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A former resident of Urumqi, the capital of China’s western Xinjiang region, the 38-year-old Uyghur woman said she was fined 18,400 yuan ($2,600) in 2018 for having three children, one more than she was allowed to under Chinese rule.

When she went to pay the fine, Dawut said she was told she’d also need to have a mandatory “birth control procedure.”

She said she was taken to a clinic, where she was hooked up to an IV and given a general anesthetic. A local doctor later told her she’d undergone a tubal ligation, a procedure that uses keyhole surgery to clip, cut or tie a woman’s fallopian tubes.

The doctor said the procedure was permanent — she wouldn’t be able to have any more children.

Dawut’s story is not unique. For years, Uyghur women both inside Xinjiang and around the world have accused the Chinese government of a campaign of abuse, including forced sterilization, cultural indoctrination and incidents of sexual violence.

It’s part of a wider pattern of human rights violations by the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, where authorities are accused of detaining up to two million Muslim-majority Uyghurs and other minority ethnic groups inside vast, fortified centers as part of efforts to enforce greater control over the region.

Rahima Mahmut, a Xinjiang exile and project director for the World Uyghur Congress in London, said women in Xinjiang are living in “hell.”

“Just like any genocide, women are always the number one target … There is a very, very serious crime happening at such a large scale,” she said.

The Chinese government has consistently denied all allegations, presenting its efforts in Xinjiang as legal and necessary measures to prevent extremism, and has used a series of what state-run media refers to as terrorist attacks in 2014 and 2015 to justify its crackdown.

It has also attempted to discredit Dawut’s account specifically, with the state-owned newspaper the Global Times quoting claims from her own brother that she’s “peddling lies online.”

CNN has reached out to the local Xinjiang government for comment.

Crackdown on women

Beijing has a history of policing women’s reproductive rights as part of the “one-child policy,” a mass campaign to slow birth rates in China. From its introduction in 1980, the policy officially saw 400 million births “prevented,” amid reports of state-enforced abortions and mandatory contraception.
The one-child policy was changed to allow two children in 2015 amid a rapidly-shrinking birth rate. In Xinjiang, rural couples are allowed to have up to three children, which authorities claim is out of respect for ethnic minorities’ cultural traditions of large families.
Now a new report, titled “The (Chinese Communist Party’s) campaign to suppress Uyghur birthrates in Xinjiang,” alleges that Beijing is trying to reduce the Uyghur population through enforced contraception and sterilizations.

It was compiled by Adrian Zenz, a leading Xinjiang scholar, and is backed up by years of witness reports and statements from women both in Xinjiang and around the world.

Xinjiang is culturally and ethnically different from the rest of China, with a large population of Turkic minority groups who until recently were the majority in the region. For years, the region has maintained an uneasy relationship with the government in Beijing.

For decades, Zenz said Uyghurs often had larger families than officially permitted, sometimes with as many as nine or 10 children, and when authorities decided to discipline them it was usually only a fine.

But beginning in 2017, Zenz quotes official Chinese government policy directives calling on administrators to “severely attack behaviors that violate family planning (policies).” From that year onwards, minority regions began a “special campaign to control birth control violations.”

According to the report, the stricter enforcement led to increased prosecutions of birth control violators and harsher punishments.

Xinjiang accounted for 80% of new IUD insertions throughout China in 2018, according to official government records outlined in the report and confirmed by CNN. The statistics are primarily due to a massive drop in the use of IUDs in the rest of the country, as Beijing pushes women in the rest of China to have more children.

In Xinjiang, the opposite is happening. There, the number of sterilizations has skyrocketed, according to government records. In 2014, the year before the start of the government crackdown in Xinjiang, there were 3,214 sterilizations in the region — in 2018, there were 60,440.

In his report, Zenz claimed that as a result of these policies, the natural birth rate in parts of Xinjiang with a large Uyghur population had seen a significant decrease in population growth.

According to Zenz’s calculations, across all parts of Xinjiang predominantly populated by Turkic minorities, natural population growth dropped from more than 15% in 2014 to just over 4% in 2018.

Zenz estimated the birthrates by combining official Chinese government statistics for Xinjiang prefectures and weighting them by population. Worryingly, Zenz said that some predominantly Uyghur prefectures such as Kashgar didn’t publish their population growth rates at all in 2019.

