Select table of victim and relative testimony

Last updated: January 5, 2021

Below is a running table I update as I encounter news or other coverage of a particular victim. It is not by any means intended to be comprehensive. Note that this pales in comparison to the extensive records maintained at Xinjiang Victims Database, which contains well over 10,000 entries. The "salient allegations" column is intended to provide a rough categorization of detentions based on one or more notable features of mass incarceration and internment in Xinjiang, namely:

  • That the government targets culturally prominent individuals, including intellectuals, academics, artists, and others who celebrate Uyghur culture, even moderately and within what were previously acceptable bounds;
  • That detention has entailed medical distress and/or maltreatment for detainees with health problems;
  • That detainees faced serious physical abuse and/or torture while held at internment camps;
  • That detainees are often taken for reasons unknown to themselves or their families, because the grounds for detention are incredibly broad and arbitrary;
  • That detainees are often taken based on the actions of family members, or detained as a family unit;
  • That detainees were coerced or outright forced to undergo sterilization procedures;

Selected victims

NameEthnicitySummarySalient allegationsTestimony typeLinkMedium
Rahile Dawut
Uyghur
Rahile was a prolific scholar of Uyghur folklore and culture. She has been missing for three years after reportedly being ordered to Beijing in December 2017. Her case has been covered prominently by international media (see e.g. here in The Diplomat). Her daughter, Akida Pulat, told Darren Byler in an interview: "Sometimes I tell my Chinese friends that my mother is missing and it feels like they don’t believe me. When I post testimony videos or interviews many Han people tell me that I am telling lies. They say, ‘Your mom must be a terrorist.’ I believe that many people have humanity at their core. They just don’t know what is actually happening in Northwest China. I don’t think most Chinese people know that it is happening. You can’t hear anything about it from the media they are used to. If they hear it is happening from the Western media, they think it is just them trying to humiliate China. If they knew, they would say this is wrong. I hope that this is true. First they have to understand that this is happening. They are detaining innocent Uyghurs. I tell my Han friends they don’t need to say something for my mother. But it is true that innocent people are being detained. I would stand up for anyone who is innocent. This is what I believe in." You can also see a short video by Akida here.
Cultural targeting
by relative
Interview
Mayila Yakufu
Uyghur
As relayed by Mayila's cousin Nyrola Elima, now living in Sweden. Mayila triggered red flags when she began transferring money to Australia, where other family of hers lived. "First, the 41-year-old insurance company worker was taken away for 10 months of “vocational training” in one of the internment camps China has set up in the mostly-Muslim Xinjiang region as part of an extensive campaign to strip the Uighur minority of its culture and language. She was out for barely four months before the authorities picked her up again — this time for financing terrorism. Now, the single mother of three is in a prison for criminals, serving a sentence of unknown length."
Family detention
by relative
Article
Family of Afumetto Retepu
Uyghur
Reported by the Japan Times. Retepu is one of a few thousand or so Uyghurs who live in Japan, and is a Japanese citizen. He spoke at a symposium along with nine other Uyghurs. Retepu "told the audience he has lost contact with 12 family members since July 2017, when they vanished and ended up in what China calls 'free vocational centers' designed to 'save' Muslim minorities from the lure of religious extremism." Nine of the ten symposium speakers talked about their families being detained. Another speaker, who is not named, notes that their relative was released with serious medical issues.
Medical issuesFamily detention
by relative
Article
Zumrat Dawut
Uyghur
Dawut tells her story to the Washington Post, stating she was detained for 62 days beginning in March 2018. Her husband, Imran Muhammad, is Pakistani, and she believes she was released quickly because Muhammad used connections to Pakistani diplomats to pressure China. Most notably, however, are Dawut's allegations about sterilization: "She was then told the government was offering her a free, surgical sterilization — a procedure she did not want but was terrified to refuse lest she be detained again." It should be noted that the family is applying for asylum in the United States, and thus has a material motive for their story to be as convincing and concerning as possible, given the often callous restrictions inherent in US immigration law. At the same time, the article notes that Dawut was extremely fearful about publishing the article, and "at one point, she asked that The Post shelve the story because she feared for her family in China." Dawut's account was cited by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech during his September 30-October 2, 2019 visit to the Vatican. On October 13, the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid affiliated with CCP media outlet the People's Daily, published an article about Dawut's brother, who reportedly calls her testimony and Pompeo's speech a fabrication.
