“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

Suppiyem Tochti

Assumed Location

Internment camp

Suspected Reasons for Arrest or Detention

Travelling abroad, contact with family abroad, religious practices

Official Reason for Arrest or Detention


Last Contact

After 2015

Suppiyem went missing after April 2015, after a trip to Turkey to visit family members and relatives, including her granddaughter. In November-December 2019, the granddaughter and her family living in Germany were told by relatives still in China that Suppiyem was in an internment camp. According to her granddaughter, before visiting Turkey, Suppiyem received a threatening call from a police officer who said: “If you don’t come back from Turkey, we will take your son.” Once back in China, Suppiyem cut off all communication with the family abroad. Her granddaughter recalled her saying: “Don’t call me anymore, we are fine here.” The granddaughter’s family does not have any official documents on Suppiyem’s case and has now lost all connections with relatives in China. The family is worried about Suppiyem’s health, because she suffers from diabetes and heart problems.

Personal Details

Suppiyem, now about 60 years old, is a hard-working woman who often travelled on business. She owns a shop selling clothes, hats and assorted items in Shahyar. Her granddaughter remembers her as always busy with family and business, adding: “She didn’t have an easy life.” She also recalls her grandmother’s surprise when she saw how people could talk without restrictions in Turkey. “She [Suppiyem] was saying, ‘Oh, you can speak so loud here, so freely here.’ She wasn’t used to it.”
One of Suppiyem’s daughters, Hepisem Mehmet, also went missing after the same trip to Turkey and might have been sent to an internment camp sometime between 2016 and 2017.

Date of Birth





Xayar (Shayar), Aksu prefecture



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