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‘I Wish I Could Wipe my Heart And Mind Clean’: Uyghur Former Camp Instructor

Qelbinur Sidik prepares a lesson in her office in Urumqi, in an undated photo Qelbinur Sidik via RFA

Qelbinur Sidik, 51, is one of the few people to relate their experiences working at a facility in the vast network of internment camps in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since early 2017. A well-respected instructor who began teaching children Mandarin Chinese at the No. 24 Elementary School in the XUAR capital Urumqi in 1990, Sidik was forced to teach the language at a men’s camp known as Cang Fanggou between March and September 2017, as well as at a women’s camp at a former nursing home in the city’s Tugong district between September and October of that year. Sidik, who now lives in the Netherlands, estimates that the two camps held around 3,000 and 10,000 detainees, respectively.

Since fleeing China, Sidik says that she has been unable to contact her family in the XUAR, other than receiving a phone call from her husband in February this year to request a divorce, shortly before he disappeared. She believes her husband, who works for a construction supply company, made the request to save himself from the political fallout associated with her decision to leave the country. In a recent interview with RFA’s Uyghur Service, Sidik provided rare insights into the management of the XUAR’s camp system. But she said that despite her freedom, she is still haunted by abuses she regularly witnessed in the camps—rights violations that directly contradict Beijing’s claims that the camps operate as voluntary “vocational centers” in which “students” are treated humanely.

RFA: How did you end up teaching at the camps?

Sidik: On Feb. 28, 2017, the school principal called me in and told me I needed to go to a government office, a Party office, for a meeting … What they told us was that there was a school for illiterate people, and we would be teaching Chinese there starting March 1, 2017. They said that it was going to be secret, and that we should not tell anyone about what we saw and heard in the place where we were going to be working.

A driver took us there led by the police. It was a new facility; the buildings had gray exteriors. The compound was surrounded by walls, fences, and barbed wire. They opened the front gate—it was electric—and everyone was surprised when we went into the compound. “What kind of school for the illiterate is this?” we wondered, because there were armed police and military personnel guarding the grounds. In that very moment, I thought to myself that it looked like a camp of some sort, but it was a difficult thought to entertain.

They opened up another electric door for us to go through and we went into a building. They started opening up cells. The first one we saw was directly across the hall from a classroom. Some of the men started coming out, and I could see that their hands and feet were tied up. Their steps were heavy. I just stood and watched them. Then they went into the classroom. There were cells on either side of the classroom, and the cells were open. The windows were sealed off and the insides of the cells were dark. When I went into the classroom, the students were quiet. There were no tables. They were sitting in small chairs … Because they’d all just been brought in, the men still had beards [that were later cut off]. I noticed many of them looked like religious people, religious leaders. I said “assalamu alaykum” to them, and they all sat there quietly and said nothing. I realized I’d said something wrong. “Let’s get started,” I said, and began teaching.

RFA: What did you see in their expressions?

Sidik: Some of them were sitting and crying. They were sitting there with a sense of longing, an expectation that I was there to save them. I could see it in their faces. There were cameras, eight of them. Immediately I gathered myself and started class. I just tried to teach class as best I could.

RFA: How did the police treat everyone inside?

Sidik: They were very tough [on people] … Once class started, [students] didn’t have permission to ask questions, and they were absolutely not allowed to speak in Uyghur. All the books and materials we used had to stay in the classroom, and it wasn’t possible for us to bring phones inside. So horrific, such threats.

Qelbinur Sidik teaches elementary school children in Urumqi in an undated photoQelbinur Sidik via RFA

Women’s camp

RFA: Your horrible experience didn’t end in the men’s facility, correct?

Sidik: They assigned me, once again involuntarily, to work at a women’s camp at Tugong starting September 1, 2017.

RFA: How many women had been locked up in that camp?

Sidik: I think it was around 10,000. The buildings had six floors and on every floor there were 20 cells. There were 40, 50, 60 women in some cells … The women’s camp was even tougher. Such fear. It was even more closely guarded than the men’s, and there were fenced-off areas you had to go through as you moved between floors, so tightly closed off that not even a fly could get through.

For the men, there was only one toilet … The men had one minute to use the bathroom and one minute to wash their hands and face. There was no shower for the men. They never got to take a shower. As for the women, there was a partial wooden wall … that they put up inside the cell and the toilet was behind that, inside the cell. They went to the bathroom in a bucket, taking turns each day. There was a communal shower, and every woman got to shower for 10 minutes once per month.

There were armed police everywhere, guarding the place. There was a fence between the students and me while I taught … We would get last-minute assignments and have to spend the evening preparing to teach them the next morning. They would tell us we had to teach “red” (political) songs. The students had to memorize them. We might teach a couplet one day and they would test them back in the cell. They wouldn’t give food to someone if they couldn’t recite it.

Sounds of screaming voices’ at lunchtime

RFA: Can you describe what interrogations were like in the camps?

Sidik: In the men’s camp I heard, and I saw, that there was an interrogation room underground. Sometimes when I was teaching class, the police would come and take people away to go there. We could hear them while we were in class, the sounds of screaming voices. It would happen at lunchtime. I wondered what kind of interrogation they were even doing. I’d seen things like this on TV and wondered whether it was really so terrifying. It was.

I heard about a man who got very badly hurt in the process of interrogation. They wouldn’t give him medicine or treat him, and the wounds festered. Later, they finally took him to the hospital but weren’t able to save him, and he died. I also heard about people who lost their minds, who went crazy.

I came across a police officer acquaintance of mine who worked in the [women’s] camp and was able to get some information from her. We would speak occasionally in the hallways, in places on the camp grounds that didn’t have cameras. She told me things in secrecy, like that … the police officers would take groups of four or five girls in for interrogation and take turns with them.

You can’t see and hear these things and think they’re simply committing cultural genocide or that this has to do with religion. This is about eliminating the Uyghurs … I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and I have to make sure others hear about it … I can’t sleep at night. I see all of these things as if they’re in front of my eyes again. It would be great if I could just live in peace. I can’t smile anymore. I wish I could simply wipe my heart and mind clean.

Reported by Gulchera Hoja for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. https://www.rfa.org

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How to identify Fake News or Messages on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they a.re developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

Without evidence or with fake evidence, a conspiracy theory will always remain a conspiracy theory.

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic informations from the internet write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com or Whats App:+916289017966

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