Sterilization
firsthand
Article
Saule Kulzhabekkyzy
Kazakh
Kulzhabek Nurdangazyluly, a former Muslim cleric affiliated with the Islamic Association of China, moved to Kazakhstan from China in response to increasing repression. His daughter, Saule, has since been detained without charge. Nurdangazyluly maintains this is because of her association with him.
Family detentionUnknown crime
by relative
Article
Zharkynbek Otan
Kazakh
"... At some point, they asked about my religion, and I told them I prayed five times a day. I told them I was a practicing Muslim. They took me to Ghulja. There the police interrogated me again. The same questions, but this time they beat me. You’ve been to a Muslim state, they said. Why didn’t you take their citizenship? Why are you here? After beating me, they brought me a piece of paper to sign and put my thumbprint on it. Then they took me to the camp."
Abuse or torture
firsthand
Article
Gulzia Nurbek
Kazakh
By Shalkar Bakyt, her nephew: "I don’t know why she was sentenced. I heard it was for religious reasons, so probably she visited an imam at some point. But she wasn’t such an observant Muslim. She didn’t read namaz2. And her husband wasn’t sent to a camp. I don’t know why. He’s left alone to take care of their daughter, so maybe that’s the reason. But why her?"
Unknown crime
by relative
Article
Aishanjiang Kari
Uyghur
As relayed by his wife, Gulshan Manapova, herself an Uzbek citizen: "I came with my husband to Kazakhstan and we opened a shop here. We were just starting our business when he was arrested. He was going to visit some of our factories in Ürümqi. As soon as he entered China, his passport was taken from him. He was brought to Atush, his birthplace. ... He called me to say he was going to be taken to a camp. I don’t know if I’m going to be back or not, he said. He couldn’t say any more. He couldn’t describe his situation. What are you going to do? I asked. Why are you being sent to a camp? To study, he said. But you’re old, I told him. You’re almost fifty. He said that one of his relatives—almost eighty years old—was already studying in the same camp. Age is irrelevant, he said. That was last October. Since then, he’s vanished. I heard he’s in prison now."
Unknown crime
by relative
Article
Isaq Peyzul & Zohre Talip
Uyghur
Account of husband and wife Isaq Peyzul and Zohre Talip, relayed by their daughter, Zulhumar (Humar) Isaac, who now lives in the US and attended Mandarin-medium schooling by choice as a child in Hami, Xinjiang. This piece does not romanticize Uyghur life, and extensively speaks of Humar's frustrations with Uyghur culture, including misogyny and prejudice against the Han. "[Zohre] told Humar they would both have to be careful; they could not express sadness, confusion or anger [about ethnic riots] in front of her party colleagues. If they did, she would be categorized as having minzu qingxu, an emotional attachment to your ethnic group, a mark of political unreliability for a non-Han minority." Zohre was detained in fall 2018 was Humar was in Sweden, where her Han husband was studying at the University of Uppsala. Isaq was taken shortly thereafter.
Surveillance/ProfilingUnknown crime
by relative
Article
Omir Bekali
Kazakh
Bekali describes to AP abuse and torture against those like him who refused to relent from practices deemed extremist by his captors. Includes his direct testimony. "When Bekali, a Kazakh Muslim, refused to follow orders each day, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time. A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement, where he was deprived of food for 24 hours. After 20 days in the heavily guarded camp, he wanted to kill himself."
