A Bitter Winter exclusive: ethnic Kazakh survivor Ulnur Bozhykhan’s story as told to her husband, a Kazakh journalist.
by Turarbek Kusainov
This autobiographical story about Ulnur Bozhykhan, based on real events, suffered from the repressive policies of the Chinese Communist government and the genocide of the indigenous people of Xinjiang, is written to show our solidarity with the boycott of the 24th Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
It was published with the support of the human rights organization “Nagyz Atajurt.”
Struggle before conscience
As the author of a book about the darkness of China, I am well aware of the atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party against human freedom.
My two books, “Darkness and the Collapse of East Turkestan” and “The Dragon’s Trick,” describe the past and present atrocities committed by Chinese politics against human freedom. As a person who has analyzed the topic a lot, I have thoroughly studied the ins and outs of official Beijing’s policy. I even got married to a woman who had recently been in a Chinese concentration camp, whose fate was very hard, who had been tortured severely in a stone cell. At first, I only knew that my wife, Ulnur Bozhykhan, had been in the concentration camp for about a year, but later I was shocked to hear that she had been abused and raped.
I can’t hide the fact that my heart was bleeding and it was hard to get near my wife. May God forbid that anyone should suffer violence in prison such as she did. As a husband, I can’t explain to you how difficult it was for me to hear that. So I decided to take a pen and write everything down.
It was night in Almaty. Dead silence was in. The tears that washed my wife’s face caused a storm of feelings and hurt my soul. As if someone had pierced my heart with a dagger. “How could I ask… Tell me everything, I want to know the truth… I will tell the whole world about China’s dark evil…” such my courage was in vain, now I myself suffered. Instead of cherishing and desiring the one God gave me, my beloved, the light of my love, I felt more pity and compassion.
I only read about limitless cruelty in literary works, but I myself had not seen it in real life. But my wife, a human being, suffered the most unbearable torture. Listening to the fate of my wife, I felt lost. Then I came to my senses and said, “Okay, tell me everything from the very beginning. It can’t be just left. The suffering you have witnessed is the atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party against humanity. It needs to be spread out. Do not be afraid of anyone. I am with you. We will overcome this pain together! Together, we will expose the tyrannical policies of Xi Jinping,” I said.
—“I knew from the beginning that you wouldn’t like the whole truth. I wouldn’t open my mouth. You yourself asked me about this. You yourself can make any other decision after the whole truth about all the inhuman torture and cruel violence that I endured, and from which your soul turned over, which I see now. But this is not only my humiliation, and also the humiliation of thousands of indigenous people in China, especially local girls and women. If I don’t tell, if you don’t write, this truth will remain buried.
Those who are being tortured in concentration camps will never be able to tell anyone. Because everyone who has been to the camps has fear in their hearts.” “Even if they take their husbands or children away, they will continue to say, ‘This is the law of the Communist Party,’” she said, wiping tears from her face with a handkerchief. “If you, being my husband, begin to avoid me because of the violence and humiliation that was committed against me, then what can I, a weak woman, do? If you want, you can write, I will tell you everything at a time,” my wife said, looking firmly at me.
I saw in her eyes a spark of honor, a sharp spark of revenge that could only be seen in the face of a person with a sense of revenge. Indeed, if I don’t help her, if I don’t risk healing her wounds, she may suffer for the rest of her life. If she does not say this, if I do not write, the oppression and cruelty against thousands and millions of minorities in East Turkestan, including the Turkic peoples, may continue. Even the narrow gates of the so-called concentration camps might not be closed soon. “If you make up your mind to tell me everything, I’m ready to write about the crimes of the Chinese Communist Party!” I said emphatically. Encouraged by my words, she raised her head, straightened and looked out the window.
It was night in Almaty and we felt uncomfortable and fear blew from the darkness of the night. She stared out the window at the dark world. The butterfly was hitting the glass of the window as if it was seeking light from a dark night. The perseverance of the insect, who spared no effort for the light, seemed to strengthen me. I didn’t want to interrupt her thoughts. She sighed heavily and began the conversation with torture in prison.
I wrote all this according to Ulnur Bozhykhan. It is not a fictional story. My hero, who suffered, was sitting in front of me. Now she lives in Almaty and is a citizen of Kazakhstan. I said at the beginning that she is my beloved wife. Ulnur and I are ready for journalists and human rights activists who want to write and interview us about this topic in the future. Let my wife, Ulnur Bozhykhan, speak out, who spent almost a year in the Chinese “transformation through education camp,” was raped, humiliated by Chinese communists in the camp, and her ex-husband died of a heart attack. The story of the protagonist was written in the first person, as her own story. I just edited it.
It’s like I’m having a dream. It’s a nightmare. I do not remember what is happening to me, I lose consciousness, then I come to my senses again. I could barely open my eyes. It seems that someone is lying on me. This is not a dream, this is reality. The monster above me bites me like a dog. I was stripped naked. He is chuffing lustfully. I have no strength to push him away from me. Half my body is lifeless. I can’t move. I didn’t feel my body, as if it was stiff. I want to shout, but I can’t. It seems that only I myself hear my voice. And that monster is doing what it wants to my weak body. Only then I realized that I was being raped. The first thought was “violence, again.”
I suffered this kind of violence a few years ago. What is this endless suffering? And this lustful man clung to me, thrusting his hand into my intimate place, glad that he lifted my skirt. He bared his yellow teeth, growling like a dog, grunting like a pig, and tormented my naked body. A raped person does not feel any strength or meaning in life. I was insulted as if I had no choice but to die.
The essence of a man is very contradictory. When something happens to you, you think of happy days. I was reminded of my childhood, while I was being trampled underfoot by a Han officer of the prison administration.
I was born on June 28, 1988, in the village of Kensu in the Kunes county of the Ili-Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang Autonomous Region (East Turkestan), which has the largest Kazakh population in the Region. My father worked as a chief accountant in the village. My mother was a teacher, and later she quit her job because of her poor health condition and looked after us at home. We are six children in our family. I have one brother and four sisters. I am the youngest in the family. My parents and relatives used to pamper and cherish me when I was a baby.
We had many neighbors. Among them are Han (Chinese), Dungan (Hui), Uyghurs, Kyrgyz and Tatars. Next door to us, behind our house, lived a neighbor named Guo. That Guo had a son and a daughter. His son was older than me. As we passed by, they would throw stones and make fun of us, saying, “Lauhasa, lauhasa.” The word “Lauhasa 老 哈萨” means “Snotty Kazakh.” This is the most insulting word for Kazakhs.
The Kazakhs were so oppressed by the Chinese and Dungan when we were little, even their children, playing in the streets, threw stones at the houses and fences of our houses, broke the glass of the windows and ran away. Our Kazakhs tolerated their misdeeds and were silent. If someone went to figure it out, there would be a fight between Kazakhs and Han (Chinese). And only Kazakhs suffer from it.
In front of our house, along the street, there was a shop opened by a Chinese Communist named Ching. When Ching saw me, he would say, “Ulnur, you have become a big girl, and I will marry my son to you.” Fearing his words, I used to run home when I saw that Chinese man. At that time, I was only 10–11 years old. From childhood, my parents taught us to respect the elder and take care of the younger.
There was another Chinese named 朱德林 (Zhu Di Lin) who lived on our street. That Han man used to divert irrigation water from our garden to his house without warning. My older brother was angry with him and said that he would go to him to openly express his displeasure to him, but our father would not allow him to do this. “Zhu Di Lin is an old man. It’s a shame to live in one village and quarrel over water,” he said, thus he forbade him to do so. Both Zhu Di Lin and his children did not give water to Kazakhs. Kazakhs and Uyghurs, who diverted irrigation water to their homes, were beaten and the Chinese did not consider we were people too.
Our parents taught us to do our own work from an early age. That’s the way they raised us. I was in 8th grade. It was time for the school exams. My birth certificate and ID name were misspelled. In order to correct the documents, I went to the documentation department of Kensu village. There, all the workers referred to each other, and I wasted about a week. In the end, the head of the department, who was a Chinese by nationality, laughed and said: “Kazakhs have no brains, you can’t even spell your names correctly,” thus publicly insulting not only me, but the entire Kazakh people.
Actually it wasn’t my fault, since there are a lot of Chinese characters, the people in the documentation department made a spelling mistake themselves. If one letter is wrong, the name has a completely different meaning. So they themselves misspelled my name. Even though they made the mistake themselves decades ago, they tried to blame me for their wrongdoings and used all sorts of insults in my honour. But what should I do? I was forced to remain silent in front of the Chinese Communists, even though I was humiliated so that everything would not be in vain, because I spent a whole week to get a corrected document.
Since the current Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, came to power, the Communists have become completely intolerable. They believed that everything they said was true, if they said that white is a blessing and black is a curse, it should be so. The Han Communists do not consider people of other nationalities to be human beings. In recent years they have become more and more mocking ethnic minorities. The Han Chinese, who came from the hinterland of China under the state program “Opening the West,” did not allow the local Kazakhs, Uyghurs and Kyrgyz to live normally, and they had been playing tricks and scandals to spite us.
The story of “Khasa Tan”
Another story I remember was that in China there were cheap, hard candies. The Han people nicknamed the Kazakhs after the name of these candies, “Khasa tan 哈萨 糖.” After all, the Kazakh people are hospitable and love to make a feast. And usually no one goes to someone’s house empty-handed. And usually they buy sweets in the store. Most Kazakhs are poor there. Therefore, they cannot afford to buy expensive sweets, only cheap sweets they can afford.
And the Chinese therefore called them with the name of cheap sweets “Khasa Tan” to humiliate the Kazakhs. And when you walk into a store, the hard candies are usually in a dusty pile. Because only Kazakhs used to buy them. It doesn’t matter how you sell it to the Kazakhs. Because they consider that the Kazakhs are second or third class people there.
The children of our Dungan neighbor used to steal from the apple orchard in our yard. If we chased them and caught them with stolen apples and pears, and even if there was evidence of their theft, instead of admitting their guilt, they beat us with sticks. We were beaten many times by Dungan and Chinese children because we protected and guarded our orchard from theft. I can’t tell everything because there were a lot of humilative things they did against us.
Enduring the humiliation of the Han and Dungan, our childhood was left behind. And we grew up and moved from the village to the Kazakh boarding school in the county center. So, we studied 10–11 grades in the city of Kunes. We lived in a school dormitory. We had to go to the house in the village only once a week, sometimes once a month. Although we missed our parents, we had no other choice but to continue studying there.
One day I got on a bus to go home to the village. I was in a hurry to get home. The bus driver was a Chinese. We were about twenty people in the bus. Passengers from the villages of Zekty, Turgen, Karagailysu, Araltobe got off the bus on the way. One or two people and I were the last ones left. When I reached the village I came up to the bus driver in order to pay the fare, and that driver looked at me and said with a smirk: “You may not pay. Come with me to Narat (tourist area), have fun and take a walk!.” I got very angry. “What are you talking about? I’m underage. I’m a student. How do you say that to a person like your daughter? I will file a complaint against you,” I said. “Who will listen to your complaint? What the Han people are saying here is the law, the Communist Party is on the side of the Chinese,” he said, laughing out loud, and dropped me off the bus.
When I was in 7th grade, during the summer time our family started a tourist center on the Narat pasture in Kunes. We set up yurts in Zhel-Tal and began to receive tourists. Narat is a unique and beautiful pasture, which is famous all over China. Tourists flocked to Narat from China’s inner cities, from the south and north, from the center. During the years of opening the tourist center, we met many Chinese tourists, among them there were notorious hooligans and bandits who were very proud of the Communist Party, which gave them the right to behave obscenely with other ethnic minorities of Xinjiang. Whether they thought that we did not know the Chinese language or did it on purpose, they scolded, ridiculed, and insulted the Kazakhs. The Kazakhs had to endure all this.
Once a few Chinese men came there. They were aged men. “They say there are beautiful Kazakh girls here. Call them to us. Let them sing, drink vodka and have fun with us. We want to have fun with beautiful Kazakh girls,” one of them said. Isn’t that a humiliation? The obsessive goal of those Han men was an aggressive proclamation: “We will be their daughters’ lovers, humiliate them and beat their men.” And as usual, we told such people: “We are not receiving guests today.”
Now when I remember those events, those Chinese men did not consider the Kazakhs as human. In their concept: “Kazakhs are like animals that roam the mountains, roam anywhere, set up yurts and live where they can feed themselves.” This is the true face of China’s policy under the socialist regime, which says, “We are Communists, we help the hungry, the poor and the weak, we are on their side.”
After seven or eight years, Narat, the historical territory of the Kazakhs, with beautiful forests, green pastures and a lake, suddenly disappeared. The Chinese, who initially came with caution, gradually gained strength and took possession of the mountains, steppes, winter and summer, spring and autumn pastures of the Kazakhs. They bought lands from Kazakhs that they forced to sell, and they dealt with those who did not want to sell: they beat their wives and children, imprisoned Kazakh men and thus took away our ancestral lands and property of the Kazakhs. Those who were engaged in tourism lost their earnings. After losing their pastures, several hundred thousand Kazakh pastoralists in the Kunes county were forced to sell their livestock, as they had nowhere to go, nowhere to graze them. Thus, nomadic Kazakhs, who never bought butter and dairy products and meat, began to buy everything in the market after the Communists came and took their land away. This is no longer an insult to the nation, but a policy of genocide, designed to wipe one nation off the face of the earth.
It was one of those summer months when I graduated from 11th grade. My older sister got married to a man who lived in the 126th Bintuan (military zone) of Kuitun city, Ili-Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. My brother-in-law is a cotton farmer. They needed people who would work in the cotton field all summer. My brother-in-law said, “If there is anyone in the village who is idle, bring him. I’ll pay. We need a worker to help grow and harvest cotton.” Everyone heard from each other and 80 people gathered. We barely fit in two big buses. We drove one day and one night to reach the village of my sister and brother-in-law. In that area, everyone was engaged in the cultivation of cotton. My brother-in-law hired about ten people to work in his field. The rest were led away by a Chinese.
Every day, the Kazakhs, who were picking cotton in the field of the Chinese, called my sister and complained to her. It turns out that the Chinese insulted our Kazakhs, humiliated them, and deceived on the scales in order to pay them little for the cotton harvested by their honest work. He placed a magnet under the scale to reduce the weight of the cotton. He insulted the Kazakhs, who demanded proper payment of their salaries, insulted their nation, race and honor. He flirted with beautiful women and girls, offering to become her lover and saying: “I’ll give you money for having fun with me.” Even in the Middle Ages, the exploitation of human labor occurred only occasionally. And the existence of such injustice in the developed People’s Republic of China in the XXI century is a real concern for humanity. We have seen it with our own eyes, those who have not seen do not believe it. Therefore, the tyranny of the Chinese authorities remains hidden to this day.
In the fall of that year, I entered the Mathematics Department of Xinjiang University in Urumqi. While at university, I worked on Saturdays and Sundays to earn money. There were girls I shared a dorm room with. Urumqi is a big city. There are people of different nationalities, such as Chinese, Kyrgyz, Uyghur, Dungan, Mongolian. I was an ordinary modest Kazakh girl who came from the village. Many times we had been greatly distressed to see humiliation and ridicule from the Han Chinese of the big city.
I shared a room with eight girls. We studied very well at the university. But living in a big city was not easy for me, who grew up with parents who had always adored me. That year my brother and sister-in-law moved to Kazakhstan. Then the sister, who is younger than my brother, got married. I returned to the village during the winter holidays. I was at home for a month and a half. I helped my parents with household chores. It was the year 2008. In the spring of that year, another sister married. So father and mother didn’t have anyone else to help them with the housework. It was the second term of the 1st year. I was studying in Urumqi.
One day my father fell ill. My mother called me crying. My mother cried because father’s health condition was serious. I couldn’t take it anymore and went home. When I was told that my father had been transferred to a hospital in Qulja city, I immediately went there. I was next to him for fifteen days. My father’s mouth and nose were bleeding, and he was in great pain. One of the blood vessels in his skull had ruptured. Doctors warned that he should not work hard and move a lot. There was no one to take care of my mother and father. My older sisters are all married, I am the youngest and my brother lives in Kazakhstan. At that time, there was no one to help my parents except myself. Mom said: “Daughter, please don’t go to study. Stay with us, help look after father.” There was no way, so I said goodbye to the university halfway. One day, civil servants from the rural administration called. “We need an assistant specialist in the Planned Birth Department. If you have free time, come and work.“
Since 1988, Xinjiang has had a planned birth rate due to population growth. Previously, there was a program called “One Child Policy.” Since 1989, urban residents have been barred from having more than one child, while rural residents have been barred from having more than two. And they chased after those women who were pregnant with their third child and forced them to have an abortion…
So, I got a job with a salary of 300 yuan. There was not enough for anything and the work was hard. My work was to determine the number of unscheduled children, population, as well as the number of living and dead. My duty was to register the figures of all of them. There was an older woman who worked with me. She couldn’t use a computer. Therefore, all the work was left to me. Day and night, I worked on creating an archive and sending it to the county administration, which was twice as long as the planned working time.
Even though we worked hard, the Chinese didn’t like us. The chief, who was a Chinese, used to come and say swear words: “What are you doing, you brainless drones?!” And if the inspection came from above, from Kunes county, from Qulja, he would change a lot. His character changed, he became so talkative, he spoke warmly to us, he seemed to be afraid that we would tell something to the members of the commission, and he courted favor with the commission. There were many such hypocritical Communists. That is the true face of Communism.
We used to go from house to house in the village and register the population. If even one extra person was found in the home of people who were not Chinese, their land was confiscated, they were fined, and they got into big trouble. The amount of fines was not small. From 18,000 to 40,000 yuan. I have never seen sympathy for the poor from members of the Chinese Communist Party. The worst policy of the Chinese government that I encountered while at that job was that they forced women to have abortions and kill the child in the womb at six to seven months. Such cruelty could not have been done even by beasts.
We read in books that such cruel policies existed only in the early centuries of slavery. And in China, such savagery is happening now in the 21st century. In China, I consider it is a genocide against humanity to cut open a woman’s womb and kill her child alive with human hands. This is an unjustified crime. Chinese people living in Xinjiang have many children. But when it came to Chinese families, local officials pretended not to notice large Chinese families. As for the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Uyghurs, the policy of “planned birth” remains in force. When I was a child, my mother said, “You survived the ‘planned birth’ policy. Three girls were born after your brother. You were also born a girl. We have named you Ulnur, which means ‘light of the son,’ desiring to give birth to a boy after you. I had another pregnancy after you. It was killed by the Chinese inside of me. They performed an abortion against my will.” She always said, “That was a boy.” But that time I did not pay attention to her words. Now I think that the socialist experiment on humanity is the unvarnished nature of the evil Communist People’s Republic of China.
It was the spring of 2009. I was a girl of 21. When I was at school, a boy named Khassen from the Togyztarau region was in love with me. He was courting me and trying to talk to me. And unexpectedly for me, he sent his parents to woo me to my home. At that moment, my father and I were at the wedding of one of our relatives. My mother called and said: “The matchmakers have come to us. Come back home.” I saw Khassen only a few times, but I did not communicate with him closely, and I did not even know what kind of person he was. I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to tell my parents. But the matchmakers continued to sit, they turned pale and insisted on my marriage to their son. “If you don’t marry your daughter to our son, we will curse you,” they threatened my parents. And then I had to marry him.
Khassen’s family was poor and their life was hard. My father said: “Let it be worthy to see my daughter off,” and arranged a magnificent wedding. And my dowry was prepared better than the others. According to Kazakh tradition, the closest people, such as a mother, sister and cousins, travel to the groom’s village for wedding to celebrate for two or three days. My mother and her older sister (my aunt), my older sister and another cousin stayed as guests until I got used to my new home, which I entered as a bride. On the night my relatives were supposed to return home to the village, my fiance and I spent our first wedding night. It was my wedding night and my first sexual intercourse. I nearly died from the pain. I was in so much pain that I cried a lot. Early in the morning, my mother-in-law came into our room and ripped off the blood-stained white sheet before we had time to get dressed. Then she said, “You came to us innocent. May you make this house happy,” and she sniffed at my forehead. Later I found out that Khassen’s mother was a Dungan. If my virginity did not bleed that day, I would be sent back with my mother, according to Dungan tradition. Thank God my honor was not sullied. But Khassen in bed looked more like a rapist than a loving husband. Everything was done against my will.
Thus began my new life. Soon after that I had cramps in my leg and had to visit doctors for a checkup. Doctors gave me medicine, I was treated. My husband’s mother began to reproach her son, telling him: “You married a sick woman.” One day I called my parents. They said they would move to Kazakhstan. Then my husband and his mom started nagging me for it. He even started to beat me. Because their original intention was different, which I found out later. I am the daughter of a wealthy man. They wanted my father to buy me a nice house when their son married me. If my parents moved to Kazakhstan, their dream would not come true. But in my naivety, I didn’t realize it right away. My husband began to beat me every day. But I didn’t say anything to my parents. They gave birth to me, raised me, educated me, and gave me all the best that I needed. How could I dare to say, “Daddy, buy me a house”?
Once my parents invited us to their home. Khassen, my mother-in-law and I went to visit my parents. Then my mother-in-law said, “Your daughter is often sick.” The next day, my mom took me to the hospital. Only then I found out I was pregnant. I was already two months pregnant.
Every day it got harder and harder for me to walk. Once, in one of the autumn months, Khassen’s uncle came to the house. “Dear sister-in-law, this is my home. You will have to find another accommodation. I am moving from the mountains. You must vacate the house.” I thought it was our home. My mother-in-law started going all about. Then we were transferred to the center of Togyztarau county. There we were settled in some kind of house, and that supposedly they would buy us a house. “This is your house,” they said. And I believed in it. My husband was out of work. My belly was growing.
We were short of money, that’s why I had to get a black job. Since I grew up in abundance and didn’t know what it was like to be poor, I felt unhappy that I was left without a livelihood. To avoid starvation, I picked corn and potatoes and started earning money. A person can endure poverty, but it is impossible to endure humiliation and beatings. Khassen’s beatings became more frequent. One day I ran away to my parents’place because I couldn’t take the punches from him anymore. Ashamed of my return, my father took me back to Khassen’s house, saying: “My child, a man who is not beaten once in seven days forgets his God and that’s okay.” “We entrusted our daughter to you, but not for you to beat her or insult her,” my father warned Khassen. He also advised me, “You are a member of this family in this house. You shouldn’t run away from home because of small problems.” Since then, I stopped telling my relatives about my troubles and sufferings. My mother-in-law always pitted my husband against me. Three times I was severely beaten to the point where I lost consciousness. It got to the point where my father-in-law and mother-in-law would hold my hands so that their son would kick me. “She is the daughter of a wealthy man. Keep your wife in line from the very beginning,” they said, holding my hands, and the husband kicked me and so one day he broke my rib.
I was in the eighth month of pregnancy. I ended up in the hospital with severe beatings, and the doctors could barely save the child. After my parents moved to Kazakhstan, my husband’s family did not consider me a person. There was no one around who could stand up for me. Thus, beaten every time, I managed to give birth to a child, and he became my comfort.
According to the Dungan tradition, for three months after the birth of a woman, my husband and I were separated. The child was named Arnar and my son had become my comfort. Khassen often did not spend the night at home. When our son was about 4–5 months old, my husband disappeared for about a month and did not appear at home. When I called him, he said, “I’m at one of my brothers’ place in the next village.” I took my son and went to the village to Khassen to be near him. It was daytime and the kids were playing outside. It was raining. And my husband was in bed under the covers with his she-cousin, she was his mother’s niece. I pretended not to see them. I was afraid that he would start beating me. If I get divorced, then I will not see my child. In China, there is an obscure law that if a couple divorces, then the son remains with the father, and the daughter with the mother. I had to come to terms with it.
When Khassen got angry, he lost his temper that he didn’t see anything in front of him. One day, he got into a fight over a trifle. I was running away to the neighbor’s house when he threw an ax at me. Only God took me away from death, and the ax flew over my head. I was convinced that I would die at the hands of my husband. I telephoned the police. The policemen were ethnic Chinese. They said, “What evidence do you have that your husband tried to kill you? We can’t get involved in your family conflicts because there is not enough evidence.” An elderly neighbour was a witness and she confirmed that my husband tried to kill me and threw the axe. However, the police did not believe her. It was obvious that they did not have the slightest sympathy for me, and they were not going to protect my human rights.
When my son was one year old, a man came to the house and said: “Leave the house, I will live in this house myself.” He turned out to be the owner of the house. My mother-in-law and Khassen lied when they said they had bought the house. We had been renting that house for a year, and how did Khassen’s parents and he manage to deceive me for a year?
Khassen’s parents lived in another village, and I had never been to their house before. They didn’t want to show me their home. And then one day I had to go to the village of Agarsyn, in search of Khassen’s parental home. I found their home by asking locals. It was only then that I realized why they didn’t want to show me their house. The house was old, dilapidated, low, built of black soil. Since they were poor, it became clear that they expected my father to buy me a house and thus they could improve their situation.
When my son was a year old, my parents came from Kazakhstan. According to the Kazakh custom, they gave the grandson “kyryk shubar tai,” which means the amount of money equal to the cost of one horse, and in addition, an even larger amount of money to buy clothes for me, my husband and son. Enough money to buy a piece of land to build one house. The time came when it was time for my parents to return to Kazakhstan, and Khassen and I went to see them off at the bus station from Togyztarau to Kunes. When we returned home, my husband’s parents were going to take the money that my parents gave us. If we had a lot of money, and if we did not need anything, they could take that money. But we were also living from hand to mouth ourselves. I didn’t want to give them money. Meanwhile, Khassen was not at home for about an hour, he had gone somewhere. When he came back an hour later, I went outside and heard my mother-in-law slandering me and pouring oil on the flames to make a fuss. I was frightened when I saw Khassen’s face: he looked like thunder. I kept silent to avoid scandal.
It was midnight. There were two cows and a horse in the barn, which were brought by my relatives, and I woke Khassen to give them food. But I myself was afraid of him. “Will you feed the animals?” I said. But I was afraid to once again ask him for something. “These animals were given to you by your family,” he said, and turned away. It was the month of February. It was bitterly cold outside. And then morning came. The morning began with a scandal because I asked my husband to feed the animals at night. He cursed me, including my entire family, and then attacked with his fists. He punched me in the eye with such force that blood gushed out of it and my face swelled up. Sparks shot out of my eyes and I fell down. When I got to my sense, I couldn’t feel my right leg. I wanted to get up and saw blood oozing from my right knee. Somehow I crawled to the mirror and saw that blood was flowing from my right eye. I wanted to scream and call someone for help, but changed my mind, afraid that he would start kicking me again. Instead, I threw myself on his knees and begged him to take me to the hospital. But instead, he rushed to hit me again. The child started to cry loudly. He walked over to the child and took him in his arms to calm him down.
I took advantage of this moment and ran out of the house. I managed to run about 150 meters, but my husband caught me up and dragged me home by the hair. I was screaming. Neighbors came running and started knocking on the gate. But he didn’t open it to them. Meanwhile, Khassen’s phone rang. He picked up the phone and said, “Dad, good luck. Don’t worry about us!” I immediately guessed that the call was from my father and that my parents were leaving at that moment for Kazakhstan. I managed to scream: “Father, save me. He will kill me.” He switched off the phone. And he started kicking me like a dog again. Hearing my screams, the neighbours broke the gate and opened the door. I ran out of the house, took a taxi and drove away.
The taxi driver turned out to be merciful and he helped me, brought me to the building of the “Union of Women” organization. He carried me to the fourth floor in his arms. I wrote an application. Just at that moment Khassen’s mother came. “No one beat her. She beat herself,” she said, protecting her son. The police wanted to arrest Khassen and bring him in for questioning. “Who would take care of my child if I were hospitalized?” I started begging the police. “There is no one to look after my child until I am released from the hospital. Arrest my husband later, please!” I pleaded with them. We went to the district hospital. The doctors said that the artery under the eye was torn and it was only possible to operate in Qulja city or Urumqi city. So, in the middle of the night we drove to Qulja. My parents, who were going to Kazakhstan, stayed and waited for me in front of the hospital. When they saw me blindfolded, they wept bitterly. After the operation, I came to my senses in 3–4 hours. My father and mother had to return to Kazakhstan when their visas expired. My father told me that he would come in a month, divorce me from my husband, and take me away. But Khassen was against our divorce. He said he wouldn’t hit me again and fell on his knees at my feet. He said that there is a child between us, so I had to agree with him.
Historically, just as the Russian authorities used the Cossacks as a punitive group to invade the indigenous peoples of the Russian Empire, the Chinese Communist authorities systematically used the Dungan against the indigenous peoples in Xinjiang. It is true that only the grave will fix the hunchbacked. A month later he started raising his hand against me again. This time, I didn’t want to forgive him and filed for divorce. Then we divorced and according to Chinese law the boy must stay with his father, and I had to leave the child to my husband and leave alone.
My parents were in Kazakhstan. As I had nowhere to go, I went to my sister in Kuytun city. Since I couldn’t afford to be a burden on my sister and brother-in-law, I started looking for work. I got a job as a “street patrol” at the Kuytun City Police Department. I changed my permanent registration to Kuytun city. After learning that I was a divorced woman, some Chinese men at work began to flirt. All my thoughts were about taking my child away from my husband. And all sorts of rumors about me as a single divorced woman made me leave the police station.
I went to Urumqi. In one of the hotels, I worked as a salesperson in a telephone shop. Tourists from the CIS countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan came to this hotel. They spoke Russian but I don’t understand Russian. “You don’t know Russian, you can’t sell the goods,” the store owner scolded me. When people from Kazakhstan came and spoke Kazakh, I was so happy for them and tears welled up in my eyes, as if my relatives had arrived, and the goods sold well. But it was hard to live on the proceeds from the sale of phones, and I struggled to make ends meet. I negotiated with a girl who was next to me in the telephone shop to work the night shift, and got a day job at a mall called Bian Jiang Bing Guan.
All foreigners bought goods at that market, and I sold shoes. Once I met a man from Kazakhstan and we began to cooperate. He believed me and sent his money, and I sent the goods to him. When he found out that I was one of the black-eyed daughters of the Kazakhs, who had no support, the businessman began to give me money in addition to profits. With the money, I was able to improve my financial situation and even quit my job in a cell phone store. After a while, the same businessmen from Kazakhstan arrived. They said they wanted to buy the product directly from the factory. Therefore, I accompanied them to the city of Shyndu. I received an order from the factory and started working for myself. I managed to have regular clients. So my business got better.
The second marriage
In the spring of 2013, I got a call from someone from the village. He told me that he had heard that I was divorced. They knew I came from a good family. In the town of Narat, there was a guy named Yerzhan who worked for a travel agency and they wanted to marry me to him. I arrived in Kunes in May. I wanted to see my son, I told law enforcement agencies about my intention and went to Togyztarau. I met my son at the age of three, whom I had to part with involuntarily when he was only a year old, and naturally he did not recognize me. I hugged him, but he broke out of my embrace. There is nothing more painful for a mother than when a child does not recognize his own mother. “Where is your mother?” I asked him. “She died,” he said. My heart was bleeding profusely. The child will say what others tell him. I never saw or spoke to him again. If it pleases fate, we will meet one day.
Yerzhan and I got married two months later. Yerzhan worked in the civil service and got tired of the pressure of Chinese politics. “We are going to Kazakhstan,” he said. Thus, I got a passport to travel to Kazakhstan. I arrived in Kazakhstan at the end of 2013 and reunited with my parents four years later. Immediately after arriving in Kazakhstan, we wanted to obtain Kazakh citizenship. But in those years, it was difficult to obtain not only Kazakh citizenship, but also a residence permit. There were a lot of obstacles. One of the mediators took our money and he disappeared. Later, we learned that Kazakhstan is a country where corruption flourishes. Citizenship of Kazakhstan was for sale. Tens of thousands of wealthy Han Chinese had already bought Kazakh citizenship. All this we heard when applying for citizenship.
In the meantime, our visa expired and we had to return to China. It was inconvenient to drive to our village in the Kunes county. After all, we announced to all our relatives that we were “moving to Kazakhstan” and arranged a farewell party and invited them for tea. We were embarrassed to come back. So we decided to stop at the Khorgos crossing below the border. I worked at the China-Kazakhstan joint central market on the China-Kazakhstan border, and then as a salesperson for a company. My husband also got a job in a Chinese company. Han people and Dungan enter and leave Kazakhstan daily. Kazakhs and Uyghurs have never had good jobs. All goods going to Kazakhstan, and then to countries such as Russia and Uzbekistan, passed only through the Dungan and Han people. As Kazakhs, we could not interfere with the goods sent to Kazakhstan. Everything was in the hands of the Han people and Dungan…
At the end of the same year, I got pregnant, and the following year, I gave birth to a baby girl in August 2015. We named her Ayaru. Our daughter Ayaru brought us happiness and our work was successful. We bought a house on a mortgage. But in 2016–2017, mass detentions of Kazakhs began in Kunes. Even we who lived in China did not know about that. The people were so scared that they stopped telling each other the truth. We called our relatives in Kunes and asked: “Are you all right?” But they were afraid and said nothing. They said no more than “everything is fine.” Even one of Yerzhan’s sisters, who was the mayor of the city, working in high positions. She herself was in the middle of red politics and could not say a word to us. This shows how secretive and planned the political campaign of the Communist Party was, which began in 2017.
Mass arrests of Kazakhs, Uyghurs and representatives of indigenous peoples began and then they were sent to the so-called transformation through education camps. Nobody wants to know anyone, people have become afraid of their own shadows. That was the terrible policy of the CCP.
At the beginning of 2018, after Ayaru, I got pregnant again. But the Communist Party village officials of Kensu village warned us that we have no right to have a second child and that it was against the law of planned pregnancy and if we disobeyed the order, we would be called to responsibility. They made me have an abortion.
On the day of my discharge from the hospital, I received a call from Yerzhan’s younger brother, who lived in the village of Kensu in Kunes county. My younger brother-in-law was the head of the village. “Sister-in-law, you need to come to Kensu tomorrow and sign one document.” I said, “Okay, I will.” The next morning, at six o’clock in the morning, while I was getting ready to go, someone knocked on the door. Yerzhan opened the door, and two Han policemen were standing there. “Ulnur, we are arresting you. Here is an order. We have come to take you away,” they said briefly. It was terrifying to look at their unflappable faces. It was useless to speak to, they did not care about all our exhortations. Leaving my two-year-old daughter with my husband, I had to walk ahead of the law enforcement officers…
Torture in a transformation through education camp
The policemen handcuffed me like a criminal and brought me to Kunes.
—We will send you to a vocational school.
—Why should I go? I will not go!—I said.
—Let’s go there!—said one of the guards. It was the Bestobe rural police department of Kunes county.
“We’ll see what crime you have at the database,” said a Chinese guard. The investigator indicated the phone numbers of three people.
—How do you know these people?—he asked.
One of the three people mentioned was my elder brother-in-law’s son’s phone number. He was slandered and spent six months in prison. The second phone number belonged to a Uyghur man. I was working in the market at the time. I said that I called him about the goods once. I couldn’t remember whom the third number belonged to. When you work in the market, you have to talk to more than a hundred people a day. How can you remember all of them? I didn’t talk to any of these three people about religion or politics. As for religion and politics, I do not perform the five daily prayers, that is, I do not perform religious rites, and I am also not involved in politics, I was just a market trader. All I did was to talk to these three people. The accusation against me was that I met suspicious people.
When the Chinese Communists investigate, they don’t think you are a human being. After interrogation, they took me to another place and took my fingerprints and filmed my pupils. Then I was taken to the hospital. The doctors examined me and said that I had no health problems. But I had a kidney stone that was about 2 centimeters. Just a week before, I had been examined by doctors in Qulja and got a medical certificate about it. They said that they will remove the stone with a laser. But the doctors who examined me did not even pay attention to it. On the contrary, the size of the stone was reduced to 0.2–0.4 cm.
Then I was taken to the political camp “地址: 新 源 新 城区” in a new district of Kunes county, called “Vocational School—新 源 县 教育 培训 中心.” It was a scary place, surrounded on the outside by a high wall, like the famous Great Wall of China. That place had only the name “school,” but in fact it was a real prison. “And this is what you call a professional center?” I asked in surprise. “Yes,” said the guards. One of the policemen who accompanied me went inside. We stayed, waiting at the gate.
At some point, a policewoman came out from inside. I followed her. She took me to a room and told me to undress. I undressed. She gave other clothes. She cut the laces of my shoes with scissors. She cut my handkerchief and face towel into three pieces and cut off the handle of my toothbrush. She ripped off all the buttons on my jacket. I was the only female detainee that day. The rest were men. We were divided into men and women.
A woman came up to me and said, “I will be your teacher. You will be in the 36th grade.” We again passed high fences like the Great Wall of China. I was walking next to the teacher, and suddenly a young Chinese woman, who was leading us from behind, shouted: “Ulnur, remember! She is your teacher. You are a student! You can’t go in the same line with her.” We went through five or six doors and reached a place called “36 class.” It was a three-story building. We entered a large hall with a thick black door with an iron fence on both sides. We were walking on the left. Before us appeared another iron door. My teacher opened the door with a card she had in her pocket. Another door opened in front of us. I barely got through that door, which was chained with a thick chain, just like the chain that was tied to dogs.
When I went inside, I noticed that everyone in the cell was a woman. Their faces were numb, blackened, like those of firefighters. Their faces were so scary. Among them were both elderly women and young girls who were barely seventeen. There were two girl-students from Kazakhstan among them. According to them, they had residence permits and were required to travel to China once a year. They were imprisoned for not being able to go to China in time and that was the reason they were arrested in August 2017.
That “36th grade” turned out to be a stone prison. There were several cameras in one hall. We were 21 people in one cell. At some point, someone warned us: “The inspector is coming, sit down, sit down.” Cellmates showed how to sit. The inspectors were a group of people led by a Uyghur man. One of them asked, “Is there anyone who hasn’t eaten?” I didn’t know the local laws yet, because I was a newer. “I haven’t eaten,” I replied in Chinese. I speak Chinese fluently, because it is obligatory to speak only Chinese. Then the Uyghur man left. Another Uyghur woman in charge came to us and started to shout at me, “Are you insane? You haven’t come here without guilt. Do not raise your voice! Do not speak with confidence or unhesitatingly! You are a prisoner!” But I burst into tears “I’m not guilty! You brought me to prison illegally…”
I was a person who had left the house at half past seven in the morning and was very tired, wandering all day for various interrogations. I had just begun to doze off when someone called out: “Ulnur, get out of bed, you will be on guard!” According to camp rules, everyone must be a guard for two hours a day. While on guard, I noticed that there were four cameras and a voice recorder in the four corners of the room. A toilet and bathroom were in one room. The prisoners took a shower once a week.
Then one day they put me on a chair and tied my hands and feet so that I could not move for 24 hours. That was just the start of the investigation. I was accused of contacting suspicious people. I insisted on my own: “I only talked to them about trade, I won’t sign anything!” I’m fluent in Chinese. I did not want to be a victim of their slander, so I resisted. They didn’t give me food, they didn’t even let me go to the toilet. “Sign the paper,” they shouted. For 24 hours I was threatened with various harsh words.
“We will hang you. You’ll be chained up like this and you won’t get out of here until you sign the paper. Everyone is divided into different groups here. We will add you to the group of those who committed the most serious crimes. The torture here is very cruel and you will not survive,” they said. Out of fear, I was forced to sign. If I didn’t sign, it seemed to me that I would die in chains. Then I signed any paper they brought, did what they said to do, and whatever they asked me to write.
I also began to write on behalf of those older women who could not write in Chinese. They tortured older women who could neither speak nor write Chinese, taught them Chinese every day, and forced them to write Chinese characters. We were divided into “Gau ji ban,” “Zhong ji ban,” “Fu ji ban” classes. That means high, middle and low classes. I went to high school. After a few days, I was transferred to another cell. I was sitting there with the Uyghur women. We were 20 people in the cell. Our bed was a two-storey iron bed. 2–3 persons on the bottom bunk and one person on the top bunk. The cell area is only about 20 square meters. The toilet was inside the cell. Everything in the room was recorded on cameras that were placed around the entire perimeter of the open roof. There was a listening device inside. Nobody could say anything to anyone. Every morning, at 5 o’clock, we were woken up, each of us was dressed in military uniform and taught a Chinese “red party propaganda song.”
We sang songs that praised the Chinese government and the Communist Party. We sang these songs loudly, so, out of anger or to let off steam from despair. In the evenings, we all involuntarily had to carefully listen to Xi Jinping’s Communist propaganda on television. Once a kidney stone moved. I was so hurt, I asked for water, but they didn’t give me. I couldn’t get up. “Let me out!”—I screamed and cried, but for some time they did not let me out of the cell. Then I didn’t have the strength to even cry. They only opened the door to take me to the hospital. I was able to go outside only after a month, and breathe fresh air. The doctors said: “There is no stone, she is lying.” And I was rolling from side to side in pain. Then he told my teacher, “Let this girl drink a lot of boiling water, and then jump up a lot!” He handed me a prescription for kidney pills. “I won’t. You told there is no stone, you are a liar!” I insisted. It turned out that the doctors were afraid too. If they said that a prisoner was ill, the authorities might think that they were helping the prisoner.
Many fates in one prison, in one cell passed in front of my eyes. Which one should I mention? None of them will be forgotten. There was an old woman living in Kensu village of Kunes county. She was sitting in the cell next to our cell. She was a taciturn person. Her husband worked in the village administration, he was an educated person. One day we heard how that woman was screaming loudly and weeping. The Uyghur teacher was shouting, heartrending and ordering: “Beat her! Kick her! Don’t feel sorry for her!” The woman was crying loudly. Later, we learned that the Kazakh woman who was being beaten asked her Uyghur teacher, “Take me outside. I need fresh air. I’m suffocating.” The Uyghur teacher did not like it. Because the Uyghurs who taught us there also wanted to live, they were ready to beat the prisoners for any reason, if only they would earn favor with the Chinese.
The harder they treat the prisoners, the more “points” the teachers have. There was only one Kazakh in the neighboring cell, all the others were Uyghurs. “You didn’t want to obey my rules,” he said and ordered the other Uyghur women in the cell to beat the old woman. After some time, a Kazakh woman, who had been beaten before, was taken out of the neighboring cell. Her hair was loose and her arms and legs were chained. She was severely beaten. They took her out to be taken to the hospital. We saw her up close, her face was smashed. The head of the cell and a young Chinese woman kicked her and the Uyghur teacher yelled at us and gave orders “If you don’t obey, this is what awaits you!” he warned everyone watching from each cell.
That night the woman was out of her mind and seemed demented and shattered. We were all asleep, it was around 2 am. “Get up, get up!” one of the guards ordered us. We lined up in two rows in cell order, put our hands on our heads, and sat for about an hour. Only after that we were allowed to go to bed. The sick woman was chained to a chair for 48 hours. Then they took her away and I still don’t know anything about what happened to her.
I remember another story. There was an elderly Kazakh woman in our cell who had lost her hair and had undergone chemotherapy. She was embarrassed and covered her head with a piece of chintz. The prison staff struggled with her, ripping off this rag from her head. “Take off the rag from your head, religion has eaten your brain. Don’t put a headscarf on your head.” I asked her: “Why are you here? What accusations?” She did not even know and did not understand what charges she had been charged with. “All problems started with a simple phone. I don’t know what I did wrong,” she said with tears in her eyes. It was a simple Nokia mobile phone. It should be an old-fashioned device, in which there are no social networks like WeChat or WhatsApp. There were many such people with such a fate who did not know their guilt.
Once a week, when we went to take a shower, I held her by the elbow. After all, she was a stout woman. She couldn’t wash herself, so I helped her. But the prison staff did not like it. They asked, “Do you pray? Only those who pray help each other? Who is she to you?” I had to write a note on behalf of that woman. I wrote on paper: “Sorry, I’m ignorant, my knowledge is superficial, I want to deepen my knowledge, because I have not studied before!”
