More than a dozen former detainees confirmed to BuzzFeed News that prisoners were divided into three categories, differentiated by uniform colors. Those in blue, like Parida and the majority of the people interviewed for this article, were considered the least threatening. Often, they were accused of minor transgressions, like downloading banned apps to their phones or having traveled abroad. Imams, religious people, and others considered subversive to the state were placed in the strictest group — and were usually shackled even inside the camp. There was also a mid-level group.
The blue-clad detainees had no interaction with people in the more “dangerous” groups, who were often housed in different sections or floors of buildings, or stayed in separate buildings altogether. But they could sometimes see them through the window, being marched outside the building, often with their hands cuffed. In Chinese, the groups were referred to as “ordinary regulation,” “strong regulation,” and “strict regulation” detainees.
For several women detainees, a deeply traumatic humiliation was having their long hair cut to chin length. Women were also barred from wearing traditional head coverings, as they are in all of Xinjiang.
“I wanted to keep my hair,” said Nursaule. “Keeping long hair, for a Kazakh woman, is very important. I had grown it since I was a little girl, I had never cut it in my life. Hair is the beauty of a woman.”