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Behind the Barbed Wire: China's Concentration Camps

Tony Perkins · Oct. 19, 2019

“I had to be strong. Every day when I woke up, I thanked God that I was still alive.” –Sayragul Sauytbay, Uyghur

There are harrowing stories — and then there are the stories that seep deep into our bones. Sayragul Sauytbay’s is the kind you don’t forget. Her survival in China’s concentration camps isn’t just a miracle — it’s a warning that true darkness has settled over parts of the East. The most excruciating forms of torture are happening behind barbed wire walls that Beijing has tried hiding. And for the million people trapped inside, the only hope they have to escape their tormentors is international attention and pressure.

Kidnapped by state officials in the middle of the night, Sayragul remembers the terror of being taken — her head covered in a black sack. Told she was being taken to a camp to “teach Chinese,” she didn’t know where she was — only that she’d stepped into a living nightmare. Forbidden to cry or speak, she changed into prison clothes and watched her hair fall when her head was shaved. Cramped into a room with 20 others, she found out that her feet would be shackled from then on — even in sleep. The punishment for even the smallest things, she says, was constant.

“Torture — metal nails, fingernails pulled out, electric shocks…” David Stavrou, who tells her story, writes that the camp’s commanders set aside a room to inflict the worst kind of pain imaginable. The inmates called it the “black room,” because they were forbidden from mentioning it. “There were all kinds of tortures there. Some prisoners were hung on the wall and beaten with electrified truncheons. There were prisoners who were made to sit on a chair of nails. I saw people return from that room covered in blood. Some came back without fingernails.” Every prisoner was forced to take pills and get injections — treatments they didn’t realize were slowly sterilizing them. Others were the subject of gory human experiments.

Every evening was devoted to the listing of sins, which the prison guards defined as everything from not learning Chinese properly to sleeping on the wrong side to refusing to sing propaganda songs. Stavrou pauses, watching the tears well up in Sayragul’s eyes. They’re in Sweden, where Sayragul was finally granted asylum after her escape. She starts to talk about the young girls, her voice breaking. The policemen, she explains, would take the pretty ones away with them, raping them until they couldn’t sit down.

“One day, the police told us they were going to check to see whether our reeducation was succeeding, whether we were developing properly. They took 200 inmates outside, men and women, and told one of the women to confess her sins. She stood before us and declared that she had been a bad person, but now that she had learned Chinese she had become a better person. When she was done speaking, the policemen ordered her to disrobe and raped her one after the other, in front of everyone. While they were raping her, they checked to see how we were reacting. People who turned their head or closed their eyes, and those who looked angry or shocked, were taken away — we never saw them again. It was awful. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to help her.”

Sayragul didn’t sleep much after that. Even now, she closes her eyes and sees their faces. “I will never forget the camp. I cannot forget [them]. They are innocent. I have to tell their story, to tell about the darkness they are in, about their suffering.”

Adrian Zenz is one of the few people who was determined to prove that this was happening. Working alone at a cramped desk, he has spent years combing through the data on the internet, trying to prove to the West that these camps exist. His research, a slow and tedious process, led him to a trail of bidding papers, budget plans, and satellite images that show the quiet construction of these torture chambers — holding as many as a million and a half people just like Sayragul. “I feel very clearly led by God to do this… I’m not afraid to say that,” Adrian insists.

Thursday, on “Washington Watch,” he explained how his work forced the Chinese to admit the camps exist. “I had felt leading from God to just keep doing that data search… Nobody else was interested. Nobody was publishing it. I never had a media request over it. I was just quietly slaving away — and it was a huge amount of work… And then came the time when I clearly felt, ‘I’m supposed to do this.’ I felt God saying to me, ‘You should stick out your head.’”

He did, going public with thousands of pages of documents. Suddenly, the Chinese went into propaganda mode, “inviting the media and diplomats and visitors from overseas to visit these camps… We can see on satellite how they have taken away some of the watch towers. They have removed some of the barbed wire, some of the high walls and the cameras inside the classrooms, and they make people smile and dance.” But the smiles are hollow — like their hope that help will come.

If they’ve lost faith, it’s because some Americans haven’t given them any. The NBA, Apple, Google, Hollywood, and countless others seem willing to do anything to protect their interests in China — even if it means condoning a regime of unspeakable horrors. But make no mistake: every pair of shoes they sell, every iPhone, every Hollywood movie script written to gain approval of the communists’ censors is facilitating the real-life horror that is playing right now in China. Until these companies find their voice, a million Sayraguls waste away — casualties of cowardice we should all be ashamed of.

Originally published here.


