Washington [US], October 1 (ANI): The United States has strongly criticised China for imposing a life sentence on Rahile Dawut, a prominent Uyghur academic.
A US-based human rights organisation recently reported that Dawut, aged 57, had lost her appeal against her initial conviction dating back to December 2018, on charges of "endangering state security."Human rights activists have alleged that China is conducting a large-scale internment campaign targeting Uyghurs, accompanied by disturbing practices such as forced sterilisation and cultural repression. Some government bodies, including the US State Department, have gone so far as to label these actions as "genocide." China, however, denies these allegations.
Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the US State Department, issued a statement condemning the reported life sentence handed down to Professor Rahile Dawut by the Chinese government following secretive court proceedings.
The statement said that Dawut and other Uyghur intellects were"unjustly imprisoned" for their work to protect and preserve Uyghur culture and traditions.
"We call upon the PRC government to immediately end the genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang and to abide by its international commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We continue to call onthe PRC government to immediately release Professor Dawut and all individuals who are unjustly detained," it added.
"We condemn the reported life sentence handed down by the Government of the People's Republic of China following secret court proceedings of Professor Rahile Dawut," Miller said in a statement.
Before her detention, Rahile Dawut had held the position of professor at the Xinjiang University College of Humanities and was well-regarded as a leading cultural anthropologist and ethnographer specializing in Uyghur folklore. She had been in detention since December 2017 in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, an area where Beijing has faced accusations of human rights abuses against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority, which it vehemently denies.
It's worth noting that Dawut is just one among a list of over 300 Uyghur intellectuals who have been detained, arrested, or imprisoned by Chinese authorities since 2016, as reported by the U.S.-based Dui Hua Foundation.
The development of Chinese court sentencing Dawut to life in prison came six years after she first disappeared, VOA News reported citing a human rights group.
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."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.
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)