Uyghur camp survivor arrives safely in the United States

For Immediate Release
September 25, 2020 8:44pm EDT
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Louisa Greve +1 (571) 882-4825

Tursunay Ziyawudun, one of only a handful of Uyghur concentration camp survivors known to have reached the outside world, has arrived safely in the United States. 

After her release from a camp in December 2018, Ms. Tursunay managed to leave China and return to Kazakhstan, where she had lived for several years, thanks to her husband’s Kazakhstani citizenship. In February 2020, their house near Almaty was set on fire in suspicious circumstances, after she went public with her story. She was subsequently forced to flee Kazakhstan for a temporary stay in a third country. 

"We are tremendously relieved that Tursunay is now safe in the United States,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “UHRP warmly thanks governments who have rescued at-risk Uyghurs. Every rescue is a godsend.”

As one of the few people able to provide eyewitness testimony about what happens in the camps, Ms. Tursunay is a critical witness. She spent nine months in detention, where she suffered malnutrition, dehydration, forcible ingestion and injection of unknown drugs, and physical and mental torture. Her testimony will be vitally important for future atrocity-crimes determination processes and tribunals.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project will be assisting with Ms. Tursunay’s resettlement and is mounting an appeal to ensure that she receives immediate treatment for a serious health condition. Donations to help cover her living costs and medical treatment may be earmarked by sending a brief note.

The Uyghur diaspora, and human rights advocacy organizations like UHRP, are deeply grateful to the governments that have gone to extraordinary lengths to provide safe haven for Uygurs fleeing horrific genocidal policies. UHRP calls on governments and humanitarian-aid groups to stand up an organized program to grant refugee status and provide humanitarian support for thousands of Uyghurs stranded in foreign countries. 

Read More:

“Because you had to do it very quickly, or you could be punished." 
Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights organization, October 15, 2019
Summary of interview with Xinjiang camp eyewitness Tursunay Ziyawudun.

Female Detainees at Xinjiang Internment Camps Face Sterilization, Sexual Abuse: Camp Survivor
Radio Free Asia, October 30, 2019
“Their methods of torture were always different, but a common practice was to tie you up on a metal chair during interrogation,” Ziyawudun said. “They cut off our hair, after pulling it through the bars of [our cell], including that of elderly women. We were all handcuffed, shackled, and frequently called out for interrogation. The screaming, pleading, crying, is still in my head.”

She Escaped One Of China’s Brutal Internment Camps For Muslims. Now She Could Be Sent Back 
Buzzfeed News, February 15, 2020
Tursunay Ziyawudun thought the nightmare was over. But now the new life she rebuilt for herself is in jeopardy. 

Uyghur Survivor of Xinjiang Camps Escapes Suspicious Fire Set at Home in Kazakhstan 
Radio Free Asia, February 21, 2020
Tursunay Ziaqudun escaped an apparent attack last week when a shed connected to her home in Kazakhstan was set on fire. Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service, Tursunay Ziyawudun said that after her husband woke her with a shout that the structure was in flames, they found that their door had been tied shut, preventing their escape.

China using widespread forced birth control on Uighurs and other minorities, AP finds 
CBS News, June 29, 2020
One former detainee, Tursunay Ziyawudun, said she was injected until she stopped having her period and kicked repeatedly in the lower stomach during interrogations. She now can't have children and often doubles over in pain, bleeding from her womb, she said. Ziyawudun said women at her camp were made to undergo gynecology exams and get IUDs, and their "teacher" told them they would face abortions if found pregnant.

Built To Last: A BuzzFeed News investigation based on thousands of satellite images reveals a vast, growing infrastructure for long-term detention and incarceration of Muslim minorities
Pulitzer Center, August 27, 2020
[The government told] officials to “round up everyone who should be rounded up.” Tursunay Ziyawudun, who was detained in March 2018, was one of them. When she arrived at the camp’s gates, she saw hundreds of people around her removing their jewelry, shoelaces, and belts. They were being “processed,” she said, to enter the camp through a security checkpoint.