The Global Times news outlet has claimed that Zenz’s math is wrong, and attributed the slower population growth to increased education and income levels in Xinjiang.

In a response to the report, the Chinese government said that between 1978 and 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang had grown from 5.5 million to more than 11 million.

However, Zenz claims that he has found evidence of a deliberate campaign to control Uyghur population growth that goes far beyond stricter enforcement of the two-child policy.

The report claims that Chinese authorities imposed targets for up to 80% of child-bearing women in four southern prefectures, with large Uyghur populations, to undergo “birth control measures with long-term effectiveness.”

In some cases, women had IUDs inserted after only their first child, according to Zenz’s report.

“China is trying to reduce birth rates in Xinjiang because this was a region where birth rates were the higher than the rest of the country. And in a sense it was seen to be out of control. And of course it makes the Uyghurs harder to control. The more people you have, the harder they are to account for,” Zenz said.

The report also aligns with witness testimony from Xinjiang detention centers where multiple women have described being given injections and pills which stopped their periods.

Uyghur exile Dawut said she spent about three months in a detention center from March 2018. Inside the center, she said she was forcibly given medication, after which she stopped menstruating.

CNN spoke to an ethnic Uyghur and doctor from Xinjiang, who asked to go only by her first name, Gulgine, for fear of retribution.

Gulgine fled to Turkey in 2012 and set up a clinic in Istanbul in 2013. She said since then she has examined around 300 exiled Uyghur women from Xinjiang, and almost all of them had some form of birth control. About 80 had been sterilized.

Many of the women who had been permanently sterilized told Gulgine that they didn’t know they had undergone the procedure until she told them.

Zenz said that his findings were the firmest proof yet of “genocide” in Xinjiang. “It specifically fulfills one of the five criteria of the United Nations convention for the prevention of genocide, which is the suppression of births,” he said.

Campaign of abuse

For years, women in Xinjiang have been reporting manipulation and abuse at the hands of the Chinese government.

In 2015, China banned face veils and face coverings for Xinjiang women, saying that they encouraged “religious extremism.” At the same time, local authorities pushed women to dress in more modern outfits, emphasizing cultural garb over overtly religious clothing. Experts said the campaign was called the “Beauty Project.”

In state media, the project was described as a means of helping to support Xinjiang designers and the local clothing industry. But experts on the ground said it involved numerous actions to change the way Uyghur women looked.

“There were some instances where at checkpoints, on the street, women had long skirts or dresses cut by scissors because they were supposed to only wear pants and shirts, not have anything that would go below their waist, ostensibly because that was Islamic,” said Darren Byler, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Colorado who worked in Xinjiang.

When Uyghurs began to be forcibly placed into detention centers in 2016, the vast majority of the inmates were male, according to previous research by Zenz. Large numbers of women were left to care and provide for families on their own.

When she visited the region for the last time in 2018, Elise Anderson, Senior Program Officer for Research and Advocacy at Uyghur Human Rights Project, said local women who recognized her in the street would come up and ask for news or help in hushed tones.

“There was an older woman who started whispering to me and told me that her son had been taken away and just cried as she spoke,” Anderson said.

“They’re missing important people from their lives and that is inserting grief and heaviness and an emotional burden while they’re still trying to be good enough not to get taken away to a camp themselves.”

Some of the worst injustices are alleged to have occurred inside the region’s mass detention centers, in the form of humiliation and sexual abuse. Gulbakhar Jalilova, an ethnic Uyghur from neighboring Kazakhstan and former detainee, claims she was on a business trip to Xinjiang in May 2017 when she was suddenly taken away by police and thrown into a detention center. She spent 15 months inside the camp.

Uyghur exile Gulbakhar Jalilova says she suffered sexual abuse while she was held in detention centers in Xinjiang.

Jalilova claimed she was locked inside a prison-like room with about 20 other women, sitting in two rows. She said they were forced to strip naked in the yard every 10 days and squat up and down in front of guards. Some girls were only 14 years old, she said.

Jalilova said one day she was raped by a guard. “I told him, ‘Aren’t you ashamed? Don’t you have a mother, a sister, how can you do this to me like that?’ He hit me with the electroshock prod and said, ‘You don’t look like a human’,” she said.

