Uyghur women detained in China’s so-called “vocational training centers” are being psychologically and physically tortured, poisoned, and killed by injection, a former detainee has told The Epoch Times.
Uyghur and Kazakhstan national Gulbakhar Jalilova, 54, said she witnessed the atrocities during her 15-month internment in an all-female camp in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi before she was released in September.
“There were girls from my room who passed out from being beaten so hard, and had nails put into their fingers to make blood pour out,” she told The Epoch Times in a phone interview from Istanbul, Turkey.
Gulbakhar, a businesswoman who was detained in May 2017, was accused of transferring $17,000 to a company called Nur. She was released after being found innocent.
While detained, her fellow inmate named Horiyat was “put to sleep … she was killed by injection.”
“She was injected but her body was still warm, and other girls were ordered to wash her body. She just died like that in front of me,” Gulbakhar explained.
The alarming reports come after Xinjiang authorities moved to legalize the detention facilities in October, saying they were to “educate and transform” those whom the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deems at risk of the “three evil forces” of “extremism, separatism, and terrorism.”
Uyghurs, alongside other ethnic minorities like the Tibetans, as well as religious believers who remain outside state control, including house Christians and Falun Gong, have long been targeted by the ruling CCP for transformation through “re-education.”
At a U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing on Nov. 29, Sen. Marco Rubio said many observers believe the current wave of repression in China is the “the most severe since the cultural revolution.”
But Beijing has continued to push its narrative that what were secret mass detention centers until October are actually facilities for further education in “vocational skills” such as baking and sewing—a claim that goes against multiple testimonies of former detainees, including Gulbakhar’s.
China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, told Reuters last month the CCP is trying to “re-educate” Uyghurs to try to “turn them into normal persons (who) can go back to normal life.”
Gulbakhar told The Epoch Times she “never saw a single classroom” while detained and the education claims are “complete lies.”
It is believed “upwards of 1 million” predominantly ethnic Uyghurs are being held in the mass internment camps, according to figures quoted by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and the United Nations.
Overcrowded, Dirty Conditions
After hours of interrogation over her money transfer, Gulbakhar was handcuffed, put into a yellow uniform, and taken to Urumqi’s SanKan, which she said was turned into an all-female camp a week prior to her arrival.
Conditions were overcrowded and dirty, Gulbakhar said, adding that there were “girls as young as 14—school children—and women as old as 80” in her room.
Gulbahar Jelilova,born in Apr 04,1964,Uyghur from Almaty,Kazakhstan,trader, deceived by Chinese police to Urumqi and taken to the camp named 三看 in May 22,2017. She detained for 465 days in total and secretly released one month ago: https://t.co/KHVTyIHnKG
— Uyghur from E.T☪ (@Uyghurspeaker) November 10, 2018
The women, whose wrists were bleeding from 5 kilogram (11 pound) handcuffs “rubbing against their skin,” took turns to sleep every night because there wasn’t enough space for everyone to lie down.
“In that small room, there were around 40 lying down and about 15 standing up,” she said.
And the food was “nothing that a human being should eat,” Gulbakhar said, referring to the bread as hard as stone and soup made of water and cornflour that she was fed. “It was hardly enough to survive.”
Gulbakhar and her fellow inmates were woken up at 5.30 a.m. every morning, and then forced to stand in two lines and stare at a wall until 8 a.m. “No talking, no looking sideways, or else you would be punished.”
“They attach your handcuffs to your ankle chains so you can’t walk.”
Uyghur women were confined to their rooms all day. “The door only opens to punish you, that’s it,” she added.
Psychological and Physical Torture, Drugs, and Poison
Those in her camp were forced to ingest unknown medicine daily and were injected with a substance every month which “numbs your emotions.”
“The injection makes you feel like you have no memory. You don’t miss your family, you don’t feel like you want to get out. You feel nothing—it’s a very strange feeling,” Gulbakhar explained.
Speaking to The Epoch Times, Louisa Greve, Director of External Affairs at the Uyghur Human Rights Project, said the medicine is “cleansing their minds of their personal identity” while “refilling their minds with these repetitive forced loyalty declarations [to the CCP].”
Camp officials also put poison in detainees’ food, Gulbakhar said, after she witnessed a 41-year-old restaurant owner fall to the floor while eating.
“There were bubbles and foam coming out of the lady’s mouth as if she were poisoned. She was paralyzed.”
Gulbakhar said the woman was dragged out of the room and “never came back.”
A young nurse detainee named Mabret who rushed to the woman’s aid during the episode was immediately punished by camp officials.
“Troops came with big sticks and started beating her, dragged her out of the room, and continued beating her.”
Mabret was then taken to a “black hole” room—an isolation cell—where she was chained to a “tiger chair” for 10 days, Gulbakhar recalled of what the nurse had told her. Mice had been placed in the room as a method of food and sleep deprivation.
“Mabret was so scared and had to fight to keep the mice off her body. She didn’t sleep because she didn’t want to get eaten alive.”
She was only released from the isolation cell after she apologized with a letter saying that she would “do better for the CCP,” Gulbakhar explained. But after the ordeal, Mabret was never the same again.
“It was as if she went insane—she didn’t act normal. It was as if something was wrong with her, from the way she looked to the way she acted.”
Oppression of Uyghur Cultural Traditions
Detainees were banned from touching their hair while washing their face as it imitates preparation for prayer, Gulbakhar said.
“In Muslim culture, when women or men wash before prayer, they usually touch their hair to make sure they clean-up properly. The camp officials don’t want people to be like that—to prepare for prayer.”
This oppression of Uyghur tradition—the majority of whom are Sunni Muslim—comes amid other testimonies from detainees, such as Omir Bekali, who in October told The Epoch Times he was forced to denounce his faith while praising the CCP.
During the day, Gulbakhar said the women were forced to “memorize five songs praising the CCP.”
“I was forced to learn the Chinese national anthem, which we had to sing every Monday,” she recalled.
This forced “outwards display of loyalty” to the CCP is to “transform” those detained, so they would “no longer follow an identity that is perceived as threatening to the state,” Greve said.
— Louisa Greve (@LouisaCGreve) December 13, 2018
It is an “attempt to change their thinking so they would never dare to believe in their religion, but rather the ‘normal,’ which means conforming to a perfect ideal of absolute loyalty to the party,” she said of the People’s Republic of China.
“The CCP understands that to keep control, it’s necessary to not allow the emergence of independent sources of solidarity, like church groups, or community activities the Uyghurs would have among themselves—worship and so on.”
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