New Horrors: Uyghur Concentration Camp Survivor Testimonies

CJ Werleman
8 min readJun 10, 2021
(image via Star Tribune)

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Two dozen Uighur concentration camp survivors, relatives of detainees and former Chinese guards gave testimony to the Uyghur Tribunal over four days, from June 4 to 7.

Herewith a summary of the more shocking testimonies.

Abduweli Ayup

I was born in Kashgar city, China, in 1973. I am currently residing in Turkey. I was detained by the local Chinese State Security Police from August 19th, 2013 until November 20th, 2014. The reason was because I was promoting, online, the linguistic rights of Uyghur people and in the process of opening two kindergartens in the Uyghur mother tongue in Urumqi and Kashgar.

At first, they threatened me to life imprisonment. And then they used an electric stick. They shocked my right arm and once in the armpit. This is in the interrogation room. And then they accused me of being a spy for the CIA and for instigating separatism and inciting people to break Chinese stability and Chinese language policy.

They asked me to take off my whole clothes and they asked me to bow. Just like a dog, dog style. Then the sexual abuse happened.

Read more of his testimony here:

Sayragul Sauytbay

I was told that I would be teaching detainees at the education centre. My first impression of the centre was that it was a scary fascist camp.

They forced me to sign a confidentiality agreement, repeatedly stating that if I break any of the rules I would face death. That is how I started my work at the detention camp in East Turkestan.

My memories of the camp are that it was chilling, worse than a prison. Detainees were subjected to extreme mental torture under various malevolent schemes of pressure and horror. All the detainees were handcuffed and shackled, both men and women’s heads were shaved, there were cameras installed everywhere, their movements were surveyed for 24 hours. Detainees were from all ages. The youngest was a 13-year-old boy and the oldest an 84-year-old man. The majority were men and women aged 60 to 70 years old.

Read more of her testimony here:

Patigul Talip

Today my husband cannot really speak on this because of the trauma he endured, it affected his memory too.

During his imprisonment, Muhemmetimin was taken to forced labour and had to spend sixteen hours a day doing hard physical work. He has frequently faced hunger and was beaten by the police for no reason. He had to carry heavy stones and break these stones into pieces, and when he could not lift stones anymore, he would be clubbed by the guards. In the evening, he had to face interrogations for reasons like “not working hard” or “not admitting guilt.”

During interrogation, they would take off his nails with pliers and use the pliers to pinch his leg tendons. They would also hit him on the head, so much that he was bleeding from his head several times, and these injuries ultimately caused memory loss.

Read more of her testimony here:

Omir Bekali

I was handcuffed and a black hood was placed on my head. They said this was the rule and they did this to everyone. Three policemen took me to a place like a hospital where a full body examination took place while my hood was still on. Blood andurine samples were taken.Then I was placed on a bed. They applied a cold gel on different parts of my body, so I thought they were doing ultrasound. I could hear them speaking about my examination, but I could not see anything, I was terrified that they might cut me open and remove my organs.

They interrogated me for four days and nights with extreme torture methods. They made me sit on the “tiger” chair. They hung me from the ceiling. They chained me to the wall and beat me with plastic, wooden, electric batons and metal wire whip. They pierced needles under my nails. I could take nap of ten or fifteen minutes only when I was seated on “tiger” chair. They forced me to accept three crimes: instigating terrorism, organising terror activities, and covering up for terrorists. I denied everything.

Read more of his testimony here:

Qelbinur Sidik

When I looked at them as they came out, I noticed that they are older adults with chains on their hands and feet. (I burst into tears every time when I gave a testimony about them. People have been trying to comfort me and I’ve also promised myself not to cry every time when I speak about them but I can’t help it when I think of them and their condition at that moment.)

The sound of these torture was all over the building. So wild. Those who have suffered so much cannot go to class. After months in the cells, their limbs were severely injured, and those with disabilities were taken to hospitals, and those who could not be treated were amputated.

Read more of his testimony here:

Shemsinur Abdighafur

In my time working in hospitals in China I witnessed and heard about a lot of forced sterilizations and forced abortions of Uyghur women.

