On International Women’s Day, the Uyghur Human Rights Project highlights rights cases of individual Uyghur women

For immediate Release

March 7, 2018, 2:40 pm EST

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

On International Women’s Day, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) highlights ongoing rights cases of individual Uyghur women under the current repressive conditions in East Turkestan (aka the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region).

Uyghur women face a twofold abuse of their fundamental human rights. Gender and ethnic discrimination against Uyghur women places this group as one of the most vulnerable in the People’s Republic of China. Women face endemic discrimination in the workplace and significant challenges in securing meaningful employment. Religious curbs disproportionately focuses on women and the Chinese authorities have instituted compulsory education programs in an attempt to de-veil Uyghur women.

“In the face of immense difficulty, Uyghur women have stood up to the Chinese government’s violations of Uyghur human rights. Uyghur women, such as Patigul Ghulam, spoke truth to power when asking the Chinese government for transparency on the disappearance of young Uyghurs after the 2009 unrest,” said UHRP Director Omer Kanat.

Mr. Kanat added: “China has targeted individual Uyghur women during a time when the government has intensified repression in East Turkestan. In a show of strength, China has applied pressure on individual Uyghur women not only within its borders, but also overseas. UHRP wishes to draw attention to the plight of these individuals as the world honors the contributions of women on International Women’s Day.”

On March 1, 2018, Associated Press reported how approximately 20 relatives of U.S. based Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja had been detained in retaliation for her coverage of East Turkestan for Radio Free Asia (RFA). Among the family members detained are Gulchehra Hoja’s mother and father. In a March 5, 2018 interview, Gulchehra told Deutsche Welle: “The Chinese government perhaps wants us to stop raising issues about Uighurs and publishing the truth. That’s why our relatives have been targeted. But we cannot and will not stop, especially at a time when we feel our work is extremely important in highlighting the plight of Uighurs.” On March 4, 2018, AFP described how China has detained family members of six Uyghur RFA reporters.

China has a record of applying pressure on Uyghur women overseas through relatives. Family members of Uyghur democracy leader, Rebiya Kadeer have been imprisoned and intimidated to speak out against her human rights advocacy. However, in the past year, RFA detailed how “more than 30” of Ms. Kadeer’s relatives had been detained. Ms. Kadeer feared her family members might have been sent to one of a number of ‘reeducation centers’ in East Turkestan.

Since 2017, large numbers of Uyghurs have been detained without due process in ‘reeducation centers.’ According to sources cited by Radio Free Asia in a January 22, 2018 article as many as 120,000 Uyghurs are being held in Kashgar alone. A 55-year old Uyghur woman named Oghulnisa Ghojaabdulla from Manglay Village in Karakash County disappeared approximately a year ago into one these facilities; her current whereabouts in unknown.

Uyghur women currently imprisoned in China on politically motivated charges include Buzainap Adbureshit, Atikem Rozi, and Gulmire Imin.

Following a closed-door trial, Buzainap was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The charges made against her and her current location remain unknown. Buzainap was among a number of overseas Uyghur students in Egypt pressured to return to China in 2017. In a statement, Amnesty International believes Buzainap’s sentence “may be part of a wider crackdown on Uighur students who studied abroad.” In a February 24, 2018 interview with the Guardian, Buzainap’s husband, exiled in Australia, revealed: “She was detained on 29 March 2017, when she was on her way to a hospital to confirm the results of a home pregnancy test…She was taken for questioning and hasn’t been seen since. No one knows what happened to her pregnancy.”

Atikem was a student of jailed Uyghur scholar, Ilham Tohti and contributed to his Uighurbiz website. Authorities summoned her for questioning in Beijing on January 15, 2014 and detained her on January 17, 2014; she was then 22 years old. She was among seven students of Ilham Tohti tried on November 25 for ‘separatism’ and sentenced to between three to eight years on December 8, 2014.

One of the many Uyghurs punished by Chinese authorities for voicing opinions online after the July 5, 2009 unrest is Gulmire Imin, who was invited to become an administrator for the website Salkin after having published a number of poems on various Uyghur websites. Imin was arrested on July 14, 2009, but her family did not receive any official documents regarding her detention. On April 1, 2010, she was sentenced to life in prison. Imin was sentenced on the same day as her closed trial. In March 2012, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, comprising a panel of international human rights experts, rendered the opinion that Gulmire Imin’s detention is arbitrary.