Despite Cease-Fire, Calls for More Pressure on Turkey


One hundred and twenty hours isn’t a lot, but U.S. officials are hoping it’s at least enough to get more Syrians and Kurds out of harm’s way. Hunkered down on the front lines, the families who haven’t fled got word of the five-day cease-fire like the rest of the world. For some, it was too late. The shelling from Turkish forces on the border town of Qamishli had already taken innocent lives, including a young teenage boy. Others had already fled, piled on motorcycles and other in cars to shelters several towns away.

While reports on the ground suggest that some shelling continued, deputy assistant to the president Adam Kennedy joined me on “Washington Watch” to talk about the breaking news and what the pause on the invasion really means. For now, he explained, the priority for America is “working with our Kurdish allies to make sure that they are no longer in harm’s way and it make sure that all humanitarian concerns get addressed over this period. We want to make sure that the Turkish government and their incursion in Syria are not exacerbating or worsening the situation.”

With Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both at the U.S. embassy in Turkey, the administration “secured a commitment from Turkey,” Adam explains, “that no military action is taken against the town of Kobane, which is a primary center for many of the religious minorities in that region.” As he says, Turkey has already invaded. They told the president they were going to move in “no matter what.” “The goal now is to get our soldiers and allies out of the crossfire,” Adam said, and “stop some of that collateral damage from spreading.”

“We do want the pressure kept on Turkey,” Adam insisted. President Erdogan went in over U.S. protests. “We want to make sure they understood the severity of that. At the same time, we are seeing, I think, very good progress today. We want to build on that.” One way the U.S. can ratchet up the heat on Turkey is by passing Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) bill. If America cares about protecting this small haven for religious diversity, we cannot trust Turkey to oversee that — or any sort of humanitarian treatment for minorities. Under Graham’s proposal, even stronger sanctions than the president imposed would take effect — putting a real squeeze on the Turkish economy until Erdogan reconsiders.

For now, Christians everywhere need to fervently pray for religious freedom and safety in Syria, especially as the uncertainty hovers like a cloud over the region. Even with the cease-fire, no one knows how the new balance of power will shake out, which will be a major factor moving forward. In the meantime, God’s providence and protection is desperately needed along the miles and miles of border towns in the crosshairs.

Join us in standing with the faithful in the Middle East. If you haven’t already, make sure you sign our petition to President Trump in support of Senator Graham’s bill, the Countering Turkish Aggression Act.

Originally published here.


Raising the Barr on Religious Liberty


More than two out of every three Americans think their beliefs are under attack — and after the Left’s hysteria over a speech by Attorney General Bill Barr, it’s not hard to understand why. Barr, a Catholic, gave a stirring talk at Notre Dame — one of the most powerful given on religious liberty by a government figure in decades. “Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values,” he insisted. And immediately, liberals set about proving the attorney general right.

The Washington Post called it “terrifying.” Over at the New York Times, Paul Krugman said it smacked of “religious bigotry.” Richard Painter’s fury burned through his Twitter feed, insisting Barr’s heartfelt and passionate address was “the latest episode of ‘The Handmaid’s Tail.” And the rage went on and on. Of course, the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn points out, “This is what we have come to expect when someone in public life mentions religion in a positive light.” Or, it turns out, secular activists in a negative one.

“Attorney General Barr’s real beef was not with atheists or agnostics, as some people have misinterpreted his remarks [to mean],” the editors of the Washington Times point out. “A person has as much a right to be an atheist in America as he does a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, and the attorney general is obviously aware of that. Instead, Mr. Barr took issue with intolerant secularists, who seek to impose their way of life on others.” As he said, “Militant secularists today do not have a 'live and let live’ spirit — they are not content to leave religious people alone to practice their faith. Instead, they seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience.” And there are scores of wedding vendors, doctors, teachers, sportscasters, first responders, businessmen, and artists who know it.

Taking his cues from history, he talked about American law being rooted in religion and morality. “The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.” Harkening back to James Madison, John Adams, and others, he reminded people that “By and large, the Founding generation’s view of human nature was drawn from the classical Christian tradition… [F]ree government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people,” Barr explained.

But, modern secularists, he went on, “dismiss this idea… as other-worldly superstition imposed by a kill-joy clergy.” They’ve imposed their own ideas of moral relativism on society and the results have been grim. “First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction,” Barr warns. Of course, “One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor. It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.”

He talks about the challenges facing parents with school-aged children, the futileness of government treating symptoms — instead of causes — of social decline. He decries the aftershocks of the Obama administration, who came at believers and faith-based organizations by force. “I do not mean to suggest that there is no hope for moral renewal in our country,” Barr insists. “But we cannot sit back and just hope the pendulum is going to swing back toward sanity.”

The free exercise of faith is critical to the foundation of America — and the far-Left knows it. They’d like nothing more than to bury the history of our Christian identity and the Founders’ intent under a mound of secular orthodoxy. But they won’t succeed in a culture where parents commit to hand down these values and truisms. Only by forgetting our history will the zealots win.

Originally published here.


This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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