Abuse or tortureUnknown crimeSurveillance/Profiling
firsthand
Interview
Muherrem Ablet
Uyghur
From her husband, Mamutjam Abdurehim (his Twitter here): "My wife, Muherrem Ablet, was taken away from our home in Kashgar and sent to a government detention camp on April 15, 2017. Our two young children were left behind with our parents."
by relative
Personal essay
Buzainafu Abudourexiti
Uyghur
"A Uighur student, Buzainafu Abudourexiti, 27, was sentenced to seven years in prison in Xinjiang in 2017. Her husband, Almas Nizamidin, a Uighur who migrated to Australia a decade ago, had been trying to secure a visa for her to join him. He said his wife was convicted of assembling a crowd to disturb public order, calling it a trumped-up offense. Her real offense, he said, seemed to be that she had studied in Egypt for two years, a country that China later deemed off limits to Uighurs.“
Family detention
by relative
Article
Relatives of Nurdoukht Khudonazarova Taghdumbashi
Other
Nurdoukht's account is thoroughly political, and while brief, it is powerful. “There haven’t been any responses from my Baba-jaan’s relatives in Kashgar in our family group chat for almost two years now. [...] Increasingly, there were mentions of what was happening to Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in 'Xinjiang' — but mostly for the purpose of contributing to a larger narrative meant to reiterate negative, sensationalist, xenophobic, psychocultural perceptions about China as an economic threat to the United States (and 'the West') in the midst of Trump’s trade war. Nothing was done to uplift the voices of communities calling attention to ongoing state violence. Instead, our suffering was tokenized for an imperialist prerogative.“ "The response from various self-proclaimed left-leaning individuals on the internet with large followings has been to express denialist remarks about the existence of the camps entirely, or to outrightly defend such policies even if doing so contradicts their previous statements in support of prison abolition or against the global Islamophobia industrial complex. Rather than focus on uplifting the voices of impacted communities or developing an analysis of how various voices have been tokenized and politically manipulated in order to promote US military aggression in the name of humanitarian intervention, the denialist response has instead promoted the idea that we are unworthy of transnationalist solidarity."
Family detention
by relative
Personal essay
Ekram and Behram Yarmuhemmed, Husenjan Asqar
Uyghur
Brothers taken to internment camps after being deemed too religious. Account given by their aunt, Gulruy Aqsar, who also details the disappearence of her brother, Husenjan, a linguist. "When Gulruy Asqar first heard that her nephew Ekram Yarmuhemmed had been taken away by the Chinese police, she feared it was her fault. It was 2016, and she had recently moved to the US from Xinjiang, the region in north-west China that is the traditional homeland of her people, the Turkic-speaking Uighurs. ... In fact, a former classmate had reported Yarmuhemmed’s family as being overly religious, resulting in a police search of the family home."
by relative
Article
Family of Nursiman Abdureshid
Uyghur
"For Nursiman Abdureshid, June 15, 2020 is now remembered as the worst day of her life. As the day when, after three years of little to no news, she was finally given official confirmation regarding the fate of her disappeared family in Kashgar. The confirmation was delivered via a phone call from a representative of the Chinese embassy in Ankara to Nursiman in Istanbul, where she now works as a marketing manager at an automotive spare parts company." A recording of the phone call, in Mandarin with English subtitles, is available here.
by relative
Article
Family of Gulaisha Oralbai
Kazakh
Gulaisha, a citizen of Kazakhstan, has lost contact with her two sisters, Bagila and Baktygul Oralbai, and her brother, Dilshat Oralbai; she says that she learned they may be incarcerated but believes they are still likely in camps. Additionally, her mother and other brother, Zhurat, who was previously detained in a camp, are under house arrest. Dilshat was a CCP member and translated literature from Kazakh to Chinese. "While it is not clear which of the three was the first to be detained, Gulaisha had heard that Dilshat, Baktygul and Bagila were in detention in concentration camps by the end of May 2018."
