In a recent report published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA), the sources allege that China uses rape as torture tactic against Uighur detainees. This is a serious allegation and one that has prompted the Chinese government to ban the BBC World News channel from being broadcasted inside of China. Before getting into the specifics of the allegations, I want to first give an example from American history. In October 1990, a woman simply known as “Nayirah” gave testimony before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Nayirah claimed that she had personally witnessed Iraqi soldiers pulling Kuwaiti babies from incubators and leaving them to die in a Kuwaiti hospital. Nayirah’s testimony was widely spread, corroborated by Amnesty International, and used as part of former President George H.W. Bush’s justification for American involvement in the Gulf War. After the war, it was discovered that Nayirah’s full name was Nayirah Al-Sabah, making her the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. It was also discovered that her testimony was fabricated by a Kuwaiti public relations firm in order to ensure American involvement in the war. Nayirah’s testimony was categorically false.
Returning to the BBC and VOA reports, the prime, albeit not the only, victim cited in the reports come from a woman named Tursunay Ziyawudun. Ziyawudun is a Uyghur woman married to a Kazakh man. After being held in a camp for ten months, she was released and fled to Kazakhstan to live with her husband. After finding out that she was a risk of being deported back to China, she moved with her husband to the United States. In February of 2020, Ziyawudun told Buzzfeed News about her experience through the system. In regards to the “vocational training school” Ziyawudun said, “To be honest, it wasn’t that bad. We had our phones. We had meals in the canteens. Other than being forced to stay there, everything else was fine.” She later was sent to a compound for the most serious offenders. Ziyawudun described the conditions at the compound as such: “I wasn’t beaten or abused. The hardest part was mental. It’s something I can’t explain — you suffer mentally. Being kept someplace and forced to stay there for no reason. You have no freedom. You suffer.”
Now in the new report from February 2021 by the BBC and VOA, Ziyawudun claims “On four different occasions, I was taken to an interrogation room, where I was beaten, my private part was electrocuted unbearably by an electric baton and I was gang raped.” This is a serious shift in her story and makes her an unreliable witness.
I think it is important to remember that the BBC and VOA are both state-funded news agencies by the British and American governments respectively. The United States and Britain have been increasingly at odds with China over issues regarding Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. There are other allegations in the report, so this by no means is the whole story, but the fact remains that there is no way to verify that Uyghur prisoners are being raped and tortured in these camps. Until international and independent investigators can confirm or reject these allegations, they are nothing more than that. Allegations. The United States has repeatedly fabricated stories, or, in the case of Nayirah, been told fabricated stories to get the United States involved in wars and regime changes throughout the world. Until there is evidence, these allegations should not result in military action, particularly because a war with China is something neither the American people, nor the world, can afford to have happen.