also:

‘I Have Revised My Idea of What a Uighur Heroine Should Be’ (Zubayra Shamseden, ChinaFile, April 19, 2019)

Uyghur love in a time of interethnic marriage (Darren Byler, supchina, August 7, 2019)

Chinese Officials Ask Muslim Women to Unveil in the Name of Beauty (Catherine A. Traywick, Foreign Policy, November 26, 2013)