Gulaisha Oralbay speaks out. Her brother and two sisters have received heavy sentences to be purged in a notorious jail for crimes the Chinese authorities have refused to disclose to her.
by Massimo Introvigne
Ethnic Kazakh women are at risk too, and jail rape is a frequent occurrence. These reports circulate in the expatriate community of ethnic Kazakhs who escaped Xinjiang. One of them is Gulaisha Oralbay, who now lives in Turkey. She has lost contact with her brother, two sisters, and four nephews. Finally, she has been told that her siblings are all in jail in Kuytun, a county-level city in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang. This adds to Gulaisha’s worries, as the Kuytun jail is notorious in the ethnic Kazhak community for the frequent beating of inmates and rape of women prisoners by the guards. The forced labor conditions are also very harsh in Kuytun.
Gulaisha has no news of the two sons of her eldest sister and the two children, a boy and a girl, of her younger sister. Perhaps they are in one of the “orphanages” for Uyghur and other Turkic children whose parents are in jail or in the transformation through education camps in Xinjiang.
Gulaisha told Bitter Winter that her brother Dilshat, 58, a professional journalist and translator with a distinguished career, was probably arrested because he tried to move to Kazakhstan. The Chinese authorities summoned him back, confiscated his passport, arrested him, and sentenced him to 25 years in jail. Requests by Gulaisha for a copy of the court decision have not been answered. She does not know of what crimes Dilshat has been accused.
Gulaisha’s elder sister, Baktygul, 43, worked for the newspaper of which her brother Dilshat was deputy director, and also ran a photocopy shop. She was arrested in March 2018. The family has been informed that she should serve 19 years in jail. Again, the authorities refused to supply Gulaisha with a copy of the court decision, or explain for which crimes Baktygul has been convicted.
The same, Gulaisha told Bitter Winter, applies to her younger sister Bagila, 39. She was the owner of a hair salon and was also arrested in March 2018, and later sentenced to 15 years. Gulaisha has not been told why.
While she worries about what she believes are very real risks of violence against her brother and sexual abuse of her sisters in jail, Gulaisha has decided to start solitary protests against the Chinese government. “Others do it without results, she explains, but what else can I do?”