Detained for praying, the conditions inside the “transformation through education” camp proved to be life-threatening for her.
As the reports of detention of Uyghurs at “transformation through education” camps continue to spill out across the world, the Chinese government has had to face widespread condemnation. However, its functionaries continue to defend the camps adamantly.
The editor-in-chief of the government-controlled Global Times, Hu Xijin, recently uploaded a video on his Twitter account, claiming that life inside camps is a happy one and centered on providing vocational training to Uyghurs.
However, Bitter Winter recently spoke to a Hui Muslim woman in her sixties who was detained for practicing namāz (prayer) at home. Ayshna (pseudonym) was then put in a “transformation through education” camp at an unknown location in Xinjiang in November last year.
She revealed that she was held in a basement, where she was locked up with more than 40 others in a single room. The detainees included the Uyghurs, Huis, and Hans. She adds, “We were always confined to the basement. The only time we could see the skies was when it snowed during the winter and they arranged for us to go out to shovel the snow.”
The detainees were forced to sing songs praising the Communist Party and study national policies every day. They were also forced to recite government regulations, and anyone who couldn’t do it correctly would be locked up indefinitely. “They demanded that we only believe in the Communist Party. We are not allowed to have any other faith,” says Ayshna.
The meals at the camp included steamed buns and boiled vegetables only. It was difficult to swallow and not sufficiently nutritious. As a result of the prolonged lack of sunlight and poor dietary conditions, Ayshna’s health started deteriorating. She would often complain of dizziness, but the disciplinary guards ignored her until she fainted on the ground one day.
A medical examiner was brought in, and upon inspection, it was found that Ayshna was suffering from low blood pressure and was severely anemic. Worried that she might die if she continued to live at the camp, the guards released her within 50 days of her capture.
However, that did not amount to freedom. The community cadres arranged for someone to stay at her home for five days every month to monitor her and repeatedly remind her that she must obey the Communist Party. She cannot go out without permission and is under constant surveillance.
Ayshna further said that she is not the only one in her family to be going through such harassment. “More than ten of my family members, including my daughter and my son’s wife, are still locked up in camps. I don’t know when they will be released. I hope these days of pain and darkness can pass and that the light will come soon,” she said.
Reported by Li Zaili