A Uyghur woman who has been held in internment camps in China’s Xinjiang region has arrived safely in the United States, a Uyghur human rights group said on Saturday, ending a period of several months of uncertain whether she would be forcibly repatriated to China from her home in Kazakhstan.
Tursunay Ziyawudun originally moved to Kazakhstan with her Kazakh husband, after spending 10 grueling months locked up without ever being charged with a crime. But last year, the Kazakh government told her she would have to return to China to apply for a new visa as part of a procedural matter. Coming back to the country would probably have meant that she would be detained again.
BuzzFeed News reported his case in February.
“We are extremely relieved that Tursunay is now safe in the United States,” Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, said in a statement, saying that she had already arrived safely and that her organization had it. was helping to settle down. and access medical treatment for a serious health problem.
China has detained over a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in mass internment camps since late 2016, according to independent estimates. The government said the detentions were for “vocational training”, but former detainees, including Ziyawudun, made it clear that they were forcibly taken to camps and said they suffered humiliations. , hunger, beatings and regular interrogations, among other abuses.
The Chinese government claimed in December that those who had completed the “vocational training” program had “graduated,” but a recent BuzzFeed News survey instead found that the construction of large internment camps and purpose-built prisons is underway.
Ziyawudun’s lawyer said she believed the media coverage helped her case.
“Her situation demanded that her story be made public,” Aina Shormanbayeva, Ziyawudun’s lawyer in Kazakhstan, told BuzzFeed News.
Ziyawudun is one of a small number of former detainees who have left China and have spoken publicly about their experiences. The Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project said his house was burnt down “under suspicious circumstances” in February, after starting to talk about its story. (Ziyawudun’s lawyer confirmed that his house was burnt down at the time.)
She then traveled to Istanbul for medical treatment, Shormanbayeva said, before receiving permission to travel to the United States. She is still in the process of applying for refugee status in Kazakhstan, but Shormanbayeva said there were doubts that the Kazakh government would grant her that status.
But, she added, the risk of Ziyawudun being forcibly returned to China has disappeared.
“I hope that in the United States she will be safe,” her lawyer said.