ABC's Clarissa Ward reports from Urumqi, the capital of China's north-western Xianjiang province:
We went on a mission today to find the Uighur woman who stood up to Chinese security forces on Tuesday, as she and other women protested the mass arrests of Uighur men. The images of her boldly walking up to the wall of soldiers are undoubtedly some of the most striking of this conflict. Some have compared her to the lone student protestor who stood in front of the tank on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
We started our search in a bustling, impoverished Uighur neighbourhood where the lanes are thick with people selling watermelon and kebabs and butchers slaughtering sheep. It did not take long to find her. We asked a group of locals if they knew about this brave woman and they immediately took us over to her house.
Her name is Tursun Gul. She is a migrant worker and she is not from Urumqi. In person, she looks younger than she does in the pictures but her eyes are tired. She was injured in a car accident and now uses a crutch to help her walk.
She told us why she took to the streets in protest on Tuesday.
“My husband, younger brother and older brothers, 5 in all, were arrested,” she said, “We were eating when it happened. The police came and took them away and they never returned. I don’t know why they took them.”
When we asked if she was not frightened walking up to a line of heavily armed soldiers she retorted, “How could I be afraid when I did not commit any crime? We’re just migrant workers from another part of Xinjiang. We’re not guilty of anything.”
Tursun, a mother of two young children, said she does not know where her brothers and her husband are being held and she does not know when, or if, they will be released. And she does not know how she will support her family now.
“There is no one to take care of us,” she lamented.
Other local residents we spoke to told us that more than 20 men were taken from the area. None of them have been seen since. According to official figures, more than 1400 people have been arrested in connection with this week’s violence.