camp inmate Sayragul Sauytbay, pictured, said she witnessed inmates of a
Chinese concentration camp raped repeatedly in front of 200 men and women
picked out the prettiest girl – a teenager with her head shaved and wearing a
simple uniform like all the other prisoners lined up silently outside. Told to
confess her ‘crimes’, she insisted she was a reformed person. But she was
ordered to remove her clothes – and was then raped repeatedly in front of about
200 men and women who were forced to watch a scene of unimaginable horror.
throughout her torment, the girl did not dare scream in terror or cry out in
pain. She had been warned not to react. She knew if she made a sound, relatives
might suffer a similar fate.
And if any
of those forced to watch shut their eyes, flinched or showed fury, they were
dragged to a special room for torture.
told not to say anything,’ says Sayragul Sauytbay, who claims she was one of
those made to witness the savagery.
reacted in shock or looked away was punished, since it showed they were not yet
obedient and changed psychologically. I lost part of myself having to watch
this. I don’t remember how many men raped her because I zoned out in shock. I
could not sleep at night and started to become numb inside.’
Sauytbay is speaking out about the barbarity she saw inside one of China’s
clandestine ‘re-education centres’, which are claimed to hold up to three
million members of Muslim ethnic groups from the country’s western regions.
forced to work inside one as a teacher – then fled China after learning she was
about to be sent back inside as a prisoner. Her testimony offers a unique
insight into Beijing’s brutal gulags that have been set up over the past three
It comes as
horrifying details of China’s repression slowly emerge, with revelations of
giant concentration camps, mass roundups and razed mosques in a huge region
flooded with security forces, checkpoints and facial recognition cameras.
crackdown, allegedly to thwart terrorism, is focused on the Uighurs, a minority
ethnic group of about 12 million people related to the Turks, but it is also
targeting other Muslim groups such as Kazakhs, Tajiks and Uzbeks.
compares the Chinese bid to crush traditional cultures in the Xinjiang region
to Nazi efforts to eradicate the Jews, with use of mass surveillance,
concentration camps, forced marriage, secret medical procedures, sterilisation
is becoming even worse than the Nazis because they can combine the latest
technology such as 24-hour surveillance everywhere with the most primitive
methods of torture,’ she tells me.
camp, this was carried out in a feared ‘black room’ – the only place without
cameras to monitor everyone – where devices ranged from electrocution equipment
to batons, stun guns and a hideous seat studded with sharp nails.
constant screaming from there at night,’ says Sauytbay, 43. ‘Sometimes people
were dumped back in class badly beaten, or with their nails torn out or blood
all over their bottoms and thighs. Others never came back, so I guess they
sent to the room herself after an 84-year-old woman was brought into the camp
and, seeing Sauytbay, hugged her and begged for help. ‘This woman was held on
suspicion of contacting people abroad – but she was an elderly shepherd from
the mountains who had never had a mobile phone.
taken to the black room and beaten all over my body with electrical stun
sticks, then starved for two days. They kept asking me what I had told the old
escape from China, followed by a court battle in Kazakhstan to resist being
returned into Beijing’s clutches, Sauytbay has found refuge with her husband
Uali and their two children in a quiet coastal town in southern Sweden.
brave Kazakh woman, who trained as a doctor then ran five schools before the
clampdown, remains haunted by hideous memories. ‘The worse thing was all those
people not allowed to speak but pleading with me through their eyes for help,’
are highly disturbing. Although impossible to verify, they dovetail with
accounts given by the tiny handful of others free to bear witness. Another
woman last year spoke of beatings, electrocution and being forced to take
rights groups have compiled reports detailing torture, and this month activists
published a map of nearly 500 camps and prisons used for detentions. US
government officials allege they hold between a million and three million
tells me her horrifying story in her new home. She broke down just once – so
upset she had to leave the room – when I asked about her childhood.
A Day In
6am Wake up.
6-7am Breakfast of watery rice or vegetable
soup with small piece of bread.
7-9am Lectures based on placards stating ‘I am
Chinese’, ‘I am proud of being Chinese’ and ‘Long live the Communist Party’.
The prisoners repeatedly chant phrases.
9-11am Repeat of same lecture and chants.
11-noon Mantras, with inmates repeating phrases
such as ‘I would sacrifice my life for the Communist Party’.
Noon-2pm Lunch. Same as breakfast.
2-4pm Patriotic songs such as ‘Without the
Communist Party, there would be no new China’.
4-6pm Self-evaluation to confess ‘crimes’.
6-8pm Dinner. Same as breakfast and lunch.
8-10pm Prisoners have to reflect on their
‘sins’ while standing against a concrete wall with their arms raised.
10 pm-midnights More self-evaluation, based on
Midnight-1am Stand still.
1-6am Sleep on their right-hand side.
I try to remember the old way of life but it becomes overwhelming,’ she says
after resuming the interview. ‘We had no advanced technology like today but it
was such a happy time.’
ran a school and she was raised with three siblings in a rural area, filled
with farm animals and fruit trees. Then tides of Han Chinese people began
arriving in the 1990s, taking land and mining minerals in the mountains.
‘It was a
gradual takeover,’ recalls Sauytbay. ‘They said they wanted to modernise Xinjiang.
