Over 400 Uyghur Women Detained in Unbearable Conditions

Chinese Communist authorities have created an immense network of “re-education” camps for Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang since the beginning of its massive “sinicization of religion” campaign. Presented as the adaptation of religion to China’s socialist society, the case of Muslim Uyghurs, in fact, looks like a drive for cultural and religious cleansing. Called “concentration camps” by the locals, the camps are the cause of ever-growing concern.

Over 400 Uyghur Women Detained in Unbearable Conditions
Tom Thai / CC BY 2.0

Bitter Winter has received information that at least 400 Uyghur women are detained in the Hotan Vocational Skills Education and Training Center in Southern Xinjiang where they live in shocking conditions and undergo intense indoctrination. The oldest woman in the camp is fifty-years-old, and the youngest is just seventeen. Some women were detained just a few months after their weddings; the husbands of others are also detained in camps across Xinjiang.

As part of “transformation through education,” the inmates have to take various classes, like Mandarin Chinese or technology, and later need to pass exams. Only the ones who successfully pass the exams are considered for release. “Learning Chinese is really difficult,” said one detainee. “There are exams every week, and most people can’t even get 60%.” Education is not the main goal of these camps; detainees are made to disavow their Islamic faith, criticize themselves, and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party. The means to achieve this are various, like, listening to songs that praise the Party during each meal.

As a result of the constant pressure, the women in the camp have become emotionally unstable. One Uyghur girl said, crying, “My mom and dad are serving prison time and, at home, there’s just my little sister and old grandma. I miss them so much every day. I really hope that I can go back to take care of them soon.” Homesick and missing their children, the women spend their days crying.

Security at the camp is extremely strict. One needs to pass through three entrances to get into the detainees’ living quarters: the first is a security door, the second is a locked iron gate, and the third is a small gate in the iron fence. There are 36 people in each small room with three-tier iron bunk beds surrounding the desks and stools for classes in the middle. Four video cameras are installed in each room and even in the bathrooms to monitor the women.

The detainees are only allowed to shower once a week; the growing temperatures have made the life of women living in very small quarters, with unpleasant body odors, extremely uncomfortable. To shower, hundreds of women are herded into one bathing room where they wash themselves without any privacy, guards observing them.

An informed source revealed that these Uyghur women used to be locked up in another education and training center referred to as the “New District” in Hotan where more than 20,000 Uyghurs are detained.