Zumrat Dawut said she was forcibly sterilized by the Chinese government for having one too many children.
A former resident of Urumqi, the capital of China’s western Xinjiang region, the 38-year-old Uyghur woman said she was fined 18,400 yuan ($2,600) in 2018 for having three children, one more than she was allowed to under Chinese rule.
When she went to pay the fine, Dawut said she was told she’d also need to have a mandatory “birth control procedure.”
She said she was taken to a clinic, where she was hooked up to an IV and given a general anesthetic. A local doctor later told her she’d undergone a tubal ligation, a procedure that uses keyhole surgery to clip, cut or tie a woman’s fallopian tubes.
The doctor said the procedure was permanent – she wouldn’t be able to have any more children.
Dawut’s story is not unique. For years, Uyghur women both inside Xinjiang and around the world have accused the Chinese government of a campaign of abuse, including forced sterilization, cultural indoctrination and incidents of sexual violence.
It’s part of a wider pattern of human rights violations by the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, where authorities are accused of detaining up to two million Muslim-majority Uyghurs and other minority ethnic groups inside vast, fortified centers as part of efforts to enforce greater control over the region.
Rahima Mahmut, a Xinjiang exile and project director for the World Uyghur Congress in London, said women in Xinjiang are living in “hell.”
“Just like any genocide, women are always the number one target … There is a very, very serious crime happening at such a large scale,” she said.
The Chinese government has consistently denied all allegations, presenting its efforts in Xinjiang as legal and necessary measures to prevent extremism, and has used a series of what state-run media refers to as terrorist attacks in 2014 and 2015 to justify its crackdown.
It has also attempted to discredit Dawut’s account specifically, with the state-owned newspaper the Global Times quoting claims from her own brother that she’s “peddling lies online.”
CNN has reached out to the local Xinjiang government for comment.