She Survived China's Attempt to Erase Her

“We have been through horrific things, but I’m still proud of being Uyghur," says Tursunay Ziyawudun, a survivor of China's torture camps.


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Tursunay Ziyawudun is part of the Turkic ethnic group known as the Uyghurs. They are largely Muslims who mostly live in the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang. There are about 12.8 million Uyghurs who live there, and human rights groups say that many have become victims of crimes against humanity at the hands of the Chinese government. China is guilty of committing "genocide" against the Uyghurs, according to a British tribunal. There are over 1 million Uyghurs in Chinese re-education camps, where many have reported sexual abuse and even forced sterilization.

Ziyawudun says she spent 11 months in jail for no stated reason. She reports that she was sexually assaulted and tortured during that period.

Communist Party officials have attributed their treatment of the Uyghurs to the fight against terrorism. In 2008, the region suffered multiple terrorist attacks linked to the East Turkestan independence movement, which is a faction within the Uyghur community that wants Xinjiang to separate from China and to form its own state. 

But Human Rights advocates say that terrorism is just an excuse. In reality, these advocates argue, the Chinese government has oppressed the Uyghurs as part of its push for radical conformity. Chinese officials describe the camps as focused on "re-education" and career training. In 2017, when the crackdown intensified, Uyghurs were targeted for wearing head scarfs, for abstaining from drinking alcohol, and for displaying "abnormal behavior" like purchasing dumbbells.

Some attribute the Chinese government's push for conformity to capitalism, and to Beijing's desire to staff its factories, increase production, and surpass the U.S. on the global stage.  But the Chinese Communist Party says its goal is to build a "Modern Socialist Country," not a capitalist one. Capitalism is about diversity and allowing citizens to prosper as individuals. It's the antithesis of coercion and uniformity. Most of the world's most successful companies were founded in the U.S. because of that freedom. Think Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, Tesla, and Facebook, which is banned in China. 

China seeks to impose one identity, culture, and language on all of its 1.37 billion people, erasing that which does not conform. When command and control societies seek to impose uniformity—from the policies of Mao to those of Lenin and Stalin—those societies inevitably abuse human rights in the process. 

Ziyawudun says that she felt as if the Chinese government set out to eradicate her culture and ethnicity.

The Chinese government has ever more sophisticated tools of surveillance at its disposal. And it allegedly provides local authorities with lists that detail how to identify extremists. In Ziyawudun's case, she says she was arrested when she returned to Xinjiang from Kazakhstan, where she had been living with her Khazak husband. She had come back to renew her visa.

Ziyawudun says she was released after her husband advocated on her behalf. She made it to the U.S. in 2020 under the protection of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, an organization that seeks to promote the rights of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims from Xinjiang.

Today, Ziyawudun lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. She says that her heart aches for her family and for the Uyghurs back home, millions of whom are still being imprisoned, tortured, and surveilled in their most private spaces, including their "living rooms, dining areas, and prayer spaces," according to one report.

Although the U.S. has condemned the mistreatment of the Uyghurs, and government officials are boycotting the Beijing Olympics in protest, America has admitted zero new Uyghur refugees in the last two years. Welcoming foreigners like Ziyawudun is what has allowed the U.S. to avoid becoming a monoculture, and our diversity of thought and experience is the secret to the success of American capitalism. China's erasing of Uyghur culture and its efforts to surveil, imprison, and torture the Uyghur people in pursuit of becoming the leading global superpower isn't just morally abhorrent; it won't work. 

Written and Produced by Noor Greene, edited by Isaac Reese, camera by Isaac Reese, Meredith Bragg, and Mike Koslap. Audio by Ian Keyser. 

Photo Credit: Wanshanchao/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Angelo Cavalli/robertharding/Newscom, Sam Tsang/SCMP/Newscom, © Fine Art Images/Heritage AiWire/Newscom, Kyodo/Newscom, Dickson Lee/ZUMA Press/Newscom, xinhua / Xinhua News Agency/Newscom, akg-images/Newscom, Todd Lee/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom, Willie Siau/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Pictures From History/Newscom, Pictures From History/Newscom, Belinda Jiao/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

Music: Life By Kevin Graham, Artlist. 


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    1. That covers 95% of the shit he writes.

      1. Needs more self-pity.

    2. There's no doubt that Charlie Koch does indeed benefit majorly from China's slave labor. But at some point his greed won't save him.

    3. Woah! sarcasmic just became self-awar... wait a second...


      True story. *lifts glass*

    4. "GLABALISM"? Is that an economic polocy with a lot of "HAPERINFLATION"?

  3. She should be thankful she isn’t also a tennis player.

  4. Is there any doubt whatsoever of the malevolent nature of China's communist party? They must be opposed at every turn, and ultimately defeated entirely.