Family detention
by relative
Article
Family of Mehbube Abla
Uyghur
"Global Voices interviewed Mehbube Abla, a 38-year-old Uyghur from Ghulja, a city in western Xinjiang. In 2004, she left China to study abroad and has never returned. All the members of her family who stayed in Xinjiang have been imprisoned."
Family detention
by relative
Interview
Kayrat Samarkand
Kazakh
"Kayrat Samarkand says his only 'crime' was being a Muslim who had visited neighboring Kazakhstan. On that basis alone, he was detained by police, aggressively interrogated for three days, then dispatched in November to a 'reeducation camp' in China’s western province of Xinjiang for three months." "'Those who disobeyed the rules, refused to be on duty, engaged in fights or were late for studies were placed in handcuffs and ankle cuffs for up to 12 hours,' he said. Further disobedience would result in waterboarding or long periods strapped in agony in a metal contraption known as a 'tiger chair,' Samarkand said, a punishment he said he suffered." Samarkand is now in Kazakhstan.
Abuse or torture
firsthand
Article
Tursynbek Kabiuly
Kazakh
Kabiuly was held for 17 months in China before his release and return to Kazakhstan. As the article details, he was one of nine released detainees undergoing crowdsourced treatment of medical issues following their detention. "Kabiuly, an ethnic Kazakh who hails from Emin county in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, says he owes the burst eardrum in his right ear to a guard in the police detention center where he was held arbitrarily for six days last year with minimal food and water. During a trip to a restroom, Kabiuly resorted to slurping from a tap in order to quench his thirst. The guard waiting for him outside lost his temper and struck Kabiuly around the head so hard that his ear bled from the pain."
Medical issuesAbuse or torture
firsthand
Article
Zhang Haitao
Han
Zhang is one of the relatively few Han Chinese within China who made vocal criticisms of the government's treatment of Uyghurs. His wife left China for the United States, providing AP with the relevant court documentation on which they based this article. "Court records say Zhang was convicted of sending 274 posts from 2010 to 2015 on Twitter and the Chinese social media service WeChat that 'resisted, attacked and smeared' the Communist Party and its policies, earning him 15 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power. He was given another five years for talking to foreign reporters and providing photos of the intense police presence in the streets of Xinjiang. That, the court said, amounted to providing intelligence about China’s anti-terror efforts to foreign organizations. The court said it would combine the two punishments and sentence him to 19 years in prison. He was convicted in January 2016."
by relative
Article
Abduqadir Jalalidin
Uyghur
Written by Joshua L. Freeman, a scholar at Princeton who studied under Jalalidin. "As with my other friends and colleagues who have disappeared into this vast, secretive gulag, months stretched into years with no word from Jalalidin. And then, late this summer, the silence broke. Even in the camps, I learned, my old professor had continued writing poetry. Other inmates had committed his new poems to memory and had managed to transmit one of them beyond the camp gates."
Cultural targeting
by other associate
Article
Yalqun Rozi
Uyghur
Rozi is a prominent Uyghur intellectual who worked in publishing. His son, Kamaltürk Yalqun, lives in Philadelphia in exile and spoke to the Financial Times about his father's fifteen years jail sentence. This occurred in the wider context of the Chinese state cracking down on Uyghur textbook authors and intellectuals for perceived subversion. His father was an author of a textbook that had been "used, without incident, across schools in Xinjiang" for over a decade. "'My father wanted Uighur society to become intellectually strong, a critically thinking society,' Yalqun told the FT. Rozi would take aim at what he saw as bad habits, such as extravagant spending on luxurious clothes or constant partying. On October 6 2016, Yalqun had telephoned his father for a regular catch-up, but the call ended abruptly. 'It’s not a good time. I’m about to be taken away,' he recalls his father telling him. 'That was the last time I spoke to my father.' He would later discover that Rozi had been jailed for 15 years on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power'."
Cultural targeting
by relative
Article