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Uyghurs Describe Abuse under Chinese Rule


Bumeryem Rozi, 55, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey, cries as she talks to The Associated Press, at her home, in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)
Uyghurs Describe Abuse Under Chinese Rule
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Three Uyghurs who fled from China to Turkey said they were tortured and forced to have abortions by officials in China’s Xinjiang area.

One woman said she was forced into an abortion at 6 1/2 months pregnant. A former doctor spoke of oppressive birth control policies. And a former prisoner said Chinese soldiers in Xinjiang tortured him “day and night.”

They spoke to The Associated Press about their experiences before speaking at a hearing in London on Friday.

The hearing is to investigate whether China’s official actions amount to genocide. It is led by famous human rights lawyer Geoffrey Nice who had prosecuted former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic

The hearing has no legal power or support by the British government. But the organizers are hoping that it will help bring international action in Xinjiang. There have been growing concerns about abuses in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group.

One witness is Bumeryem Rozi, a mother of four. She said officials in Xinjiang arrested her and other pregnant women to abort her fifth child in 2007. She was afraid that if she did not agree, the officials would take her home and belongings and put her family in danger.

“The police came, one Uyghur and two Chinese,” Rozi said. “They put me and eight other pregnant women in cars and took us to the hospital.”

“They first gave me a pill and said to take it. So I did. I didn’t know what it was,” she continued. “Half an hour later, they put a needle in my belly. And sometime after that I lost my child.”

Semsinur Gafur is a former women’s health doctor who worked in a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s. She and other female doctors used to go from house to house with a mobile ultrasound machine to check if anyone was pregnant.

“If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the home ... They would flatten the house, destroy it,” Gafur said. “And because I worked in a state hospital, people didn’t trust me. The Uyghur people saw me as a Chinese traitor.”

Semsinur Gafur, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey, poses for The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)
Semsinur Gafur, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey, poses for The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)

A third Uyghur exile, Mahmut Tevekkul, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese officials. He said they asked him for information about one of his brothers. Tevekkul said the brother was wanted partly because he published a religious book in Arabic.

He described being beaten and punched in the face during questioning.

“They put us on a tiled floor, shackled our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe... There were six soldiers guarding us,” he said.

Researchers say more than 1 million people — most of them Uyghurs — have been placed in concentration camps in Xinjiang in recent years. Chinese officials have been accused of forcing hard labor, forced birth control and torture. They have also been accused of separating children from their jailed parents.

China has denied all the charges and says the camps are now closed. Officials say they were job-training centers to teach Chinese language, law and job skills to support economic development and fight extremism.

The organizers said Chinese officials have ignored their requests to be a part of the hearing. Chinese officials have said it is set up by “anti-China forces” to spread lies. Nice was one of nine British citizens sanctioned by China in March for spreading “lies” about the country.

Mahmut Tevekkul, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey, gestures as he talks to The Associated Press in Istanbul, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)
Mahmut Tevekkul, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey, gestures as he talks to The Associated Press in Istanbul, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)

Nice said Chinese efforts have kept some witnesses from appearing at the hearing. But Rozi, the woman who reported the forced abortion, said she is speaking out for her son who has been detained since 2015 at the age of 13.

“I want my son to be freed as soon as possible,” she said. “I want to see him be set free.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Ayse Weiting reported this story for The Associated Press. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

abortion – n. a medical procedure used to end a pregnancy and cause the death of the fetus

ultrasound – n. a method of producing images of the inside of the body by using a machine that produces sound waves which are too high to be heard

allow — v. to permit (something) : to regard or treat (something) as acceptable

raze v. to destroy (something, such as a building) completely

traitor n. a person who is not loyal to his or her own country, friends, etc. : a person who betrays a country or group of people by helping or supporting an enemy

shackle n. one of two rings or bands that are placed around a person's wrists or ankles and that are connected by a chain

sanctionn. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc.

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