Media commentators, feminists, and abortion supporters readily latch onto the idea that the United States is transforming into a real-life Handmaid’s Tale, where women are forced to bear children. In reality, they should be focusing their gaze on China, as reports accuse the country of weaponizing abortion and birth control against women.
China’s behavior toward Muslim minorities amounts to genocide, according to experts and the media. In the past two years, the U.S. government and human-rights groups have accused China of detaining one to three million Muslims, including Uighurs and Kazakhs, in “camps.” Since then, reports have claimed that China has done everything from assigning men to monitor Uighur wives by sleeping with them to denying drone footage of blindfolded Uighurs. Other reports find that the government particularly abuses women – by manipulating their bodies in ways that would be considered barbaric even towards animals.
The media should continue to tell their stories.
On June 29, the Associated Press called attention to women’s plight. Its investigation confirmed that the Chinese government “is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population.”
To do this, government officials asserted control over women’s bodies.
“The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands,” the AP reported. If they resist, they risk massive fines and being sent to “detention camps.”
The report began with the story of a Chinese-born Kazakh, Gulnar Omirzakh. She was commanded to get an IUD in 2016, after her third child. Two years later, military officials still demanded that Omirzakh, a “penniless wife of a detained vegetable trader,” pay a $2,685 fine for having more than two children.
“God bequeaths children on you. To prevent people from having children is wrong,” Omirzakh told the AP, tearing up. “They want to destroy us as a people.”
In “detention camps,” women’s situations became worse.
According to the AP, seven former detainees revealed that they were “force-fed birth control pills or injected with fluids” which left many of them “dizzy, tired or ill.” For some of them, their periods stopped and, after later fleeing China, they found out that they were sterile.
Former detainee Tursunay Ziyawudun revealed that “she was injected until she stopped having her period, and kicked repeatedly in the lower stomach during interrogations,” the AP reported. Ziyawudun now says that she “can’t have children and often doubles over in pain, bleeding from her womb.”
Forced abortions also posed a threat.
Ziyawudun remembered a camp “teacher” who “told women they would face abortions if found pregnant,” the AP reported. When one woman was found pregnant, she “disappeared from the camp.”
A woman named Gulbahar Jelilova also witnessed other women suffering, including a new mother who was “still leaking breast milk” and “did not know what had happened to her infant,” the AP reported.
In 2017, Gulzia Mogdin “was taken to a hospital after police found WhatsApp on her phone.” When they found out that she was pregnant with her third child, they ordered her to get an abortion.
In October, the Washington Post also reported on her story, spelling her name as “Mogdyn.” Former correspondent Amie Ferris-Rotman wrote about Mogdyn remembering her abortion, saying that doctors “cut my fetus out” without anesthesia.
“Two humans were lost in this tragedy — my baby and me,” Mogdyn told the Post.
An unnamed former teacher made to work as an instructor at a “detention camp” was also forced to get an IUD. She was taken to a hospital “where hundreds of Uighur women lined up in silence.”
“Some wept quietly, but nobody dared say a word because of the surveillance cameras,” the AP reported. For more than two weeks afterward, she suffered “headaches and nonstop menstrual bleeding.”
In 2018, Zumret Dawut, a mother of three, said she was rounded up with hundreds of Uighur women with more than two children for sterilization.
“I was so angry,” she said. “I wanted another son.”
The AP isn’t the only outlet reporting on these women’s suffering. Washington Post correspondent Amie Ferris-Rotman shared their stories, along with Mogdyn’s.
One Kazakh woman had two forced abortions in 2016 and 2017, her lawyer told the Post. Ferris-Rotman also wrote about two men, “who suspect that their wives, both Uighurs still in detention,” underwent forced abortions.
Ferris-Rotman added that former detainees said that “they suspect that when younger and unmarried women were taken from their packed cells at night — to be returned the next morning or not at all — they were raped by guards.”
According to Gulzira Auelkhan, a woman who lived 18 months in the camps, female guards also participated in the torture, and “used chewing gum to pull on her pubic hair.”
When getting ready to shower, women detainees were handed jars of ground chile peppers mixed with water. They were then “ordered by female guards to smear the liquid on their genitals.”
“It burned like fire,” one of the women remembered.
In her report, Ferris-Rotman linked to a letter by a former guard at a Xinjiang camp. He revealed that officers would choose their favorite “girls” while in the guards’ monitoring room. They would then take her to the kitchen, which had no cameras, he said.
“There are two tables in the kitchen, one table is for snacks and liquors, and the other one is for ‘doing things,’” he remembered. “Most of the time, the officer would rape the selected girl alone. Sometimes, if he is high, he would let subordinates gang rape the girls after him.”
Afterward, “the girl would be returned back to the cell,” he wrote. “The girl wouldn’t say anything, but I could see her tears from the camera.”
The media should continue to shed light on their plight that demands attention – and action.