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Uyghur retiree serving 10 years for ‘illegal religious activities’ in Xinjiang

Ba’imhan Mamut was first detained in 2017 and arrested again in 2020.

By Shohret Hoshur


Retired Uyghur postal worker Ba’imhan Mamut in Hotan in northwestern China's Xinjiang region, in an undated photo.

Photo courtesy of Nurbia

A retired Uyghur postal worker in China’s Xinjiang region who had been released from an internment camp because of health problems was rearrested in 2020 and sentenced to another 10 years in prison for participating in “illegal religious activities,” her daughter, who lives in the U.S., and officials in the region said.

Ba’imhan Mamut, a retired postal worker in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture, was first detained in 2017 and spent two years in a camp before her release, said her daughter Nurbia, who declined to be identified by her full name for safety reasons.

Nurbia said she lost contact with both of her parents in 2017. Ba’imhan Mamut’s identity card listed her last address as 297 Qingfeng Street in Saybagh district in Urumqi (Wulumuqi). Previously, Ba’imhan lived for many years in Hotan while she worked for the prefectural post and telecommunications bureau, Nurbia said.

Nurbia found out through her network of contacts on social media inside China that her mother had been taken to an internment camp in 2017 and later released while in critical condition. She was told her mother and other detainees were stripped of their socks and shoes while being held in cold cells.

“I later learned that my mother was taken to a concentration camp and learned that it was a camp in Hotan,” Nurbia told RFA. “I don’t know which one exactly.”

China has held up to 1.8 million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in a network of government-run detention camps since 2017, saying that they are vocational training centers meant to prevent religious extremism and terrorism in Xinjiang.

Nurbia said she believes that her mother’s health may have been affected by the conditions inside the camp.

“She was later released due her health condition, particularly not being able to stand or walk,” Nurbia said. “I learned that even the detainees in camps were not given socks let alone shoes.”

Ba’imhan Mamut had been treated for a health problem following her release in 2019, but authorities picked her up again in 2020 and sentenced her to 10 years in prison in 2021, Nurbia said.

Her mother is serving her sentence at a women’s prison in Kashgar (Kashi), Nurbia said.

RFA has reported that Uyghurs held in “re-education” camps who become ill are treated under the supervision of local police and returned to the camp once they have recovered.

When RFA contacted police in Urumqi’s Saybagh district for more information about Ba’imhan, staff said that they needed a written request for her whereabouts and refused to provide information over the phone.

“If you want to search for information on her, you have to bring a government notice from your relevant government office, then I can help you search for the information,” he said.

A security official at the Hotan post office said that he was unaware of Ba’imhan’s condition.

“It has been a year since she has been in prison,” he said.

A police officer from the Qingfeng Road police station in Urumqi told RFA to contact authorities in Hotan for information about Ba’imhan after learning that the woman was originally from that prefecture. He said that people taken to re-education centers have since been handed over to police in their original hometowns.

An officer from a police station near the Hotan prefectural post office confirmed that Ba’imhan had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for “involvement in illegal religious activities,” but said he did not know where she was being detained.

“She is over 60 years old,” he said. “She has been sentenced to 10 years for her crime of religious extremism.”

Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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