Uyghur people say China forced them to have abortions, bulldozed their houses and tortured them

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Uyghur exiles fleeing China say they were forced to have abortions while heavily pregnant, tortured and forced to inform relatives, and their homes were bulldozed if they were found to have more children than allowed.

The horrifying accounts are of three exiles living in Turkey who will testify tomorrow before a London tribunal investigating whether Beijing’s actions amount to genocide.

They include a mother of four who had to abort her fifth child when she was six and a half months pregnant, a former obstetrician-gynecologist who witnessed houses collapse when mothers had too many babies, and a man who was beaten and tortured by soldiers. who wanted information about his brother.

The tribunal, which is not supported by the British government, is chaired by Geoffrey Nice QC, famous for his prosecution in The Hague of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Kosovo.

The China Tribunal is non-binding, but hopes the evidence it hears will spur international action to address alleged abuses in Xinjiang province against the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group.

Mother of four Bumeryem Rozi (pictured in Istanbul on Tuesday), said authorities in Xinjiang arrested her along with other pregnant women for aborting her fifth child in 2007.  She said she obeyed because she feared authorities would have confiscated her home and belongings and put her family at risk.

Mother of four Bumeryem Rozi (pictured in Istanbul on Tuesday), said authorities in Xinjiang arrested her along with other pregnant women for aborting her fifth child in 2007. She said she obeyed because she feared authorities would have confiscated her home and belongings and put her family at risk.

Detainees listen to speeches at a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, China

Detainees listen to speeches at a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, China

Detainees listen to speeches at a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, China

A person stands in a tower on the edge of the No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in West China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021

A person stands in a tower on the edge of the No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in West China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021

A person stands in a tower on the edge of the No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in West China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021

Bumeryem Rozi, said authorities in Xinjiang arrested her along with other pregnant women to abort her fifth child in 2007. She said she obeyed because she feared authorities would have confiscated her home and belongings and put her family at risk.

‘I was six and a half months pregnant… The police came, one Uyghur and two Chinese. They put me and eight other pregnant women in cars and took us to the hospital,” Rozi, 55, told the AP from her home in Istanbul.

“They gave me a pill first and told me to take it. So I did. I didn’t know what it was,’ she continued. “Half an hour later they put a needle in my stomach. And some time after that I lost my child.’

Semsinur Gafur, a former obstetrician-gynecologist who worked at a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s, said she and other female clinicians went from house to house with a mobile ultrasound machine to check if someone was pregnant.

“If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the house… They would flatten and destroy the house,” Gafur said. “This was my life there. It was very disturbing. And because I worked in a state hospital, people didn’t trust me. The Uyghur people saw me as a Chinese traitor.’

A third Uyghur exile, Mahmut Tevekkul, said he was captured and tortured in 2010 by Chinese authorities who questioned him for information about one of his brothers. Tevekkul said the brother was wanted in part for having published a religious book in Arabic.

Tevekkul described being beaten and punched in the face during the interrogation.

“They put us on a tile floor, handcuffed our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe. There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until morning and then they took us to the maximum security area of ​​the prison,” he said.

The tribunal is the latest attempt to hold China responsible for alleged human rights violations against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkish minorities.

Members of the Uyghur community living in Turkey protest at the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Members of the Uyghur community living in Turkey protest at the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Members of the Uyghur community living in Turkey protest at the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Semsinur Gafur, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey.  Gafur, a former obstetrician-gynecologist who worked at a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s, said she and other female doctors used to go from house to house with a mobile ultrasound machine to check if someone was pregnant.

Semsinur Gafur, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey.  Gafur, a former obstetrician-gynecologist who worked at a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s, said she and other female doctors used to go from house to house with a mobile ultrasound machine to check if someone was pregnant.

Semsinur Gafur, an ethnic Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey. Gafur, a former obstetrician-gynecologist who worked at a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s, said she and other female doctors used to go from house to house with a mobile ultrasound machine to check if someone was pregnant.

“If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the house… They would flatten and destroy the house,” Gafur said. “This was my life there. It was very disturbing. And because I worked in a state hospital, people didn’t trust me. The Uyghur people saw me as a Chinese traitor.’

According to researchers, an estimated 1 million people or more – most of them Uyghurs – have been detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang in recent years. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labour, systematic forced birth control and torture, and separating children from incarcerated parents.

Beijing flatly rejected the allegations. Officials have characterized the camps, which they say are now closed, as vocational training centers to teach Chinese language, vocational skills and the law to support economic development and fight extremism. China saw a spate of Xinjiang-related terror attacks until 2016.

The organizers of the hearings said the Chinese authorities have ignored requests to participate in the proceedings. The Chinese embassy in London has not responded to requests for comment, but officials in China have said the tribunal was set up by “anti-Chinese forces” to spread lies.

“There is no such thing as genocide or forced labor in Xinjiang,” the region’s government spokesman Elijan Anayat told reporters on Thursday. “If the tribunal insists on going its own way, we would express our strong condemnation and opposition and we will be forced to take countermeasures.”

In April, the British parliament followed that of Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada by declaring that Beijing’s policies against the Uyghurs amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. The US government has done the same.

But Nice, the lawyer who heads the tribunal, said those declarations of genocide have so far come with limited analysis of evidence about the intentions behind the Chinese government’s policies.

“It is the mental state of those organs (of the Chinese government) that must be examined or established and proven if genocide is ever established,” Nice said. “It’s pretty clear that purpose and intent will be critical.”

Mahmut Tevekkul, an ethnic Uyghur who fled China to Turkey, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese authorities who questioned him for information about one of his brothers.  “They put us on a tile floor, handcuffed our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe.  There were six soldiers guarding us.  They interrogated us until morning and then they took us to the maximum security area of ​​the prison,

Mahmut Tevekkul, an ethnic Uyghur who fled China to Turkey, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese authorities who questioned him for information about one of his brothers.  “They put us on a tile floor, handcuffed our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe.  There were six soldiers guarding us.  They interrogated us until morning and then they took us to the maximum security area of ​​the prison,

Mahmut Tevekkul, an ethnic Uyghur who fled China to Turkey, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese authorities who questioned him for information about one of his brothers. “They put us on a tile floor, handcuffed our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe. There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until morning and then they took us to the maximum security area of ​​the prison,” he said.

Nice was one of nine British citizens sanctioned by China in March for spreading “lies and misinformation” about the country.

The move came after the UK and other Western governments took similar measures against China for its treatment of the Uyghurs.

The lawyer said he was not intimidated, but admitted that the sanctions have led some participants to withdraw from the tribunal.

The organizers also said they had been targeted by cyber-targeting. They had to increase security at the event after about 500 free tickets to the hearings were booked by people with fake email addresses.

While her fellow exiles said they agreed to testify to seek justice, Rozi, the woman who reported the forced abortion, said she was motivated to speak out for a more personal reason. Her youngest son has been incarcerated since 2015, when he was just 13, and she hopes the work of the tribunal will one day help him achieve his freedom.

“I want my son to be released as soon as possible,” she said. “I want him released.”

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