The Chinese authorities claim that these are "re-education camps" but according to media reports, which in turn refer to former inmates of such camps, these are places where women are systematically subjected to sexual violence and men are forced into slave labor.
How everything started
The Uyghurs are the indigenous people of East Turkestan, who now live in China in the Xinjiang province, there are about 10 million of them. Their culture and traditions are closer to the culture of the peoples of Central Asia than to Chinese, and their language is closer to Kazakh and Turkish. For years, the Uyghurs have been fighting for independence with the Chinese authorities. Several times this struggle even bore fruit - the province gained independence for a short time. Since then, Uyghurs have staged occasional protests and sometimes ill-prepared terrorist attacks, while China views such actions as separatism.
The thing is that the region contains vast deposits of oil and gas. China is pouring huge investments into Xinjiang, which in turn stimulates economic growth and attracts large numbers of immigrants from other parts of China.
The Chinese insist that the living standards of the Uyghurs have improved with their investments. The Uyghurs, in turn, are confident that natural resources, and therefore income from them, are unevenly distributed. Over the past 10 years, the Uighurs have carried out several terrorist attacks. For example, in 2013, a car with three Uighurs crashed into pedestrians in a square in Beijing, killing two people. In 2014, Uyghurs staged a massacre at a train station in Kunming city, resulting in 31 deaths.
The attacks became the milestone after which the Chinese authorities took up the full force of re-educating the Uighurs. In Xinjiang, the most serious security measures possible have been taken, a huge number of cameras with a face recognition system, devices for scanning the contents of mobile phones have been installed, and there is a massive collection of biometric data.
Under the slogan of combating terrorism and separatism, the Chinese authorities imposed penalties for demonstrating adherence to Islam - a long beard for men, headscarves for women, visiting a mosque, religious education of children, and Muslim names are prohibited. And since 2016, Uighurs have been punished and re-educated in prisons and labor camps.
Gang rapes in Uyghur camps
The Air Force has testimonies of several women who managed to escape from the camp and talk about gang rapes and rape with electric batons. Official China denies everything and calls the information a fake.
One of the women, whom we managed to talk to, spent 9 months in the camps. She said that groups of masked men, dressed in civilian clothes, not in police uniforms, usually went around the cells after midnight and took the women they liked and took them to a "black room" without video cameras.
The woman was regularly beaten, often kicked in the stomach. And when they decided to use her for "entertainment," the guards were very angry that she was bleeding. She says she was taken to a "black room" where she was raped with an electric baton.
Another woman, who spent 18 months in the camp, reported that she was forced to undress Uyghur women, handcuff them and leave them in rooms with Chinese men.
"I had to shackle the woman so that she would not move. Then a policeman or a stranger came to her. I had to sit quietly in the next room, and when the man left, I took the woman to the shower. It was rape," the woman says.
According to her, unauthorized men paid the guards for the opportunity to have fun.
In addition, the media have testimonies of a woman who claims that a 20-year-old woman was raped by three police officers in front of hundreds of prisoners.
Human rights activists are confident that the Chinese authorities are gradually curtailing the religious and other freedoms of the Uighurs, massively controlling their movement and behavior, brainwashing, and forcibly sterilizing women.
Slave labor and cotton-picking
Judging by the documents that journalists have at their disposal, the camps are far from the only place where Uighurs are being kept and tried to reeducate. Representatives of this and other national minorities are forced to work in textile factories. Often these factories are located far from the homes of the Uyghurs, some are deported directly from the "re-education" camps, while members of the same family had to live in separate dormitories, they were constantly monitored, and in their free time, they had to study the Northern Chinese dialect and training on the ideological preparation.
In addition, according to available evidence, about half a million workers are forced to pick cotton every year.
The Chinese government calls all such evidence fake and denies all accusations against it. Official China claims that in reality, the camps are "vocational training schools," and the factories are part of a voluntary poverty reduction program.
"There is no systematic violence against women in China, and the state adheres to basic human rights principles in the management of all institutions," the government said.