Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination


The first memoir about the "reeducation" camps by a Uyghur woman.

“I have written what I lived. The atrocious reality.”
— Gulbahar Haitiwaji to Paris Match

Since 2017, more than one million Uyghurs have been deported from their homes in the Xinjiang region of China to “reeducation camps.” The brutal repression of the Uyghurs, a Turkish-speaking Muslim ethnic group, has been denounced as genocide, and reported widely in media around the world. The Xinjiang Papers, revealed by the New York Times in 2019, expose the brutal repression of the Uyghur ethnicity by means of forced mass detention­—the biggest since the time of Mao.
Her name is Gulbahar Haitiwaji and she is the first Uyghur woman to write a memoir about the 'reeducation' camps. For three years Haitiwaji endured hundreds of hours of interrogations, torture, hunger, police violence, brainwashing, forced sterilization, freezing cold, and nights under blinding neon light in her prison cell.
These camps are to China what the Gulags were to the USSR. The Chinese government denies that they are concentration camps, seeking to legitimize their existence in the name of the “total fight against Islamic terrorism, infiltration and separatism,” and calls them “schools.” But none of this is true. Gulbahar only escaped thanks to the relentless efforts of her daughter. Her courageous memoir is a terrifying portrait of the atrocities she endured in the Chinese gulag and how the treatment of the Uyghurs at the hands of the Chinese government is just the latest example of their oppression of independent minorities within Chinese borders.
The Xinjiang region where the Uyghurs live is where the Chinese government wishes there to be a new “silk route,” connecting Asia to Europe, considered to be the most important political project of president Xi Jinping.


Buying options

“Gulbahar’s story is a truly powerful representation of resilience. As the Chinese Communist regime is actively seeking to undermine the values of freedom and democracy across the globe, we need only read testimonies like this one to know what the future world order will look like if the Chinese Communist regime is allowed to continue unchecked. Despite her suffering, her courage in the face of genocide shines through. May every person who reads it be inspired to confront these modern-day horrors and be an upstander just as Gulbahar has been.”

A viscerally affecting memoir from a Uyghur woman who “endured hundreds of hours of interrogation, torture, malnutrition, police violence, and brainwashing.” By 2006, Haitiwaji and her husband, Kerim, began to realize that she and her fellow Uyghurs were being incrementally stripped of their civil rights in her native region of Xinjiang. They moved to France, where life was difficult but livable. Although the couple had been well-paid engineers at an oil company in Xinjiang, they scraped by in Paris, with Kerim working as an Uber driver and the author as a baker and cook. In 2017, pressure by her former employer about her work pension convinced them that it was safe for her to return to sign required paperwork. Not long after she arrived, she was apprehended and interrogated. Photos of her adult daughter in Paris at an anti-Chinese protest for Uyghurs convinced police that she was dangerous. She was branded as a “terrorist,” a fate that has befallen many Uyghurs, who are Muslim and fiercely wary of Chinese authoritarianism. Languishing without a trial for a year, she was eventually sentenced to seven years of “reeducation.” In this urgent and eloquent narrative, the author fashions harrowing depictions of daily humiliations at the camps (so-called “schools”), including rote memorization, senseless interrogation, and violence. After more than two years, pressure by her daughter, who publicized her mother’s ordeal, raising alarm to the highest levels of the French government, agitated Xinjiang authorities. In order to secure her release, Haitiwaji was forced to confess to crimes she hadn’t committed. Despite her courage in the face of a brutal ordeal, it appears that she was one of the lucky ones: Many of the women she met in prison never made it out, and thousands still suffer based on the flimsiest of charges simply because of their ethnicity. A taut, moving, powerful account of an ongoing human rights disaster.

“Gulbahar Haitiwaji’s beautifully written account of brutality in the Chinese government’s “reeducation camps” is a remarkable feat—accessible to all readers, deeply human despite the inhumanity detailed, and unsparing in its details of bleak efforts to destroy Uyghur identity. One constant throughout the book, and clearly throughout her life: Haitiwaji’s extraordinary courage.”

Born in 1966 in Ghulja in the Xinjiang region, Gulbahar Haitiwaji was an executive in the Chinese oil industry before leaving for France in 2006 with her husband and children, who obtained the status of political refugees. In 2017 she was summoned in China for an administrative issue. Once there, she was arrested and spent more than two years in a re-education camp. Thanks to the efforts of her family and the French foreign ministry she was freed and was able to return to France where she currently resides.