Beijing [China], September 24 (ANI): A Chinese court has sentenced acclaimed Uyghur folklorist Rahile Dawut to life in prison, VOA News reported citing a human rights group. The development comes six years after she first disappeared.
Citing a Chinese government source, the Dui Hua Foundation in California on Thursday said that the acclaimed Uyghur scholar Dawut had been sentenced to life in prison for allegedly endangering state security, VOA News reported.
The announcement has been devastating for Dawut’s daughter, Akida Pulat, who for years expressed hope that her mother would be released soon.
Speaking to VOA News, Akida Pulat said, “I have been worrying about my mom’s health and safety for the past several years.” She further said, “Thinking about my innocent mom staying in prison for the rest of her life makes me really furious, and I want her to get released immediately.”
Dawut’s life sentence showcases the severity of China’s abusive campaign in Xinjiang. Over 300 Uyghur intellectuals have been detained in the region, according to the Uyghur Human Rights Project.
As many as 3 million people, particularly Uyghurs, are estimated to have been arbitrarily detained in the region, the report said.
Speaking to VOA News, John Kamm, executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation, said, “Among the Uyghurs, intellectuals and scholars and professors are very highly regarded. So when you strike at them, you strike at the very heart of Uyghur culture.”
Several nations, including the US, have accused the Chinese government of committing genocide and crimes against Uyghurs and other majority-Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Chinese Embassy in Washington’s spokesperson said he was “not aware of the specific case,” referring to Dawut, VOA News reported citing his statement sent through email.
After Dawut first disappeared in 2017, she was tried in 2018 for the crime of “splittism,” VOA News reported citing the Dui Hua Foundation. Splittism or separatism is among the charges often used by the Chinese government to target Uyghurs.
Rahile Dawut had appealed against the subsequent conviction. However, his appeal was apparently rejected and it remains unclear on when she was sentenced to life in prison.
Dawut’s daughter Akida Pulat, who is based in Seattle, urged the Chinese government to release her mother. At the time of her disappearance, Dawut was a professor at Xinjiang University in Urumqi.
During her career, Rahile Dawut published numerous books and papers on Uyghur folklore and lectured at top universities around the world. The Dui Hua Foundation is among many human rights groups that have urged China to immediately release Dawut.
In a statement, John Kamm said, “The sentencing of Professor Rahile Dawut to life in prison is a cruel tragedy, a great loss for the Uyghur people, and for all who treasure academic freedom.”
Speaking to VOA News, Zubayra Shamseden, who works at the Uyghur Human Rights Project in Washington, said that since Dawut’s research focused on Uyghur culture and heritage, her life sentence showcases China’s “clear intention of wiping out Uyghur culture from Earth.”
Human rights lawyer Rayhan Asat said that Dawut’s life sentence is part of China’s clear strategy to eliminate Uyghur culture by targeting intellectuals. (ANI)