Activists are urging big brands to eradicate traces of human rights abuse in Xinjiang from their supply chains.
Chinese state-run media has previously called Jelilova a liar, saying she had never been inside one of the vocational training centers, which are what Beijing claims is the purpose of the Xinjiang camps.
A US State Department report in 2019 said there had been reports of sexual abuse inside the detention centers, as well as by male Chinese government officials sent to stay with families across Xinjiang.
Several female former inmates interviewed by CNN after escaping from Xinjiang have alleged sexual violence inside the detention centers. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in November 2019, the Uyghur Human Rights Project issued a statement calling it “crimes against humanity.”

A generation changed

Since the release of Zenz’s report in June, the United States government has announced sanctions against prominent Chinese government officials in Xinjiang and the region’s Public Security Bureau.

“The United States will not stand idly by as the (Chinese Communist Party) carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

China's ambassador to the US says America must make a 'fundamental choice.'

In June, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied it was attempting to control the Uyghur population. In a statement, it said the minority group had enjoyed a “preferential population policy” for years by being allowed to have more children than other citizens.

Speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in July, Chinese ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai denied that there have been any mechanisms such as sterilization or any attempts at forced population control of the Uyghurs.

“I don’t know how absurd all these fabrications can go,” Cui said.

Dawut, who is seeking asylum in the US, believes that the Chinese government wants to “completely eliminate” the Uyghur people from Xinjiang. “Our land is big. Our land is rich. And because we are the owners of that land, they want to eliminate us,” she said.

“From one side they sterilize our women decreasing our population; from another side they separate families by sending husbands and wives to separate forced labor camps.”

Mahmut, from the World Uyghur Congress, said she hasn’t spoken to her four sisters in Xinjiang since 2017, not daring call for fear of getting them in trouble with authorities.

But she said that without major change in either the local or national governments, she sees no hope for Xinjiang’s women.

“It has to be some kind of miracle from God that can that change anything,” she said. “(It’s) the largest prison and the government has total power over every individual.”

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Nicola Sturgeon Has Banned Household Mixing In Scotland And Claimed English Measures Do Not Go Far Enough

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned household mixing (Credit: PA)

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Nicola Sturgeon has announced a ban on households mixing in Scotland, claiming experts say the restrictions introduced in England by Boris Johnson do not go far enough.

The first minister said the Scottish government’s top experts had warned the curbs announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday would not make a big enough impact on Covid-19 transmission rates.

“The advice given to the Cabinet by the chief medical officer and the national clinical director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down,” she told the Scottish parliament.

“They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus, and they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.”

Mr Johnson has imposed a 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry from midnight on Thursday, as well as a legal requirement for those working in the sector, and in retail, to wear masks.

The PM stopped short of preventing different households from socialising with each other outside of local lockdown areas, but said people should work from home wherever possible.

Mrs Sturgeon said she planned to impose similar restrictions on pubs, bars and restaurants but would also go further.

“To that end, we intend as Northern Ireland did yesterday to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the west of Scotland,” she added.

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Johnson claimed the four nations of the UK were following “similar” restriction plans, despite Northern Ireland announcing on Monday that it would ban socialising between households.

This applies in places like pubs and restaurants as well as in people’s homes.

In Wales, people are not allowed to mix indoors with people outside their own household or support bubble, and meetings or gatherings indoors even within an extended household is limited to six people.

Reports suggest insiders were worried about the prospect of Mrs Sturgeon diverging and implementing a “circuit-breaker” of stricter measures – leaving the actions of Mr Johnson’s government further exposed should they fail.

Some members of the prime minister’s frontbench – including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel – are believed to have lobbied for lighter intervention, while other cabinet ministers were in favour of a more drastic approach.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March.  We’re not issuing a genuine instruction to stay at home, we will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.”

He added: “We will continue to act against local flare ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.”

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Pakistan fire: Two to hang for Karachi garment factory inferno

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The charred remains of the abandoned factory are a reminder of what happened

A court in Karachi has sentenced two men to death for arson after finding them guilty of starting Pakistan’s deadliest industrial fire, which killed some 260 people in 2012.

