“Like we were enemies in a war”

China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang

“Like we were enemies in a war” China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang

Illustrations by Molly Crabapple

Hawahan Osman

阿瓦汗 · 吾斯曼

Assumed Location


Suspected Reasons for Arrest or Detention

Violation of birth control policy, husband abroad, teaching reading Qur’an in Arabic

Official Reason for Arrest or Detention


Last Contact

March 2017

The last time Hawahan spoke with her sister living in Sweden was early 2016. At that time, Hawahan was already experiencing problems with the police and being forced to attend daily Chinese ceremonies and celebrations. Her sister says Hawahan complied with the Chinese authorities since she was waiting for her passport to join her husband abroad. However, her passport applications were always rejected, and she was detained in March 2017. First, Hawahan was sent to an internment camp and then to prison with a 13–15-year sentence. Her sister learnt about the sentence from family members in China, but she is unable to gather any other information.
Hawahan’s sister thinks the arrest may have been for violation of the birth control policy, having her husband abroad and teaching others to read the Qur’an in Arabic. Hawahan’s sister also added: “[My sister is in prison] because she’s a brave person, loyal to her identity. She follows traditions. She dares to do that in that environment.”

Personal Details

Hawahan is described by her sister as smart, pretty and with a very good memory. She is strong and likes physical labour. She has four children, three of whom were reportedly forcibly taken from home and enrolled by the Chinese authorities in a boarding school.
Her sister is particularly worried about Hawahan, who has already been through really hard times in the past. Before being detained, Hawahan was often alone because her husband used to work abroad for some companies in the Middle East. When he went back to visit her, she had to hide with him and their children as the Chinese authorities were looking for him. Unfortunately, Hawahan’s brother, Ershidin Osman, is in prison with a 16 years’ sentence.

Date of Birth

15 June 1985




Kelpin county



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