lørdag 24. april 2021

“I Was a Teacher in a Concentration Camp”: Women and the Uyghur Genocide

Four years ago this week, as people around the world celebrated International Women’s Day, Ms. Qelbinur Sidik was assigned by Xinjiang authorities to work in a concentration camp. She had 28 years of teaching experience at the No. 24 Elementary School of Urumchi in East Turkistan. Chinese government officials told her she would be teaching Chinese language classes at a transformation through education camp for illiterate Uyghurs.

I interviewed Qelbinur for the Uyghur Human Rights Project in 2020, after she had reached safety in the Netherlands. It was a traumatic interview, reflecting the unutterable horrors she witnessed.

Qelbinur was shocked when she arrived at her new teaching assignment. The building was surrounded by high, barb-wired-topped walls, and fully armed security guards were posted at the gate and throughout the compound. She was escorted by the guards through security, checked in with her name and ID number, and taken to the multi-story building where “students” were kept. It was strange and bewildering to see these jail-like conditions. Her “classroom” was a big hall with hundreds of small chairs like preschoolers’, and its windows fitted with iron bars. There was one table, a mobile blackboard for the teacher, and cameras in all corners of the classroom.