We could sometimes hear that some babies were born, and they started crying and from this we knew they were alive. But we knew all babies would be given the injection so we knew they would die before they got home.

When they put the needle in, they see if a liquid comes out, if it does it confirms it is in the right place. I witnessed the injection being done. It was done daily

Read more of her testimony here:

Bumeryem Rozi

I was subjected to a forced abortion. My son and other family members have been detained by Chinese authorities.

When we arrived in the hospital there were many other Uyghur women from different villages. All of the patients I saw were Uyghur.

They put the four women I had travelled with and me into four different rooms, at almost the same time. In all rooms, there was one bed inside. It was there the abortion was carried out. They gave me a tablet. Then 2 hours later they injected my stomach. A further 2 hours later the dead baby came out. I was not allowed to leave the room until the baby came out. I passed out from the pain and I stayed there another half an hour after the abortion.

Read more of her testimony here:

Tursunay Ziyawudun

When we arrived at that day, there was a man who came to teach us about the law, and then an Imam came to us and told us not to pray, that it was wrong, not to wear a headscarf, not to wear a skirt, not to believe in God, and we have to believe in the Communist Party.

I was in a state of mental breakdown, so I fell down, and the guard kept kicking me in the stomach and head, and I felt that my stomach was split open. He cursed me and kicked me, he said all these Uyghur are like this, they should be treated like this, and then he kept kicking me, and then I passed out.

I would rather kill myself than suffer what I had to endure again.

Read more of her testimony here:

Mihrigul Tursun

There were around forty people kept in a forty square metre cell so, at night, ten to fifteen women would stand up while the rest would sleep on our side so that we could fit. Then we would rotate every two hours. There were people there who had not taken a shower for over a year.

In the basement, they put me in a computerized machine fully naked. They did a vagina test, which caused an extreme pain. Since then, my period stopped for seven months.

Before we ate our breakfast, which was water with very little rice, we had to sing songs hailing the Chinese Communist Party and repeat these lines in Chinese: “Long live Xi Jinping,” and “Leniency for those who repent and punishment for those who resist.” We had seven days to memorise the rules of the camp and fourteen days to memorise all the lines in a book on Communist ideology.

Read more of her testimony here:

Gulbahar Haitiwaji

Because I had lost a lot of weight at that time, more than 15 kilos, and I weighed less than 50 kilos at that time. I was already skin and bones, and wherever I was hit I would hit the bones directly.

We will be punished if we communicate in Uyghur language, a whole room of people will be punished. They would punish us for a whole week for crawling and cleaning all the hallways and aisles, as well as the toilet restrooms. We would have had no dignity at all. We were not allowed to have any inclination for religious activities at all.

Read more of her testimony here:

Mehmut Tevekkül

Some eight-month-old babies they would just kill straight away. There was one female from our neighbourhood who was pregnant, and she tried to avoid the check-up. She was discovered after 9 months. The authorities said either you pay a 50,000 Yuan penalty or you agree to an abortion. Since they were quite poor, they had no choice, and the abortion was done. That mother couldn’t cope with this and died soon after.

They beat me up. The level of torture I will never forget. I was put on the tiger chair and they whipped my feet with iron wire. There is a bolt directly above the tiger chair and the heat from that bolt is unbearable.

Read more of his testimony here:

Wang Leizhan

I trained at a military police academy in mainland China. I have worked as a policeman for over 10 years. My job was mainly related to maintaining social order and national security. I also worked on investigating political and religious suspects, including Falun Gong and Islamist groups. In 2018, I was posted to Xinjiang. I left China in 2020 and currently live in Germany.

When I arrived and I went on my round, we arrested around 300,000 Uyghurs. The reason for these arrests included that they might have had a knife at home or because they were showing their cultural identity, or they were somehow considered to have a different ideology. In some villages in Xinjiang, the whole population of a village was taken to the concentration camps.

Read more of his testimony here:

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CJ Werleman

Columnist for Middle East Eye. Host of Channel The Rage. Activist against Islamophobia. Read more about CJ here: