Bitter Winter campaigned for preventing the deportation back to China of this heroic ethnic Kazakh woman, who escaped the Xinjiang camps and fled to Kazakhstan. Now, she is honored as she deserves.
by Massimo Introvigne
On March 4, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and First Lady Melania Trump honored the “Women of Courage 2020” in Washington DC. Among those who received the awards was Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh woman who escaped the dreaded transformation through education camps in 2018 and reached Kazakhstan.
Bitter Winter has followed the story of Sayragul Sauytbay since its beginnings. On August 6, 2018, we reported that a Kazakh judge had stopped her deportation to China, after she had crossed the border between China and Kazakhstan with a false passport on May 21, 2018, and was arrested. Her husband and children were already in Kazakhstan.
The CCP, however, did not give up. First came the news that several members of her family still in China had been arrested. This is a familiar routine of retaliation when refugee cases are publicized by the media. Then, as Sauytbay revealed, she started receiving threats against her and her children.
Death and other threats continued against both Sauytbay, her lawyer, Ayman Umarova. The leader of a Kazakh human right organization that had campaigned in favor of Sauytbay’s asylum, Serikhzan Bilash, was placed under house arrest. He had since been released, but prevented from speaking in public.
Sauytbay was repeatedly denied asylum in Kazakhstan, and received several mafia-style warning that she should stop talking with foreign media about the horrific reality of the transformation through education camps, or her children would suffer the consequences.
On June 3, 2019, Sauytbay took a plane to Sweden, and has been granted asylum there. She is now a free woman, and an example for all those who refuse to be intimidated by the CCP, and tell the truth about their experiences in the horrific Xinjiang camps. Bitter Winter is proud of having supported her.