An Uyghur couple, both with medical problems, from Kumul city, Xinjiang were arrested and detained in “transformation through education camps,” leaving their three children behind. Bitter Winter interviewed one of them.
On June 18, 2018, the police arrested Guli, a severely ill Muslim woman, and her husband while they were raising the national flag on the farm. Guli was sent to a camp for female detainees in Yizhou District; her husband was transferred to Huangtian Farm.
Before the arrest, the family made a living by doing small business. Guli was suffering from an autoimmune disease, lupus, and her condition has become quite severe before her detention: she needed to go for check-ups four times a year. Sometimes, a single course of treatment would cost tens of thousands of yuan. Her husband also has health issues – he has tuberculosis.
The couple has three children: 19-year-old daughter Azhuo is the eldest, she has a younger sister, 14, and a 5-year-old brother. Since the parents were taken away, there is no one to take care of them.
Guli’s eldest daughter, Azhuo, said, “Before my mother was arrested, she called me and said that her illness had relapsed, and her hands had become swollen. I was taking the college entrance exams at the time. We were planning to bring my mom to see a doctor after Eid al-Fitr (the Feast of Breaking the Fast), but on the third day of the festival, my mom and dad were taken away.”
Azhuo is worried that the conditions in the camp will worsen her mother’s health. “There is a lot of daily military training and other physical activity. My mother’s health is poor, and she cannot exercise a lot,” said Azhou worryingly. “I have submitted applications to several institutions asking them to let my mother leave to see a doctor, but the officials in the autonomous region said “no,” there is nothing they can do now.”
Azhuo started crying and continued, “The treatment for my mother’s illness cannot be delayed. If it is, she will not be saved. If my brother finds out about this, it will be unbearable for him. If they don’t come back, I don’t know what we’ll do. When my mom and dad were arrested, my younger brother was attending school. We didn’t tell him. We just told him that our mom went to see the doctor. After our parents were arrested, I hear my sister cry alone sometimes. Without the parents, my brother became very unsettled, he sleeps badly at night and shouts or cries, my sister and I cannot sleep as well.”
When asked why she thought her parents had been arrested, Azhuo said, “My dad practiced daily namāz (the obligatory religious duty for Muslims to worship five times a day), but my mom didn’t know much about religion. Before her arrest, my mom told me that almost all of her brothers and sisters, as well as friends with whom she studied, had been sent to camps. She said she didn’t know when she would be taken away. My parents didn’t do anything; they were just sometimes studying (Islam) together.”
(All names are pseudonyms)
Reported by Li Zaili
Li Zaili (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), born in Xinjiang in 1982, went to the United States to study at the age of 16. After graduating from university, Li returned to Xinjiang and worked in journalism. In 2014, Xinjiang authorities started detaining large numbers of Muslims in “transformation through education camps.” Learning of that, he left his original position and began independently collecting and organizing information related to “transformation through education camps,” and submitted articles for publication in overseas media outlets. After Bitter Winter was founded in May 2018, Li Zaili became a special correspondent of Bitter Winter covering Xinjiang, Xizang and some other regions in China.