Sister of Uyghur Rights Advocate Rebiya Kadeer Confirmed to Have Died After Release From Detention

Arzugul Kadeer is one of 38 of the activist’s relatives who have been detained by authorities.

Sister of Uyghur Rights Advocate Rebiya Kadeer Confirmed to Have Died After Release From Detention

Arzugul Kadeer, the younger sister of veteran Uyghur rights advocate Rebiya Kadeer, is confirmed to have died one week after her release from an internment camp, according to official sources in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Rebiya Kadeer recently spoke out about how her relatives back in the XUAR have been targeted for detention, in part due to her advocacy efforts abroad, after Chinese authorities in March forced her granddaughter Aydidar Kahar and her younger brother Mamatjan Kadeer to speak onscreen at a press conference, claiming that all members of the family are “free” and living “happily.”

The press conference was the latest bid by Beijing to control the narrative about the situation in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities as part of a campaign of mass extralegal incarceration since early 2017.

Amid increasing scrutiny of China’s policies in the XUAR, the U.S. government in January designated abuses in the region part of a campaign of genocide—a label that was similarly applied by the parliaments of Canada, The Netherlands, and the U.K. China has dismissed the allegations and sought to undermine claims by former detainees by coercing their relatives to call them liars on camera.

Rebiya Kadeer, 74, a prominent businesswoman in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, was released from a Chinese prison in March 2005 on medical parole after being jailed for six years for sending politically sensitive newspaper clippings abroad, and went into exile in the U.S. She served 11 years as leader of the exile World Uyghur Congress (WUC), and heads the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation.

According to Rebiya Kadeer, a total of 38 of her family members have been in some form of detention in the region. She said that among those detained were her sisters Arzugul Kadeer and Halcham Kadeer, as well as five others who were released only after their health was in critical condition—including her brother Memet Kadeer and her son Ablikim Abdurehim.

Rebiya Kadeer said that her relationship with Arzugul had been cut off since mid-2014, but in late 2017 she received information that her sister had died in a camp. Rebiya noted that she and Arzugul had continued speaking on the phone through 2014 despite threats from the police, leading police to repeatedly call her in for questioning and even conduct a raid of her home.

RFA’s Uyghur Service called authorities in Arzugul Kadeer’s home county of Kuchar (in Chinese, Kuche), in the XUAR’s Aksu (Akesu) prefecture, several times in 2017 to confirm the claim but was unable to do so after personnel refused to provide any information about the case.

However, a source claiming familiarity with the situation in Kuchar, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, told RFA that Arzugul Kadeer, who was retired from the Kuchar County Bureau of Food and Beverages, had been detained for a month by police in the aftermath of deadly unrest in the XUAR capital Urumqi.

Some 200 people died and 1,700 were injured in the three-day rampage of violence that began on July 5, 2009 in Urumqi between ethnic minority Uyghurs and Han Chinese, according to China’s official figures, although Uyghur rights groups say the numbers are much higher.

At the time, authorities claimed Rebiya Kadeer had instigated the unrest from abroad. It remains unclear under what circumstances Arzugul Kadeer was detained and under what terms she was released.

Subsequent detentions

The source said Arzugul Kadeer was detained for a second time in June 2014, the same period in which China claimed there was a “wave” of “religious extremism” in the XUAR and began a crackdown on Uyghur society, known as the “New Strike Hard Campaign,” that included large-scale detentions and high-profile trials.

She was reportedly released in mid-2015 after serving a one-year term in prison following this second detention and subsequent arrest. The charges that landed her in jail and the conditions and terms of her release also remain unknown at this time.

RFA’s source said Arzugul Kadeer had been detained by representatives of the neighborhood committee in Saqsaq in coordination with Kuchar’s Dongmehelle Township Police Station, however, relevant officials in Saqsaq could not confirm the information.

A representative of the Kuchar county police station revealed that she had once received a report stating that Arzugul Kadeer was missing and asking for information on her whereabouts, but then declined to comment further.

