September 24, 2023: The Dui Hua Foundation, an organization that campaigns on behalf of political prisoners held in China, confirmed on September 21, 2023 that Rahile Dawut, a well known Ugyhur scholar, was sentenced to life in jail for “endangering state security”.
According to the San Francisco-based Dui Hua, Rahile Dawut was tried in 2018 for “splittism” or political separatism – a crime of endangering state security. She was convicted and appealed. That appeal was rejected by a Xinjiang high court, the organization said in its September 21 statement, citing a source in the Chinese government.
Ms Dawut, an expert on Uyghur folklore and traditions, had been teaching at Xinjiang University College of Humanities before she disappeared in December 2017 after being detained by state authorities as she planned to travel to Beijing for a conference. Born in 1966 to a family of intellectuals in Urumqi, Dr. Rahile Dawut studied folklore at Beijing Normal University and was one of the first Uyghur women to earn a Ph.D. She then became a professor at Xinjiang University, the premier college of the region, and founded a folklore institute.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project claims that Ms. Dawut is one of at least 312 Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim intellectual and cultural elites currently being held in some form of detention by the Chinese government. Another prominent Uyghyr on this list is Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Beijing’s Minzu University, who was handed a life sentence in 2014.
A US State Department press statement condemned the life sentence of Professor Dawut. It said “Professor Dawut’s life sentence is part of an apparent broader effort by the PRC to eradicate Uyghur identity and culture and undermine academic freedom, including through the use of detentions and disappearances”. The statement called “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 immediately release Professor Dawut and all individuals who are unjustly detained”.