One day someone was brought to our prison. As a rule, we put our hands on our heads and looked at the wall. In the corner of my eye I saw that four guards were carrying someone. She was paralyzed, unable to walk. She was taken to our cell. “Don’t get close to her!” they warned us all. Prisoners often tried to commit suicide. We were all grateful to God when we saw the paralyzed woman. After all, we can get up and walk on our own. That person was half dead. We had learned to be grateful when we saw the helpless in suffering.
The real name of the camp is jail. Moreover, it is clear that life in the political camp is hellish. One day we were transferred to another camp. It was “42nd class” and located on the 4th floor. It was a harsh place surrounded by iron. It was colder here than in the previous jail. I had a severe cold. My kidneys began to hurt more, and I fell ill with gynecological diseases. All who served time in the cell suffered from gynecological diseases. Between the cells the walls were of iron mesh and the wind blew day and night.
Some of the women in the same cell were repeatedly taken out for lengthy interrogations. According to the camp schedule, only 3 minutes per week were allotted for calls. I remembered my husband’s number. I phoned him. But he did not answer the phone. Prison officials snatched the phone, saying, “You’ll call next week.” A week later, I called him again. This time he answered the phone.
I felt that my husband had a hard time too. On the day they took me away, he was also threatened: “If you don’t obey us, we will imprison you.” The officials of the administration of the village of Kensu, who knew that I called from the political camp, said: “It’s not for nothing that they are looking for you there. If you don’t want to run into trouble, don’t answer the phone calls!” they pressured him. “Do not call me more!” he said. My heart sank when I heard Yerzhan’s pleading voice.
A week later, I called my sister. She said, “Tell me what you need. I’ll bring you.” The next time I called her again, she repeated my husband’s words. “I think they will take me to the camp too. Do not call me any more.” I heard her sob and how she was choking with tears. Besides them, I had no one else, so I had no choice but to live with it.
One day we were taken from the fourth floor to the prison yard. “You’ll learn how to put out fires!” they told us. We were given a book. We put the book on our heads and went downstairs. We sat still and held the book above our heads for about an hour. I still do not understand what kind of punishment it was. While sitting motionless, I noticed my elder sister-in-law. It turns out she was a teacher at the camp. I couldn’t help crying. She asked me what class I was in and sometimes sent me medicines.
Several days later, a prison officer called me by name. That had never happened before, and I was very frightened. “You’ll go to the assistant camp commander!” he said. It turned out that they were transferring me to another camp. A Uyghur woman named Uriyat, the teacher’s assistant, said: “Hurry, Ulnur! Pack up quickly. You are being transferred to another camp.” I was scared: “Don’t send me anywhere, let me stay here!” I begged. “You will go to the Party school,” she said. “Don’t be afraid!” she said.
For the first time I was in the camp in Zhanakala, Kunes county, for 35 days. Every day, every night passed with torture and fear. Not only me, but about 150 women and girls from the “36th grade,” we all waited every minute with fear. Elderly women were placed in damper and colder places than younger ones. On April 7, I was transferred to a Party school. It was near the former Mother and Child Hospital in Kunes. The Party school was in better condition than the previous camp. But the food was the same as it was prepared for both camps in the same place. The Communist Party had an organization called the “Party School” that brought together government officials and held meetings and conferences. And this Party school also turned into one of the branches of the political prison.
There was a restaurant next to it. And every day in his banquet hall, some kind of feast of the Chinese was held. On the day of the feast there, the camp staff deliberately had been taking us out into the yard and forced us to run around the yard. The Chinese, who came to the celebration, looked at us from the side, as if we were beasts, and shouted with a mockery, “Animals. Lau Hatsa,” that is, they called the Kazakhs “Snotty Kazakhs,” and laughed at us. There were only Kazakhs and Uyghurs in the camp, only one Han Chinese woman and one Dungan woman were among us. They were fed in a special room and taken out of the cell at night. Later we found out from the men that they were agents.
In the “Party School” we were together with educated citizens who worked in the public service. In total there were 168 of us there. There was a separate toilet here. There were fewer video cameras than in the camp, only in the hall. The Chinese have always pitted Kazakhs and Uyghurs against each other and fomented interethnic conflict. Our boss was a Chinese. He always scolded us with dirty words. “You are animals. We opened such a school because there are so many animals like you in society.” We were given 1,500–5,000 Chinese characters a day to write and memorize. We wrote them down and only in this way could we silently pour out our anger on paper.
Since May, my left leg had been hurting. After a while, I began to limp. A month later, I was paralyzed in one leg and one left arm. I got to the point where I could only move with someone’s help. My health worsened. On June 13, I signed some kind of document and was taken out of the camp. I was brought to the city of Kunes, to the district hospital. Two men dragged me into a scary room, similar to the rooms of the first camp, in which I had previously been imprisoned. This room was called the hospital ward, but it had only the name “ward.” It was a very bad place. Ma Shin-Min, a Dungan, was the civil servant in charge of the camp. He kept me in a solitary cell for 24 hours.
A few days later my mother arrived from Kazakhstan. She entered the room, she was allowed to stay only one hour. There was a guard nearby. The husband entered the room after my mother. He was jealous of me for the person guarding me. “Listen, I’m tired of all the interrogations and investigations, I can’t stand the pressure anymore, and you are in the same room with this man,” he said. Even Yerzhan’s sisters began to suspect me. I was devastated when my loved ones did not understand me and all my suffering.
One day the Dungan keeper disappeared. Analyzing the humiliating moments in my memory, I think that he deliberately quit his job and left me alone in the ward. That night is one in my life I will never forget. A tall, burly Chinese man raped me in the night. When I tried to shout and call someone, he covered my mouth with his hand. Half paralyzed, I couldn’t resist. From his actions it was clear that he had not drunk vodka and deliberately came to rape. He did whatever he wanted with me and tore my body to pieces. “I will file a complaint against you,” I called out. “If you write a statement and tell someone, then you will not be able to see your child, husband or relatives. I am a Party member and a Chinese. And you are some kind of Kazakh that no one will look for. The Communist Party won’t listen to criminals like you. And I am an honest servant of the state. The Party believes in me,” he said, by staring me in the eyes. Then he put my clothes on me and left as if nothing had happened. I don’t even know the name of the rapist who appeared from nowhere, raped me and disappeared. But to this day, I still have fear.
On June 29, I was released from the hospital and taken to the Party School camp. But I did not fully recover. I could only walk leaning against the wall. I began to be disappointed with life. I felt a lot more guilt about my husband as if I were a dirty woman. I met him a month later, at the end of July. There was a special room for meetings of married couples. Only those with a marriage certificate could enter. I couldn’t call Yerzhan for a while, I suffered a lot. How can I look into his eyes. But on July 24, Yerzhan himself came to me with our daughter. The guards mockingly said, “We will take care of your daughter. You can go to the room together.” Yerzhan answered them: “No, this is my wife, the mother of my daughter. I can’t humiliate her like that in this dump, I’m not a dog.”
The husband used to say that he would return to Khorgos. But he was detained by employees of the local department of the village of Kensu and the police, not allowing him to leave and said: “You are still needed here, our investigation has not yet been completed.” It was the morning of August 13th. The prison officer called my name out of 168 people. I went.
“Did your husband have any illnesses?” the warden asked me. “No, he didn’t. He never got sick.” I said that he was always in good health. “Then call your husband immediately,” told he. While I was dialing the number, I heard my name on the walkie-talkie and distinctly heard the man said in Chinese: “Ulnur’s husband Yerzhan is dead.” And then I didn’t remember anything else. I lost consciousness.
