A teacher coerced into giving classes in Xinjiang internment camps has described her forced sterilisation at the age of 50, under a government campaign to suppress birth rates of women from Muslim minorities. Qelbinur Sidik said the crackdown swept up not just women likely to fall pregnant, but those well beyond normal childbearing ages. Messages she got from local authorities said women aged 19 to 59 were expected to have intrauterine devices (IUDs) fitted or undergo sterilisation.
In 2017, Sidik was 47 and her only daughter was at university when local officials insisted she must have an IUD inserted to prevent the unlikely prospect of another pregnancy. Just over two years later, at 50, she was forced to undergo sterilisation.
When the first order came, the Chinese language teacher was already giving classes at one of the now notorious internment camps appearing across China’s western Xinjiang region. She knew what happened to people from Muslim minorities who resisted the government, and a Uighur-language text message that she shared with the Guardian, which she said came from local authorities, made the threat explicit.
“If anything happens, who will take responsibility for you? Do not gamble with your life, don’t even try. These things are not just about you. You have to think about your family members and your relatives around you,” the message said.
“If you fight with us at your door and refuse to collaborate with us, you will go to the police station and sit on the metal chair!”
On the day of her appointment there were no Han Chinese among crowds of women waiting for their compulsory birth control at the government compound, she said. Details of China’s sweeping campaign of repression against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have leaked out slowly from the tightly controlled region, but there is increasing evidence of efforts to slash birth rates, which some experts have called “demographic genocide”.