According to RFA’s source, Arzugul was detained a third and final time in 2017 at the age of 69. The source said that she was unable to withstand the interrogations and torture she received while in detention, and that her health rapidly declined, resulting in her loss of physical strength and inability to move.

The source also claimed that after she failed to comply with certain arrangements inside the camp, police turned her over to the neighborhood committee of Saqsaq in a state of poor health. Committee workers took her to the Kuchar County Hospital, and one week later the authorities turned her body over to her children.

A police officer in Kuchar city confirmed that Arzugul died in hospital “three or four” years ago. She claimed that the party-state “cared” for her on account of her old age and that she had left “education”—a euphemism for the camp—early, despite her many “mistakes,” but also noted that the treatment she received in the hospital was ultimately ineffective due to serious health problems.

“She died in the hospital,” the officer said. “Apparently she was ill,” she added, noting that Arzugul had died approximately “one week” after leaving the camp. She was unable to provide any details on the cause of death.

Targeting family members

Abdurashid Niyaz, an independent researcher in Turkey, told RFA that cracking down on dissidents and their family members is “a particularly cruel and inhumane act,” and suggested that such methods are a sign not of strength, but rather of weakness.

“Although it’s very clear that these detained and surveilled prisoners have absolutely no relationship to the political activities their relatives are engaging in, the Chinese communists are adopting and using such cruel methods in an attempt to preserve their rule and to achieve stability, even if for just a period,” he said.

“But humanity will not forgive this, and cannot accept it, because punishing people’s relatives is a method that is contradictory to human nature.”

Nonetheless, he said, Uyghur rights activists are aware of the risks facing themselves and their loved ones and are often mentally prepared to pay such a price for their activism.

“Throughout history we have seen the price [of this work] in front of our very eyes and are still continuing to work for our political struggle,” he said.

“I believe that if it becomes necessary to pay the price of our own lives for the freedom and independence of our homeland, no Uyghur would think twice.”

Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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The Disgrace of India’s Women’s Health

A substandard health system devotes its resources to men

The Disgrace of India’s Women’s Health

By: Neeta Lal

Bindiya Kumari, 26, a farmer from Dumaria village, located 175 km from capital city Patna in India’s poorest state of Bihar, has had two miscarriages since her marriage in 2018. Her plight sadly is neither rare nor exceptional. She and millions like her are the victims of a grossly substandard health care system that seriously neglects women and whose defects have been tragically magnified by the second wave of the coronavirus that has been ripping through the country.

The nearest hospital in Dumaria is 20 km away, Kumari says, so each time her delivery date arrived, the arduous journey to a medical facility in a rickety bus caused excessive bleeding, resulting in the death of her two unborn children.

“My mother-in-law is always taunting me that despite three years of my marriage to her son, I’ve not been able to give her a grandchild,” Kumari said. “But is it my fault that we don’t have a good hospital in our village? None of the politicians who come rushing in at election time have bothered to focus on our health problems.”

Thousands of Indian villages are bearing the brunt of a rudimentary health care system characterized by lack of funds, skeletal medical staff, paucity of critical lifesaving equipment and bureaucratic apathy. In what many have termed as India’s “Covid Apocalypse,” millions of hapless patients and their families are scrambling to secure the most basic life-saving drugs and services. So far the virus has afflicted more than 22.6 million people, the second-worst total in the world after the United States, and killed more than 246,000 people.

The ramifications of the unprecedented crisis will be especially grim for women’s health, studies say. A recent Unicef report, Direct and Indirect Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic and Response in South Asia, estimates that pandemic-related disruptions will result in a dramatic spike in maternal and child deaths, unwanted pregnancies and disease-related mortality in women and adolescents. India is expected to record 154,000 child deaths while maternal deaths are expected to surge by 18 percent, stillbirths by 10 percent. Of the 3.5 million additional unintended pregnancies estimated due to lack of access to reproductive healthcare, three million are likely to be in India, according to Unicef.