The men were found to have set a garment factory ablaze because its owners had not paid extortion money.

They were affiliated with the MQM party, which was in power in the city at the time, the court said.

Hundreds were trapped inside the building which had no fire exits.

Prosecutors took evidence from more than 400 witnesses. The investigation into the fire called it an act of organised terrorism.

Many of the victims were charred beyond recognition. Others died or broke bones trying to jump to safety.

What happened in the fire?

The blaze at the Ali Enterprises factory in the Baldia town area of the commercial capital began in the afternoon of 11 September 2012 and raged for 15 hours. Some 40 firefighting vehicles attended.

More than 24 hours after the inferno began rescuers were still battling to reach the dead and injured inside. In all, about 500 workers had been inside the factory when the fire broke out.

Many workers jumped from the upper floors. Others could not because of metal grilles on the windows. Survivors said doorways and stairs were stuffed with stacks of finished garments.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Orla Guerin says the factory windows were barred, leaving most with no way out

Officials said the factory was crammed with combustible materials, including piles of clothes and chemicals.

People trapped inside the building frantically rang their friends and relatives as flames engulfed it.

Outside, crowds of shouting and sobbing relatives gathered for news as rescuers pulled out body after body.

In its verdict, the court in Karachi said 264 people had been killed in the fire, and 60 injured.

What has been the reaction to the verdicts?

Some relatives told BBC Urdu’s Riaz Sohail they felt justice had been only half done – as the factory owners, Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, had not also been held responsible for the loss of life.

The brothers were initially arrested but later released on bail after which they moved abroad. They were questioned by investigators via video link from Dubai .

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Relatives raced to the factory after word of the blaze broke out

“Why didn’t the owners order the factory closed, knowing that the MQM’s extortionists had the freedom and the capacity to do what they did?” asked Saeeda Bibi, who lost her 18-year-old son Ayan in the inferno.

Ayan had been her only child – he was planning to quit his job but was waiting for his final salary payment which had been delayed.

Ms Bibi also wanted to know what had happened to a 90m rupee compensation package that was promised to those affected but she said had not materialised.

Faisal Ahmad, the father of another 18-year-old killed in the fire, said when he reached the factory on the day of the blaze, its exit was locked.

“I asked the manager to unlock the door but he didn’t do it. Had he kept it open, some lives may have been saved.”

How was arson proved?

The fire in Baldia was initially thought to have been an accident. Pakistan is prone to industrial disasters, often as a result of poor construction, or lax safety standards and enforcement.

The subsequent discovery that it was an arson attack provided an insight into the grim nexus between political workers and serious criminality in the city, reports the BBC’s Secunder Kermani in Islamabad.

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It took nearly a day for emergency services to put the fire out

The investigation report said the sum demanded for “protection” was 200m Pakistani rupees ($1.2m). In September 2019, one of the factory owners confirmed this in his witness statement to the court.

Explaining why he thought the fire was not accidental, he said it first broke out in the basement, and then on the upper floor while nothing happened on the mezzanine floor in between.

After early investigations focused on whether or not the owners had been negligent, a key witness told officials members of the city’s powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement had been trying to extort money from the factory – and were behind the fire.

The MQM’s current leadership denies any involvement with the fire. It is now part of Pakistan’s governing coalition, having split into factions in 2017.

No date has been set for the hanging of Abdul Rehman, also known as Bhola, and his associate Zubair Charya, the men who were sentenced to death. They have the right to appeal.

Bhola was the MQM’s official responsible for the Baldia area, the court heard. In a 2016 statement to the magistrate, he admitted asking Charya to set the factory on fire on the orders of a more senior MQM figure, who is still being sought by police.

Bhola was arrested with Interpol’s help, while Charya escaped to Saudi Arabia and was arrested when he flew back to Karachi some years ago later.

In addition to the two death sentences handed down, the court gave four factory guards life in jail after finding them complicit in the crime.

Four others were acquitted, including the then-provincial minister for industries, Rauf Siddiqui, an MQM member. All the defendants had denied the charges against them.

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Lebanon: In political turmoil and economic collapse, it could now be overwhelmed by Covid-19

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A combination of high infection rates, a floundering economy and renewed political turmoil could signal a new phase in the country’s slew of crises which began after a popular uprising last October.

