“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

Umut Tursun

吾木提 · 吐尔送

Assumed Location

Prison, Shiho (Wusu)

Suspected Reasons for Arrest or Detention

Travelling to Turkey

Official Reason for Arrest or Detention


Last Contact

August 2017

In May 2015, Umut visited his parents and siblings who were living in Turkey. At his parents’ request, Umut stayed for three months, but then he headed back to Xinjiang without telling the family because he missed his friends and hometown. Umut’s father had tried unsuccessfully to convince his son to stay in Turkey. He would have helped him to open a barber’s shop so that Umut could realise his dreams in Turkey. After Umut left Turkey, he called his parents a few times. During the last call, in May 2017, Umut briefly mentioned that “the situation was getting tough.” Umut’s father last heard his son’s voice in August 2017, when Umut left a message to the family over WeChat saying that he had been sent to an internment camp for three months and later released, only to then be hospitalized due to health issues. After that, Umut’s father never heard from his son again. He tried for years to gather more information about his son’s arrest through family members and friends in Xinjiang, but only in July 2022 he was able to discover that Umut is serving a 8-year sentence in Wusu prison. He believes that his son was arrested because he visited Turkey.

Personal Details

Umut is a young barber from Guljia city. He loves going to school and practicing his profession. He is the eldest of three siblings. Umut’s father ended the interview saying: “his brother and younger sister wanted to see him [Umut] so badly. They are also suffering because they have been missing their brother.”

Date of Birth

3 January 1997




Ghulja (Yining) city, Korgas town



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