Further research by the Foundation for Reproductive Health Services underlines how 26 million couples in India won’t have access to contraceptives due to the pandemic, resulting in an additional 2.4 million unintended pregnancies. Nearly two million people will be unable to access abortion services.

Clearly, the Indian government has learned nothing from the pandemic’s first wave, experts say, even though evidence from past epidemics, like Ebola and Zika, has demonstrated that in times of crisis, women’s health takes a back seat in governments’ priorities. That is because funds and health resources are diverted to other avenues, heightening the risk of unintended pregnancies, maternal health risks, and unsafe abortions.

Restrictions on mobility during the current pandemic have only made things worse.

“Lockdowns and fear of catching the dreaded coronavirus at hospitals are inhibiting families from visiting hospitals for maternal checkups, driving up pregnancy-related complications,” said Savitri Devi, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) employed under the government’s National Rural Health Mission. Devi is posted to a district hospital in NOIDA district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The pan-India nonprofit Population Foundation of India, which promotes and advocates gender-sensitive population policies and strategies, notes that women’s access to contraception, post-natal care services and institutional deliveries have plunged significantly in the pandemic year.

According to Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the foundation, India’s fragile healthcare sector is not equipped for the unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases in this second wave. With only five hospital beds per 10,000 population and 8.6 physicians for every 10,000 people, the country lacks the requisite infrastructure for a crisis of this magnitude, she said.

The foundation’s own analysis of the first lockdown shows that women’s access to contraception, ante-natal care services and institutional deliveries have all been compromised as hospitals struggle to attend to critical patients. In backward states like Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, adolescents reported an unmet need for reproductive health services, especially menstrual hygiene products.

Experts point out that the mess is a direct result of India’s undercapitalized health care system, a result of one of the world’s lowest spends on health. India spends only 1.3 percent of its GDP on health as compared to the OECD countries' average of 7.6 percent and other BRICS countries' average of 3.6 percent. India’s military spend, however, is 2.9 percent of GDP (China’s is lower at 1.7 percent).

By contrast, in its latest report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute revealed that India is the third highest spender on acquiring arms and its military expenditure grew by 2.1 percent since last year as against China’s more moderate 1.9 percent, a fact that has evoked sharp criticism at home.

Dr. Pratibha Khandelwal, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Max Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, notes that another acute problem – inequitable distribution of health resources – bedevils much of rural India.

“Despite the authorities launching an array of targeted sexual and reproductive health interventions, our field studies reveal that they benefit 95 percent of economically empowered women as against 59 percent of the underprivileged,” she said.

Even the government’s flagship Beti Bachao Beti Padhao program, which focuses on women’s health and education, has facilitated only marginal improvements in enhancing the sex ratio at birth from 918 in 2014-15 to 934 in 2019-20, Khandelwal added. “Despite national campaigns emphasizing women’s free choice in opting for contraceptive methods, state governments continue to push female sterilization leading to coercion and risky substandard sterilization procedures, reflecting a patriarchal mindset.”

According to Unicef estimates, India would have the highest number of forecast births, at 20 million, in the nine-month period dating from when Covid-19 was first declared a pandemic. Also, of around seven million unwanted pregnancies globally, a little over two million will be in India alone. CARE International, in first-of-its-kind research across 40 countries, found that 27 percent of Indian women reported an increase in mental illnesses – compared to only 10 percent of men.

This skewed pattern paints a picture of missing political will, say health activists. When the will is present, they point out, much can be achieved, such as the improvement in India’s Maternal Mortality Rate, which plummeted from 122 in 2015-17 to 113 in 2016-18 through public sensitization campaigns. The rate of institutional deliveries surged from 18 percent in 2005 to 79 percent in 2016.

A gender-sensitive health framework with urgent attention from all stakeholders is the need of the hour, Khandelwal said. “The pandemic has been a wakeup call for the government to invest in public healthcare and prioritize the health of women, who make up almost half of India’s 1.3 billion population. It’ll be a shame if they don’t learn even now,” she concludes.

Source : Asia Sentinel More   

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