In addition to a growing financial crisis, healthcare professionals are warning that Lebanon’s fragile medical sector could soon be overwhelmed, leaving the country at risk of a rapidly rising death toll from Covid-19.

On Sunday, the tiny eastern Mediterranean country reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, hitting a record for a third consecutive day. Lebanon has recorded a total of 29,987 cases of the virus and 307 deaths from it since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Around 10% of those testing for the virus are Covid-positive, a figure that health professionals describe as “alarmingly high.” The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that governments maintain a positivity rate of below 5% before moving to relax social distancing measures.

“I am extremely worried. On which pathway are we headed?” said Dr. Firass Abiad, manager of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the main public hospital treating patients of the pandemic.

“When we have this sharp rise in the number of cases the first worry of any public health official is whether this rise can overwhelm the healthcare system,” he said. “This is the periphery we are moving into.”

Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan urged a “total lockdown” on Sunday, but his calls were met with resistance from other members of the cabinet of caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, toppled in the aftermath of the August 4 explosion but still running Lebanon’s day-to-day affairs until a new government is formed.

Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmy criticized the proposal, arguing that the Lebanese people should not be “toyed” with by repeated lockdowns. Any decision on proposed new restrictions has been deferred to a national coronavirus committee.

Flouting social distancing measures

Lebanon, which previously recorded some of the world’s lowest coronavirus numbers, has seen a rapid spread of the pandemic since Beirut reopened its airport in July.

The spread became rampant after an explosion at the country’s main port on August 4 laid waste to several neighborhoods in Beirut, killing nearly 200 people and injuring more than 6,000 others.

When the virus was first detected in the capital in March, a strict and proactive lockdown successfully slowed its spread — but tipped the country’s already teetering economy over the edge, causing its currency to tank and poverty rates to soar.

Left reeling from the economic downturn, many in Lebanon chalked the virus up to a “government conspiracy” and “heresy.”

“We don’t have coronavirus here in Tripoli. Coronavirus is heresy,” Marwan el-Zahed, a native of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli told a CNN team in May, explaining his belief that politicians had “made it up.”
Security forces man a lockdown checkpoint in Beirut on August 21.

The blast that shook Beirut this summer added to feelings of mistrust towards the Lebanese government, prompting many to flout social distancing guidelines.

But as the virus infects more people across the country — including in Tripoli, which has seen some of the highest case numbers in Lebanon — many are taking a pause.

“I’ll close my shop because that’s what we need,” said Beirut shop-owner Ali Jaber.

“Better for us to eat za’atar [spice mixture] and oil for lunch than to die in hospital corridors,” he said. “We’re in the abyss.”

Poverty rates in Lebanon have soared to over 50%, according to the World Bank. The country’s currency has lost over 70% of its value and people’s life savings are locked up in banks that have imposed discretionary capital controls since late 2019.

The political crisis has intensified in recent days, as talks over the formation of a new government have stalled. French President Emmanuel Macron has been brokering the negotiations, in a desperate attempt to stave off full-scale state collapse, in the wake of the August explosion.

Describing the country’s political stalemate at a press conference on Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned that the country may “go to hell.”

French President Emmanuel Macron plants a cedar tree in Jaj Cedars Reserve Forest, to mark Lebanon's centenary on September 1.

But healthcare workers are urging the government to focus on boosting the healthcare sector, despite the maelstrom of other crises it faces.

“It would be a disaster if hospitals and the ministry of health do not impose rules for all hospitals to accept coronavirus patients and to increase their beds,” said Aline Zakhem, assistant professor of clinical medicine and an infectious diseases specialist at the American University of Beirut’s Medical Center.

“Many people are going to die because they don’t have access to healthcare,” she said. “There’s going to be whole floors, if not whole hospitals dedicated to Covid.”

Meanwhile, the shelves of shops, previously flush with goods, are emptying out, and shopowners are bracing for more uncertainty in the weeks to come.

“I’ve never seen days like this in my life,” said coffee shop owner Mohammad Saab. “My customers aren’t showing up anymore. Are they scared of coronavirus? It’s all so strange.”

CNN’s Ghazi Balkiz in Beirut contributed to this report.

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