'I felt like I was being escorted to a slaughterhouse': Uyghur survivor recounts CCP brutality to students
Both College Republicans and College Democrats at George Washington University organized a panel featuring a Uyghur concentration camp survivor and activist.
During the event, forced abortion, sterilization, torture, mass rape, child abduction, and slavery were all listed as crimes committed against the Uyghur people.
Students from across the political aisle joined forces Tuesday to host a panel calling on George Washington University to divest from companies complicit in the Uyghur genocide.
Hosted by the College Republicans and the College Democrats, in partnership with the Athenai Institute, the panel featured Campaign for Uyghurs founder Rushan Abbas and concentration camp survivor Zumrat Dawut.
Duwat delivered personal testimony about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in China.
The event was moderated by Senior Program Officer for the Uyghur Human Rights Project Elise Anderson.
"Genocide is happening, despite what China says," Abbas said early in her speech.
Abbas and Dawut described their experiences living under the thumb of the Chinese Communist Party and how it has shaped their advocacy to raise awareness about the genocide worldwide.
Forced abortion, sterilization, torture, mass rape, child abduction, and slavery were all listed as crimes committed against the Uyghur people, however, Abbas noted that 'the list of human rights abuses is too long to name.'
Dawut conferred, stating that "it's far worse than what we hear in the media."
Abbas, who was born in East Turkistan, described the incredible loss she has faced due to her outspokenness against the regime, including the disappearance of her husband's family and her sister.
"Today, I am doing my advocacy work and sitting here and talking to you at the expense of my sisters' freedom," Abbas admitted.
She learned in 2020 her sister had been sentenced to 20 years in prison under false charges following a secret trial.
According to Abbas, the surveillance of Uyghurs by the regime is not exclusive within the confinements of borders. Technology has now advanced to allow the CCP access to monitor Uyghurs within the United States.
"China knew what we were doing," Abbas said, referring to the thousands of other victims who have testified against the CCP.
Dawut, who spoke through a translator, detailed her personal experience of being one of the few escapees to the United States after detainment in the Uyghur concentration camp. After being imprisoned for two months, she recalled cramped cells, physical torture, and mandatory injections as a shared experience among the incarcerated.
Following her release, Dawut was fined for violating the "birth plan" by having three children; her youngest is five years old. She was then forced to undergo sterilization under the regime's orders.
"They told me that I should be grateful to the Chinese Communist Party for providing [the surgery]," she said. "I felt like I was being escorted to a slaughterhouse."
Expressing gratitude was a common occurrence within the camps, Dawut remembered, as the regime attempted to force assimilation through singing communist songs and publicly expressing gratitude for the CCP for meals.
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According to Dawut, assimilation is the purpose of the concentration camps as they were expected to learn Chinese and renounce their ethnicity. This deception was noted as "a complete and entire fabrication... designed to deceive the rest of the world."
"The police would bring us from our cells into what appeared to be a classroom," she said. "We were separated from the teacher by a metal bar that would guard [them] from us as if we were true criminals."
However, citing starvation, constant shackles and surveillance, and a mandated "mystery drug," Dawut expressed the helplessness of the Uyghurs, stating simply, "What could we do?"
Support for the university to divest from companies "complicit" with the genocide has increased due to bipartisan efforts proposed by both the College Democrats and College Republicans.
According to leadership from both organizations, the groups are "proud" to work together on the initiative to raise awareness at George Washington University.
"GW College Republicans is proud to have worked with GW College Democrats in hosting this event," Republicans chairman Patrick Burland told Campus Reform. "Human Rights transcends the partisan divide and we look forward to continuing the divestment campaign in a bipartisan fashion."
Executive Director of the College Democrats Louie Kahn echoed a similar sentiment, telling Campus Reform that it is important for the committee's message to spread on campus.
"It is critical that students on our campus, and campuses across America, learn the truth about the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur people by the CCP," Kahn stated. "We commend Ms. Dawut and Ms. Abbas for their courage and relentless advocacy for human rights as they continue sharing their stories and unique perspectives with the world."
Kahn also stated that the collaborative effort is expected to continue for "weeks and months ahead," and that the University has been willing to address the issue.
College Republicans Director of Public Relations Ezra Meyer expanded on the importance of continuing the initiative to raise awareness and hoped that the panel would have a significant impact on the attendees to take action.
[RELATED: As other top schools accept CCP money, Harvard orgs work to free brother of law school alumna from CCP concentration camp]
"Hearing firsthand accounts of the CCPs atrocities should act as a wake-up call for our university to take this issue more seriously and fully commit to divesting any holdings complicit with this genocide," Meyers stated. "We look forward to continuing to work with our partners and the administration in addressing this issue. We must ensure that our own community can do the right thing and be an example for other universities to follow suit."
The event followed an on-campus protest last Tuesday that called on George Washington University to divest from the Uyghur genocide by ceasing investments with corporations who are "complicit" with the CCP's actions.
Members of the GW Uyghur Divestment Committee passed out QR codes linked to a petition airing the students' demands. Currently, the petition has collected over 300 signatures.
Abbas echoed grievances against corporations' neglect to recognize the Uyghur genocide and challenged the students to educate themselves on complicit companies and effectively boycott.
"There should be no investment in firms that use the forced labor," Abbas stated. "A clear message must be sent to companies that putting money before human lives is not profitable. We want to eliminate the profit motive for them."
For GWU, this would include ceasing any deals that profit from the forced labor of the Uyghur camps.
Examples provided included cotton, t-shirts, or "anything that the university purchases."
"If the companies are still supporting this genocide... it's all because China is using blood money they are making from the Uyghur slaves to silence them," Abbas said.
Moreso, Abbas addressed George Washington University, specifically, calling on the university to use its "financial resources and powerful reputation" to emphasize support for the Uyghurs and oppose the CCP's influence.
Executive Director of the Athenai Institute John Metz told Campus Reform that there is still more work to be done on campus, and the Institute will continue working with the students to move the protests forward.
"The most important step now is to channel this grassroots student support into student government action and direct pressure on the administrators," Metz said. "To these ends, we've already begun to discuss a resolution in the Student Association demanding divestment and a group of students have already begun to meet personally with university administrators to ask for their support."
According to Metz, student support is critical in leading the charge toward divestment because "students are best positioned to call on their universities."
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