"I was a teacher in a concentration camp": The life of Uyghurs in the camps of transformation through education

“The teaching here too was a heartbreaking experience. The students were silent, like muted dolls. Rows and rows of pale, skinny heads were all bowed, as if linked to each other by an invisible rope, their frightened eyes testifying to their hellish experiences. "

Qelbinur Sidik, wife uyghur aged 52, had taught for almost 30 years before being appointed by the authorities to a transformation through education camp. She was to teach Chinese to "illiterate Uighurs" there.

Under the Uyghur Human Rights Project, and while she is safe in the Netherlands, Qelbinur Sidik testifies what she saw there, with Zubayra Shamseden, coordinator of this project. His comments are shared on the site Bitter Winter, magazine on religious freedom and human rights.

Zubayra Shamseden begins by stating that this is a "traumatic interview, reflecting the unspeakable horrors she has witnessed".

Qelbinur describes the place, a multi-storey building "surrounded by high wire mesh walls", secured by "armed guards", a classroom, whose windows are "fitted with iron bars" and where hundreds of small chairs, monitored by cameras placed all around the room.

Then she testifies to her “second shock”, the first time she saw her students, “pale, exhausted”, “their eyes sunk”. Zubayra specifies, "it seemed to him that they had faced an immense horror". All wear a gray uniform and an orange vest on the back of which appears a number, the identifier of the pupil. It is with this number that Qelbinur was to appeal to his students.

About her first hours of class, she describes an "unbearable and unforgettable" lesson. She remembers a pupil who is crying, deep down, but to whom she should not speak. Qelbinur will quickly understand that his students are not illiterate as he had been told. She talks about religious scholars, imams, academics or even wealthy businessmen, old people. She also talks about those she has never seen again.

The Uyghur teacher was then transferred to a women's camp in Urumchi. It is a 6 storey building. Each floor contains about twenty cells which each house 20 to 30 inmates. In the classroom, hundreds of students sitting on small chairs, but Qelbinur only sees the first 3 rows of them due to the darkness of the room. As for it, it is in "a metal box in the shape of a cage" to isolate it from the pupils.

Zubayra relates Qelbinur's words as follows:

“The teaching here too was a heartbreaking experience. The students were silent, like muted dolls. Rows and rows of pale, skinny heads were all bowed, as if linked to each other by an invisible rope, their frightened eyes testifying to their hellish experiences. Some days she noticed young girls unable to sit on the little chair, as if sitting was painful and standing was unbearable. "

Qelbinur testifies to "systematic torture and rape, starvation of food, sleep deprivation and strange injections." She says she is "haunted by the lifeless faces and eyes of helpless and brutalized victims."

MC

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