Muslim woman describes torture and beatings in China detention camp: ‘I begged them to kill me’

‘Each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I would feel the pain in my veins,' says Mihrigul Tursun

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 28 November 2018 17:39 GMT
Uighur Muslim woman tells Congressional-Executive Commission on China she asked Chinese to kill her whilst in detention camp

A Uighur Muslim woman has said she was tortured and abused at an internment camp where the Chinese government is detaining hundreds of thousands of people from religious minorities.

Mihrigul Tursun, 29, told reporters in Washington she was interrogated for four days in a row without sleep, had her hair shaved, was electrocuted and was subjected to an intrusive medical examination following her second arrest in China in 2017. After she was arrested a third time, the treatment grew worse.

“I thought that I would rather die than go through this torture and begged them to kill me,” she told journalists at a meeting at the National Press Club.

The claims come amid growing global concern over Chinese treatment of the ethnic minority group, the majority of which are Muslim.

China is thought to have incarcerated as many as two million Uighurs in “reeducation camps” to promote what the government calls “ethnic unity” in the country’s far west.

Until October 2018, Chinese authorities officially denied the existence of the camps.

Since then, reports have noted malnourishment, numerous deaths – particularly among the elderly and infirm – and in some cases the forced administration of psychiatric drugs.

Ms Tursun said she was raised in China, but moved to Egypt to study English at a university and soon met her husband with whom she had triplets.

In 2015, she travelled back to China to spend time with her family and was immediately detained and separated from her infant children. When she was released three months later, one of the triplets had died and the other two had developed health problems.

Ms Tursun said the children had been operated on. She was arrested for a second time about two years later.

Several months later, she was detained a third time and spent three months in a cramped prison cell with 60 other women, having to sleep in turns, use the toilet in front of security cameras and sing songs praising China’s Communist Party.

Ms Tursun said she and other inmates were forced to take unknown medication, including pills that made them faint, and a white liquid that caused bleeding in some women and loss of menstruation in others. She said nine women from her cell died during her three months there.

One day, Ms Tursun recalled, she was led into a room and placed in a high chair, and her legs and arms were locked in place.

“The authorities put a helmet-like thing on my head, and each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I would feel the pain in my veins,” she said in a statement read by a translator.

“I don’t remember the rest. White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness,” Ms Tursun said. “The last word I heard them saying is that you being an Uighur is a crime.”

She was eventually released so that she could take her children to Egypt, but she was ordered to return to China. Once in Cairo, Ms Tursun contacted US authorities and, in September, went to America and settled in Virginia.

This week over 270 scholars from 26 countries published a statement condemning the “mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures” in China.

Earlier this month China said 15 foreign ambassadors, who wrote a letter expressing their concern about the incarcerations, should not “interfere in the internal affairs of other countries”.

It has also emerged that more than a million Han Chinese people have reportedly moved into the homes of Uighur Muslim families to report on whether they display Islamic or unpatriotic beliefs.

The informants, who describe themselves as “relatives” of the families they are staying with, are said to have received specific instructions on how to get them to let their guard down, including offering them cigarettes and alcohol.

China has claimed the Uighur Muslims are grateful to be detained in mass internment camps, saying it makes their lives more “colourful”.

The authorities depicted the reeducation camps as an attempt to bring the largely Muslim minority into the “modern, civilised” world.

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Additional reporting by AP

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