But this was our land, our culture, our people – it was like a foreign force
from Europe taking over a country in Africa.
start there was no hatred. But then they built all these factories and blew up
our mountains. The river stopped flowing, which meant we had to walk a long way
for our water, and snow turned black on the surface in winter.’
data shows the Beijing government invested heavily in the region while moving
in millions of people. Han Chinese now comprise two in every five people in
Xinjiang, a seven-fold rise since the region was annexed in 1949.
Tibet, this takeover was backed by a Communist Party drive to wipe out local
cultures, arts and religion. Working in schools, Sauytbay saw this first-hand
with children forced to speak Chinese rather than their traditional language.
Yet she was
mystified when her son, then three, started refusing to go to kindergarten –
until he said his mouth was being taped up all day because he spoke only
Kazakh. ‘I was heartbroken – my child was being abused at his school.’
eruption of anti-government protests and deadly terror attacks, President Xi
Jinping demanded an all-out ‘struggle against terrorism, infiltration and
separatism’ with ‘absolutely no mercy’, according to leaked documents published
last week. Sauytbay was forced to teach in one of the indoctrination camps
after her husband and children fled China – they escaped just weeks before all
passports were confiscated.
not join them because public servants had already been made to hand in
passports – and feared for her future after security forces began rounding up
people, taking samples of DNA and installing cameras everywhere.
inmate Sayragul Sauytbay, pictured, said she witnessed inmates of a Chinese
concentration camp raped repeatedly in front of 200 men and women +4
inmate Sayragul Sauytbay, pictured, said she witnessed inmates of a Chinese
concentration camp raped repeatedly in front of 200 men and women
2017, she was arrested, ordered to make her family return home and warned not
to talk about her questioning. Similar interrogations continued – often through
the night – almost weekly for the next ten months. She dared not tell anyone
what was happening, not even her family. ‘There were cameras everywhere in the
streets and no one talked to each other, even at home, since everything was
bugged and we were told to report any suspicious activities.’
was ordered to go to an address where four armed men put a black bag over her
head and drove her about four hours to a mountain camp. ‘I was so filled with
dread,’ she says. ‘I thought this would be my final destination.’
arrival, Sauytbay was stripped of her possessions, handed a military-style
uniform, told she would be a teacher and forced to sign a document accepting
the death penalty if she broke rules that forbade laughing, crying or talking
to prisoners. She was given her own barren room, with just a thin plastic
mattress on the floor – still better than the shackled prisoners who were
allocated one square metre each and forced to sleep on their right side crammed
against each other in concrete cells.
just the rule,’ she says. ‘There was no reason why they had to sleep on their
right. It was another form of torture – but if you moved you were taken to the
morning she started teaching classes of about 60 captives who had to chant
praise for China, sing songs of loyalty to the Communist Party and confess
‘crimes’. ‘They would write anything that fitted the suspicions of the
government. So if they were religious, for instance, they might say they had
talked to their family about Allah.’
who were observant Muslims were forced to eat pork on Fridays. ‘The food was
very poor – I wouldn’t even call it food, just watery soup and bread,’ says
Sauytbay. ‘But if you did not eat it you went to the black room.’
teachers and prisoners were terrified of the guards, claiming they were like
‘wild dogs with unlimited power’ who would grab women and rape them. ‘When the
officers picked out the prettiest girls, you knew what was going to happen.’
also says they used enforced medication: ‘It was not secret but all done openly
with whole rooms injected at once.’
recognised some of the drugs from her medical training. ‘I was told the names
by a nurse, who said it was to prevent Aids and disease. But I think it was to
sterilise people and stop them having children.’ These chilling claims cannot
be confirmed, but Sauytbay says they made women stop having periods, while a
man held in another camp said he was left impotent.
allegations tie in with other reports of children from minority groups sent to
a network of state-run orphanages set up in Xinjiang, while Sauytbay also says
wives of incarcerated men were being forced to remarry Chinese men.
estimates her camp held about 2,500 people, including children as young as 13,
although she does not know its exact location. She was not allowed to leave
during four months there. Her nightmare in camp ended in February last year
when she was told to return home and never discuss what she had seen. She had a
black bag put over her head before being driven to her home town.
later she was arrested and accused of being a double agent because her family
was still abroad. Police told her she needed up to three years of
‘re-education’ and made her sign a document agreeing with their decision.
after being sent home first to write a report on the running of her schools. ‘I
knew I would not come out alive after what I had seen in the camps,’ she
maintains. ‘I thought if I was going to die anyway, I might as well die trying
to see my family again.’
she was being monitored, Sauytbay went home, cooked dinner – then escaped
through a back window, reaching the nearby border after two terrifying taxi
rides. ‘China has an agenda of “One Nation, One Ethnicity” and will not accept
any resistance to achieving its goals,’ she says. ‘But they have given up their
needs to look past the economic opportunities and see the hidden agenda, the
terror, the way the Communist Party is oppressing people.
world must raise voices against the tyranny that I’ve seen of the Chinese
Headline: Inside China's concentration camps holding up to three million Muslim
prisoners subjected to a regime of modern surveillance and old-fashioned
torture - as one survivor recounts how you can be executed for laughing
Source: The Daily Mail, UK