Due to my husband’s death, I was taken to the funeral. I fainted again and again. It was as if I heard my father’s voice. I could barely open my eyes. My father, my dear father sat in front of me with tears in his eyes and wept bitterly. “My child, you are young! I’d rather die before you! What is happening to you? Watch out, honey! Be strong, to whom will you leave your daughter Ayaru?!” he wailed.
I don’t know why my Yerzhan died. On July 19, we were given a piece of paper with the words “He died of a heart attack.” I knew that his heart was all right. When he came to the hospital, he cried and said that he was tired of the investigation, slander, interrogation, pressure, and said that he wanted to die. He had never cried in front of me before. He wasn’t a weakling. In my opinion, he could not stand the repeated interrogations, tortures and humiliations of local activists. He died from that pressure, his innocent heart could not stand the black slander.
It is difficult for an innocent person to justify himself. I have experienced it myself. One day, they gathered the same slandered people as me. They were interrogated by two men and two women. But that time no one was released. Two or three weeks later, on September 15, to be exact, an investigator arrived from Urumqi. He called us one by one into the room. When my turn came, I went into, too.
It was a middle-aged Chinese. There was a table in the middle, with chairs on either side. The investigator was sitting on a chair, I went in and sat on a chair opposite him. The Chinese man who was supposed to interrogate me lifted my chin and said admiringly, “How beautiful you are!” I replied: “If you come closer, I will scream! My husband has just died, I am in mourning, not even forty days have passed.” And he whispered: “Don’t scream like that! If you ever have sex with me, I’ll let you out of here right away. Your fate is in my hands,” he chuckled maliciously. I burst out in tears from fear. “Don’t humiliate me like that! My parents are in Kazakhstan. I have no one here but my only daughter,” I begged him. And that Chinese from Urumqi, who came to decide our fate, did not even hear me. He tried to take me to bed. I pushed him off my chest and ran out of the room. With that, the interrogation with questions and answers that day was over.
On the evening of September 22, several people, including the head of the Kunes county and the heads of other institutions, came to the “Party School” and opened the meeting. “You will be released from here. But we categorically forbid you to take even a piece of paper with you and tell anyone about what happened here! If you don’t, we will arrest you again. But then you won’t see freedom anymore!” They gave us a strong warning.
Thus, on September 24, I was released from a long period of torture and sleepless nights. But even after that, life was not a paradise for me. Although I returned home to Khorgos, I went to the local department every day to report my whereabouts and attended several hours of political lessons. They kept following my movements through their agents. Even now, despite the fact that I am a citizen of Kazakhstan, people from the Chinese authorities are still calling, asking annoying questions and trying to put pressure on me, I am very tired and fed up with such a life.
After I was sent to the camp, my late husband could not stand the pressure of the government, that is, he had to quit his job, and as he lost his job he was unable to pay his mortgage on time. Because of my imprisonment, I was mired in debt of hundreds of thousands of yuan due to the expiration of cosmetics in the warehouse, which had to be delivered abroad in time. I could not continue my previous work, in particular, trade at the China-Kazakh joint central market, because the authorities did not give me my documents back. The damned Chinese Communist Party killed my husband and ruined our relationship with the deceased husband’s relatives. After I was released from prison, they looked at me with horror and blamed me for the death of Yerzhan, and the things went weird with my husband’s relatives.
On August 10, 2019, 11 months after my release from prison, I finally returned to Kazakhstan with my daughter. Later, I found out the reason of my being released from the concentration camp. My parents, brother and sister-in-law in Kazakhstan met with members of the Nagyz Atajurt human rights organization, whose leader was Serikzhan Bilash at that time, in Almaty. They explained my situation to him, and on his advice, my relatives wrote a statement and complained to the whole world, exposing the CCP’s politics and the genocide against the native population of Xinjiang. If my relatives had kept silent, fearing the Chinese threat, I would not have left the camp alive.
To this day, the Chinese government monitors immigrants in Kazakhstan, even those who got citizenship of Kazakhstan, collecting information about them and even getting an access to their phone numbers, calling and threatening them to remain silent about the situation of their relatives left in Xinjiang. Many people who immigrated to Kazakhstan have their close relatives in Xinjiang who, for various reasons, cannot come to Kazakhstan, much less move to a permanent place of residence. The Chinese authorities periodically call and intimidate them that they can send their relatives to prison or camps if they start looking for their relatives or turn to human rights organizations. This is why many Xinjiang residents are afraid to file open complaints and appeals at the international level.
Before coming here, I was treated at the Ana-Bala and Dostyk hospitals in Qulja. Based on the results of the medical test, I was diagnosed with syphilis. My test data is in the database of these hospitals. I got syphilis from that Chinese who raped me in the hospital room. Arriving in Almaty, I was treated for a long time and fully recovered from syphilis. But my left leg and arm always go numb. Below the knee, the leg is always cold. At night I wake up from terrible dreams and I can’t calm down from anxiety for a long time. If I am very happy about something or, on the contrary, I am frightened, my body instantly goes numb.
As for my current situation, the administration of the rural party of the village of Kensu in Kunes county, continues to harass me via WeChat, although, nowadays I am a citizen of Kazakhstan. Also, I can’t find a job anywhere in Kazakhstan, because I don’t know the Russian language: no matter how strange it sounds, it’s not enough to know the native Kazakh language in Kazakhstan.
I am grateful to the Nagyz Atajurt Human Rights Volunteer Organization and all international human rights organizations and progressive American-European countries where true democracy dominates, which helped me to be released from the political prison of the Chinese Communist regime, and revealed the true face of the Chinese Communist Party and their crimes against humanity with their unbearable torture in concentration camps in Xinjiang. At the age of 33, my nerves are all shot and I have lost my health and suffered various illnesses as a result of the Chinese genocide policy. I will never forget their atrocities. I will not leave the CCP alone and tell the whole truth about the Chinese Communist Party’s artificial politics, torture, rape, human rights violations, and their experiments on people’s health. They deprived me of my health, undermined my nervous system, and killed my husband!
Dear reader, these were the words of my wife, Ulnur Bozhykhan. From them, you know the true face of the policy of the Chinese Communist Party from the history of the past. Apart from other policies, the Cultural Revolution policy pursued by the then Chinese President Mao for 10 years in 1966–1976 reveals many truths.
How did the People’s Republic of China conquer East Turkestan (Xinjiang)? This is described in detail in scientific works and audio-video lectures on the Internet by Serikzhan Bilash, a Kazakh human rights activist and public figure who comprehensively studied the history of East Turkestan, and by others.
China continues the destruction of the indigenous inhabitants of Xinjiang after the occupation of the territory of East Turkestan. During the Cultural Revolution in China, tens of thousands of local representatives of the Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uyghur intellectuals were shot, hanged, imprisoned in jails and in concentration camps in the territory of East Turkestan. Even one of the people who deserved to be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest terms of imprisonment was a citizen of modern Xinjiang, the former East Turkestan Republic. His name remained unknown to the world press. Kazhygumar Shabdan, the author of the six-volume novel Crime, which reveals the crimes of the Chinese government, was sentenced to 41 years in prison. He spent half of his life in a cramped prison cell and in exile. If he had been in Europe or in America, he would have received all the world’s awards for these sufferings.
The story of Ulnur Bozhykhan demonstrates China’s policy of genocide against humanity, in which Kazhygumar Shabdan became a victim in the past, and today Sayragul Sauytbay, Gulzira Auelkhan, Tursunay Ziawudun, all of them innocently suffered from the brutal repression of the CCP. The whole world should know about the evil of the CCP and pass on to the next descendants about the villainy of the totalitarian regimes so that the future generations do not repeat them.