A Uyghur Prisoner’s Escape: Changing the Course of Death

11/24/2022KOK BAYRAQA+ | A-

China claims Mahmut Moydun managed to escape from a dreaded jail in Korla. How was it possible?

by Kok Bayraq

The arrest warrant for Mahmut Moydun, a Uyghur man. From Weibo.
The arrest warrant for Mahmut Moydun. From Weibo.

The Chinese police in East Turkestan (Xinjiang to China) recently issued an arrest warrant for a criminal named Mahmut Moydun. The warrant mentioned that the fugitive was dressed in a prisoner’s uniform, but it did not say that he had escaped from prison. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that the fugitive had escaped from a jail on the northern edge of Korla.

As someone familiar with the region, I automatically wondered how this was possible and why he had run away.

The entire world knows that China has turned not only its prisons but also all of East Turkestan into an iron cage. China’s leaked documents revealed that millions of Uyghurs are being “educated” in concentration camps, which “teach like schools, manage like the military, and are defended like prisons.”

A police officer stated that “students” are taken to the bathroom once a week under police supervision and taken from dormitories to classrooms every day, also under police supervision. The report also revealed that if sick “students” needs to be taken from their bed for treatment, all “students” in the dormitory are tied to their beds before medical personnel enter. The same police officer said they would take “students” to a yard for gymnastics once a week, but he noted that three police officers would accompany them, and there are two more gates outside the compound that would prevent them from escaping.

How did such conditions occur? Have the above systems in prisons changed? At the end of 2019, China converted most of its camps into prisons, following international public criticism. However, the changes made the camps worse because the term “student” was no longer used for the detainees, making the camps true prisons.

Some netizens speculated that arrest warrants were a game for the Chinese police aimed at hiding the deaths of prisoners. However, China has never been afraid of leaving dead bodies with Uyghurs’ families. China does not want drama regarding dead Uyghurs, and it will never be willing to report negative news that indicates the weaknesses and failures of its armed forces.

Many people were moved from camp to camp and from prison to prison, whether for education, punishment, or to improve prison structures. Camp survivor Gulzire Awulkhan said that she had been transferred four times during her two years in camps. Umar Bekali wrote that he changed his camp at least three times during a year-and-a-half period. RFA reported that detainees in the camp of Turpan are taken to a cement factory 20 kilometers away in Toqsun County for forced labor every day.

One of the detention facilities near Korla of which Bitter Winter published exclusive images in 2020.
One of the detention facilities near Korla of which Bitter Winter published exclusive images in 2020.

Could it be that Mahmud escaped when he was taken to another prison or labor camp? If so, where did he go, especially in an area where there is a COVID lockdown? How could this happen when residents cannot go out, and those who do are imprisoned, especially if they show sympathy for a suspect, let alone embrace a criminal?

As a former member of the Uyghur community, a victim of Chinese oppression, and a professional observer of the Uyghur situation, I can assume the following:

Perhaps, as a religious believer, Mahmut Moydun took a risk and expected miraculous salvation from God!

Perhaps, as a member of a brave, indomitable people, he rebelled against the enemy in this way and relieved his conscience!

Perhaps the pressure he had experienced in prison had increased his anger to an uncontrollable level, and he unleashed that anger by breaking down the walls.

Maybe during his daily political lessons, he heard that the USA and the West, who supported Uyghur separatists to prevent the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, were the enemies of China. He may have seen an opportunity for justice, and he hoped that even if they could not help save him, they would raise a voice for him and his people if he successfully escaped from the iron cage and came to be mentioned in the evening news.

Although this is all conjecture, it is clear that after he felt himself rotting and watched his cellmates rot in prison, his vision of death changed from intolerant and painful to easily handled with a weapon. Instead of dying silently, he chose to die by being shot by the enemy. He chose to make some noise, leave his name, and draw attention to the tragedy of his people.

Notably, this is not the first miraculous escape. In 2009, the “fugitive” Ershidin Israel crossed Kazakhstan from China’s Korgas district without a passport. His courage led to speculation that he was sent by China as an agent to infiltrate Uyghur activists overseas. The basis of the claim was that no one could fathom how he had escaped when even a bird could not cross the border of China. However, as a result of the protracted fight between Uyghur activists and China, he was extradited to China by Kazakhstan.

In 2018, detainee Pazil Utuq escaped from a camp with a serious neck injury. As in the case of Mahmut Moydun, 100,000 yuan was promised to those who caught him. Additionally, 80,000 armed forces and local residents joined the search for him, and on the seventh day of his escape, he was found in a cemetery and shot.

In 2020, when Miradil Hesen was told to go to a camp for “education,” he fled his hometown of Aksu. He hid in the Chinese region for about a year. After some preparations, he posted a series of statements against China on YouTube and named his homeland Uyghuristan. These are rare acts that can be openly called a “breakup” with China while living in China. He stated that he planned to continue the freedom struggle for a few more months until he was arrested. However, he was detained by the Nanjing police on September 9 and sent to Urumqi.

While remembering these stories of courage, I received another detail of Mahmut Moydun’s case from Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer. According to the denunciations she received, the escape took place during a bloody clash between inmates and police in the prison workplace, which was the plantation field. During this clash, 10 prisoners and 3 policemen died on the spot, 5 prisoners escaped, 2 fugitives reported to the police, and 2 were caught while hiding. Mahmut Moydun is still being sought.

It is impossible to verify the accuracy of these details, but one thing is certain: the Uyghurs are doing everything they can against the oppression they are facing to rescue themselves and make their voices known to the world. Although the costs are heavy, the results are left to the will of God and the conscience of humanity.

source https://bitterwinter.org/uyghur-prisoners-escape/

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