Original article by Nawel Alaoui
Translated from French (www.ouighour.com)
On Friday, September 30, 2022, as part of a meeting organized by the Society for Threatened Peoples, the Payot bookstore in Geneva welcomed two women survivors of Chinese concentration camps. Mrs. Gulbahar Jalilova and Mrs. Gulbahar Haitiwaji lived through the hell of the Chinese internment camps and came to testify in front of the Geneva public. It was a meeting from which one could not leave as one entered.
After the host of the 'Society for Threatened Peoples' introduced the guests and the interpreter who came to translate the testimonies of the two women from Uyghur to French, Mrs. Gulbahar Jalilova took the floor to tell her story. She had a cardboard folder in which she had gathered all the documents attesting to the veracity of her testimony.
Gulbahar Jalilova is not of Chinese nationality, she is a Uyghur but was born and lived in Kazakhstan - her country of nationality. When the Chinese police arrested her, they forced her to sign a letter. Gulbahar Jalilova takes it out of her pocket to show it to us. The letter is in Chinese. The police forced Jalilova to sign the letter without her having understood it. It said that Mrs. Jalilova attests to being a terrorist. Gulbahar Jalilova has never been a terrorist and has had no opportunity to defend herself because there was no trial. The police sent the letter to her children, who contacted international organizations and diplomats from Kazakhstan and Russia to free her.
During her testimony, Gulbahar Jalilova cannot hold back her tears.
While detained, she had to perform numerous medical tests, including a blood test, to see if she was pregnant. Mrs. Jalilova was not, but pregnant women were then obliged to have an immediate abortion.
Gulbahar Jalilova found herself in a cell with up to 50 other women. She was tied from her hands to her feet, with her feet shackled together. For the Geneva public can understand, she gets up from her chair and bends over, demonstrating the position the chains constrained her.
The women with whom Gulbhar Jalilova shared her cell were between 14 and 80. “How could these 14-year-olds be terrorists?, asked Ms. Gulbahar Jalilova in tears. From the same cardboard folder, she takes out a notebook in which she has written in ink the names and professions of each girl and woman with whom she shared the cell: 67 women in total.
Several times a year, interned women received injections without knowing what they were. However, after the dose, many noticed they no longer had their periods. Interned women were frequently raped - often daily. Gulbahar Jalilova, with hands resting on her belly, tells us that she too was a victim.
Thanks to numerous letters sent by her family to Russia, Kazakhstan, and the United Nations Human Rights Council, Gulbahar Jalilova was finally released from Chinese internment camps after one year and three months of detention. She went directly to take refuge in Turkey but finally continued on her way to France where she currently lives.
It is Mrs. Gulbahar Haitiwaji's turn to speak. Mrs. Haitiwaji was detained for three years in a Chinese concentration camp.
Ms. Gulbahar Haitiwaji is an Uyghur and had been living in France for twelve years. One day her former Chinese employer contacted her and asked her to return to China to sign papers relating to her retirement. Once there, she was trapped.
Upon her arrest, the officials forced her to sign a document certifying that she had committed a public disorder. She never did anything like this, nor did she have the opportunity to prove her innocence, as there was no trial.
The officials forced her to have numerous medical tests, including a pregnancy test. Mrs. Gulbahar Haitiwaji was not pregnant. Had she been, they would have taken her with all the other women in the same situation to a place specially designed to force them to have abortions.
Twice a year, the police came to give injections to her and the other women sharing her cell without knowing what the injection was. After these injections, they no longer had their periods. Women were sterilized without their consent and, above all, without their knowledge.
Ms. Gulbahar Haitiwaji was tied to a bed for two months unable to move. After losing 15 kg in the first internment camp, she was deported to another camp due to her failing health. There the conditions were "less bad". There, the police officers watched her 24 hours a day.
When she spoke with her family via video call, the guards anticipated the questions her family would ask her and told her in advance what to reply. If - during the conversation - anyone in her family asked an unexpected question, a guard stood behind the camera and wrote on paper the answer she should give.
Gulbahar Haitiwaji has finally been released thanks to French diplomatic efforts. Since the publication of her book, she has been unable to contact her family back home. All contact has been cut off.
Thank you to Mrs. Gulbahar Jalilova and Mrs. Gulbahar Haitiwaji for your poignant testimonies and courage. We will not forget your words, your suffering, and your stories. We are not leaving this meeting as we entered it. We take the shared suffering with us.
Thank you, Asgar Can, the former vice-president of the World Uyghur Congress and current president of the Union of Eastern Turkestan in Europe, for being present during the testimony of Mrs. Gulbahar Jalilova and Mrs. Gulbahar Haitiwaji, and for defending human rights and freedom of the Uyghur people, as well raising awareness in Europe about the atrocities taking place in East Turkestan.
Finally, thank you to the Society for Threatened Peoples for organizing this meeting, and thank you to the Librairie Payot for welcoming us.