Chinese authorities have confirmed that renowned Uyghur intellectual and folklore expert, Professor Rahile Dawut, has been sentenced to life in prison for alleged state security offenses. In addition to her life sentence, Professor Rahile Dawut has been deprived of political rights for the rest of her life, a severe supplementary punishment.
According to insider information from the Chinese government, Professor Rahile Dawut was tried in December 2018, one year after her initial detention, on charges of "splittism," a crime categorized under endangering state security. The trial took place in an intermediate people's court in Xinjiang, where she was subsequently convicted. Despite appealing the sentence, her plea was recently rejected by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region High People's Court.
Professor Rahile Dawut now joins a growing list of over 300 Uyghur intellectuals who have been detained, arrested, or imprisoned since 2016.
Notably, China's acquittal rate in cases related to endangering state security is extremely low, with trials conducted secretly. While it is known that Professor Rahile Dawut's lawyer attended the proceedings, it remains unclear whether any members of her family were permitted to be present.
At the time of her arrest in December 2017, she was a professor at Xinjiang University College of Humanities, where she founded the Ethnic Minorities Research Center in 2007. Her extensive fieldwork in Xinjiang solidified her reputation as a leading ethnographer. Professor Rahile Dawut, aged 57, was a longstanding member of the Chinese Communist Party and received accolades and grants from China's Ministry of Culture.
Throughout her career, Professor Rahile Dawut published numerous books and papers on Uyghur folklore, delivering lectures at prestigious institutions worldwide, including Harvard University, Cornell University, and the University of British Columbia. She also served as a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University, Indiana University, and Cambridge University.
The Dui Hua Foundation is actively seeking further information from the Chinese government regarding Professor Rahile Dawut's whereabouts, her health, and her ability to communicate and meet with her family.
John Kamm, the executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation, lamented the sentencing, saying, "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. I call for her immediate release and safe return to her family."
In a heartfelt appeal to the Chinese government, Professor Rahile Dawut's daughter, Akeda Pulati, pleaded, "I worry about my mother every single day. The thought of my innocent mother having to spend her life in prison brings unbearable pain. China, show your mercy and release my innocent mother."
The Campaign For Uyghurs (CFU) is deeply disturbed by the recent news that esteemed Uyghur scholar, Professor Rahile Dawut, has been sentenced to life in prison. This is the first time that the Chinese government has officially acknowledged the life imprisonment of the Uyghur ethnographer.
Executive Director, Rushan Abbas, expressed deep concern regarding this situation and stated “We are devastated to hear the harsh and unjust sentence against one of the most revered Uyghur scholars. Rahile Dawut’s forced transition from a globally celebrated ethnographer to being labeled a so-called “splittist” by the Chinese government stands as a stark testament to the regime’s ongoing Uyghur genocide and suppression of Uyghur culture. We strongly condemn the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for the grave injustice Professor Dawut has been subjected to and implore the international community to join us in demanding her immediate release.”
The Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU) denounced and condemned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its unjust imprisonment and severe sentencing of Professor Rahile Dawut. This reprehensible act of silencing a distinguished scholar served as a chilling reminder of the genocide and systemic human rights violations that have plagued the Uyghur people in East Turkistan.
CFU urgently called upon the international community to take decisive actions to secure the immediate release of Professor Rahile Dawut and the countless Uyghur individuals who have been unjustly incarcerated.
Edited and collated by Team TRC