    1. This is not likely to happen as long as the DNC votes down any and all resolutions, bills or other measures to hold China accountable. Making it worse, the US populace is largely ignorant or misinformed due to dishonest media coverage -when to mainstream sees fit to cover the topic at all. And the left-leaning and progressive population are in no rush to give up their iphones, other consumer goods, to make a stand over actual slave labor, when they can rant about the historic impact of slavery in the US.

      1. The DNC, America's leftists, rightists, iphone buyers are irrelevant. If China's current regime is to be overturned, it will be because of the Chinese people, who've been far more successful over the centuries at regime change than Americans have been.

        The Uyghur's problem is isolation from the mainstream Han who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population. Even in the far west mutual antipathy between the Uyghur and Tibetans make common cause more difficult.

        1. Tricky to overthrow a brutal dictatorship with all the guns, surveillance, reeducation camps, torture camps, media, etc etc that has the organisation and willingness to kill/imprison whoever and however many needed.

          Certainly not without massive help from an outside country

          1. Iranians managed it without outside help. They did it thanks to the solidarity of the business community, leftists, the military and clerics. But you're right it's tricky and costly.

            Trade sanctions only seem to work against regimes like South Africa and Israel that are intent on aping the Western democracies. This doesn't include China. Another cure-all is arms sales to Taiwan which is similarly impotent.

            1. The Shah didn't have omnipresent cameras, social credit scores and the Ministry of State Security.

              1. Shah had an outfit called SAVAK, 10s of 1000s of them tapping phones, torturing, murdering political opponents. It was no walk in the park. But China is not Iran and the Chinese will have to fashion their own opposition to the regime. They've already begun with the 'lying flat' (躺平) movement. Their tactics seem to circumvent the surveillance and security apparatus that the state has relied on. They are non violent, emphasizing non compliance, non participation and anti consumerism. It's an anti-work movement along the lines of Mark Fisher, David Graeber, or Diogenes, if you are into that whole Greek thing.

                1. First, ow did you put Chinese pictogrqms into text? That is amazing!

                  Second. "Lying Flat" sounds like good strategery, whether it's Greek, French, Roman, German, African, or Chinese...but as they say it's "Better Together." 🙂

                  1. "Chinese pictogrqms into text"

                    Just copy and paste. (Firefox browser, Manjaro OS)

  5. Were they buying single dumbbells? The CCP apparently is a fan of Sherlock Holmes.

  6. You don’t have to live in China to be jailed 11 months for no stated reason.

    1. Tank Man didn't exist, of course. But if he had, he would have been a right-wing insurrectionist who got what he had comin'.

      1. I used to have a poster of him on my wall. All we know about him is that he is DEAD! I only hope his death was swift and dignified—-the very least that young man (a student) deserved!

  7. I love that China has been mass murdering, persecuting, enslaving, and organ harvesting Christians, Falun Gong, and Tibetans for most of a century while the world sat around picking its ass and couldn't give a fuck. But what's this now? MUH MOOSLIMS IS BEING PERSECUTED?!?!?!?!

    1. They’ve been doing it to the Uighurs too. That nationality (which, yes, is Muslim) suffered horribly under Mao.

    2. With the Uighurs it's racial rather than religious. With the Christians and Falun Gong it's religious and as long as you don't tip your hat you can go undetected. But the Uighur look different from the Han.

      The Tibetan pogroms were part of military activities and marshal law. The Uighur pogroms are happening in in the absence of any real conflict and are more reminiscent of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.

  8. This is horrid. I hope she’s safe now. Even in America CCP agents arrange “accidents” for expat dissidents, including Uighurs (and the State Department predictably confuses “being diplomatic” with being “mealy mouthed.”

  9. As quickly as the the American people fell on their knees for all the Covid bullshit, so too will the American government fall on their knees for the CCP when it’s required.

  10. One thing worthy of note here: The biggest opp9nents of the persecution of the Muslim Uighurs come from consistently pro-human rights voices in the Secular West. Nations run by Islamic Law and the entire Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) don't have a damn thing to say against persecution of their co-religionists in Red China.

    Nick Cohen says the reason is because Islqmice regimes can't condemn Red China's atrocities without calling attention to their own, which is very true:

    Why Do Muslim States Stay Silent Over China's Uighur Brutality by Nick Cohen

    Yet another reason is that oil-producing Islamic nations have seen that the U.S., Europe, and Israel are capable of energy independence, so the oil-producing Islamic nations can no longer rely upon the West for oil revenue. Hence, they are turning to Red China for oil revenues and thus are hesitant to criticize their new economic superpower customer.

    Also, as mentioned in the article above Red China's Belt and Road Initiative promises to benefit Islamic regimes with trade and investment, so, again, the Islamic regimes won't speak up for Muslim co-religionists against Red China. One Iron-Fisted Hand washes another.

  11. Thanks for imparting so little information about this woman's actual experiences in a Chinese prison camp, and instead giving us a geo-political history lesson about China, the Uyighurs, and the CCP.

  12. when I first heard about this persecution, I thought China was persecuting WIGGERS and was like "even commies get it right sometimes"

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