Uighur Girl Tursunay Ziyawudun, Who Was Detained In Xinjiang Camps, Arrives In US

A Uighur woman imprisoned in a concentration camp in Xinjiang, China, has arrived safely in the United States, a Uighur human rights group said on Saturday, after months of uncertainty over whether she would be forcibly repatriated to China from her home in Kazakhstan.

Tursunay Ziyawudun had settled in Kazakhstan with her husband, a Kazakh citizen, having spent 10 months in solitary confinement without charge. But last year, the Kazakh government told him he would return to China to register a new visa as a way of life. Returning to the country would have meant rebuilding him.

BuzzFeed News reported on his case in February.

“We are deeply concerned that Tursunay is now well in the United States,” said Omer Kanat, director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

China has imprisoned less than a million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in concentration camps since the end of 2016, according to estimates. The government said the detainees were “artisans,” but the former detainees, including Ziyawudun, made it clear that they had been taken to forced labor camps and that they had endured humiliation, starvation, beatings, and frequent interrogations, among other things.

The Chinese government said in December that those who did the “handicraft” training were “graduates,” but a recent BuzzFeed News survey found instead that the construction of large, deep-framed camps and prisons was under way.

Ziyawudun’s lawyer said he believed the media would help his case.

“His condition required that his case be made public,” Aina Shormanbayeva, a lawyer for Ziyawudun in Kazakhstan, told BuzzFeed News.

Ziyawudun is one of a number of former detainees who have left China and spoken publicly about their experiences. The Uyghur Human Rights Project in Washington, DC said their home was set on fire in “suspicious areas” in February, after they began reporting on the case. (Ziyawudun’s lawyer confirmed that his house had been set on fire at the time.)

He later went to Istanbul for medical treatment, Shormanbayeva said, before receiving a visa to the US. He is still seeking refuge in Kazakhstan, but Shormanbayeva says there are doubts whether the Kazakh government will grant him the opportunity.

But, he added, the opportunity for Ziyawudun to be extradited to China by force is gone.

“I hope the US will be safer,” his lawyer said.

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