Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V.
For immediate release: 10:00 CET
Date: 23 September 2021
Subject: Seventh Anniversary of Prof. Ilham Tohti’s Verdict
Contact: Enver Can, +491738912048, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V. is commemorating the seventh anniversary of Prof. Ilham Tohti’s life imprisonment with growing concern and sorrow about both mental and physical health of the Uyghur scholar.
Prof. Tohti was unjustly sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” – a notion he vehemently opposed in 2014 following a two-day show trial in an Urumchi Intermediate Court. Before his imprisonment, Prof. Tohti was an economist at Nationality (Minzu) University of China and an outspoken critic of relations between Uyghurs and the Han majority.
Thus, Christina Rendon from Martin Ennals Foundation says” QUOTE
“… Ilham Tohti, was granted the Martin Award for human Rights Defenders in 2016, two years after he was condemned to a life behind bars. China’s Mandela has been convicted for “separatism”, while Tohti relied on pen and paper only to foster dialogue and understanding between China’s Han majority and the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority…“. UNQUOTE
In an essay from 2009 focusing on Han Chinese arrogancy, Ilham Tohti wrote: “Diversity and respect and harmonious coexistence in one country is the ideal life that most Uyghurs aspire to. My hunch tells me that Uyghurs are becoming victims of ethnic politics. Some politicians are even using inter-ethnic discord and contradictions to try to divert the main conflict to achieve their ulterior motives. I am afraid that in the future they will probably stir up ethnic conflicts on the structural rocks they think, they need …. creating tragedy.”
Some Uyghur observers say, that Ilham Tohti saw the signs of today’s “ethnic genocide” against Uyghur people in advance and warned the Chinese government to take precaution measures accordingly. According to Mr. Enver Can, the founding President of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, the above fact is one the real reasons why the Uyghur scholar was sentenced for life in prison.
There is no official information about his whereabouts, health and physical conditions, and his wife Güzelnur was not able to visit her husband for the last five years. In spite of the Chinese law stipulates, he is not enjoying his right of visitations and is de facto kept incommunicado. This is a calculated and cruel deprivation. Observers say that the combination of reduced visits, denial of communication, gag orders, and family reprisals, have been carefully engineered to punish the Uyghur scholar with degrading treatment and psychological torture, while at the same time keeping the attention on his plight from the outside world to a minimum.
The CCP aimed to silence him through imprisonment, but the Uyghur scholar is now better known by the international community than ever before. The UN, the EU, various democratic governments, thousands of academics and human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have condemned his imprisonment and have called for his immediate release. Additionally, Prof. Tohti has been awarded with more than 10 international human rights awards since his arrest – the most prestigious among them being the Sakharov Award for “Freedom of Thought”, which he received in 2019. He has also repeatedly been a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
There is also growing international concern about both the physical and mental health of Prof. Ilham Tohti, as there has not been any family visitation for the last 5 years and he has been kept incommunicado and in a solitary confinement supposedly at Prison No.1 in Urumchi. The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xaobo passed away in prison without proper treatment and the recent deaths of many former Uyghur inhabitants of the internment camps shortly after their release fuels the concern about the fate of Prof. Tohti.
Thus, we call on the Chinese government to publish official information on whereabouts and conditions of Ilham Tohti, unconditionally release him and his students and urge the international community, including the UN human rights institutions, the governments, the European Union and all human rights NGOs to press for his freedom.