“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

Erbolat Mukametkali

叶尔波拉提 · 木哈买提哈力

Assumed Location

Prison, Shiho (Wusu) city

Suspected Reasons for Arrest or Detention

Religious practices

Official Reason for Arrest or Detention


Last Contact

March 2017

Erbolat’s mother lost contact with her son Erbolat in December 2016 after she moved to Kazakhstan where she now lives. In 2018, through some family connections she had in Xinjiang, she discovered that her son had been arrested in March 2017, spent a year in several internment camps, and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment after a trial that the family in Xinjiang was unable to attend due to the very short notice they were given by the police. She was also told that Erbolat is now held in a prison in Shiho (Wusu) city, and that the Chinese authorities offered Erbolat’s wife the chance to reduce her husband’s sentence if she paid some money to the police.
Erbolat’s mother does not know the official reasons for the arrest, but she believes Erbolat was arrested solely because of his religious practices.
According to Erbolat’s mother, Erbolat’s wife and daughters, still in Xinjiang, are allowed to talk to Erbolat, but the videocalls are dialled from a police station and monitored.
Erbolat’s mother, who is now a citizen of Kazakhstan, has been unable to gather any official information on her son’s situation, despite her appeals to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.

Personal Details

Erbolat is an ethnic Kazakh from Sanmushan village. He studied engineering in Urumqi and became an entrepreneur. He is married and has two daughters. One of them is only 5 years old. Erbolat’s mother describes her son as a very religious, generous and extrovert person.

Date of Birth

4 April 1987




Sanmushan village



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