January 19, 2020
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Jailed Uighur economist Ilham Tohti to receive Sakharov Prize

Jailed Uighur economist Ilham Tohti to receive Sakharov Prize

A Uighur financial expert who is imprisoned in China got the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in absentia on Wednesday, in Strasbourg, France .

Ilham Tohti, 50, was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 on separatism charges.

The award comes amidst the detention of one million ethnic Uighurs in internment camps in the Uighur bulk state of Xinjiang, according to quotes by the United Nations

Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousufzai got the Sakharov Prize in 1988 and 2013 respectively.

Named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, the 50,000- euro ($73,000) award honours people and organisations defending human rights and fundamental liberties.

Tohti was born on October 25, 1959, to a Uighur household in Artux, Xinjiang.

At two, his father passed away, leaving his mom Nasib to raise four kids while working numerous tasks.

” My grandmother needed to distribute his youngest bro to an old couple, since when my grandpa passed away, he was just a few months old,” stated Tohti’s child Jewher Ilham, who received the award on his behalf.

” It was impossible for her to look after the infant while also working to feed the other 3 kids,” she told Al Jazeera.

< img alt =" Jewher Ilham" src =" http://www.aljazeera.com/mritems/Images/2019/12/ 18/ 4bcbb5dcf7704 c 56922 ca1c12422 a 186_ 18. jpg" title =" Child of Uighur and jailed academic Ilham Tothi[Jeher Tothi/Al Jazeera]" >

Jewher Ilham, Ilham Tohti’s daughter, will receive the Sakharov P rize on her daddy
‘s behalf[Courtesy: Jewher Tohti]



Maturing, Tohti mastered school.


His brother or sisters decided to stop their own education to support his scholastic skills.

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At simply15, Tohti did his bachelor’s degree at a university in northern China, outdoors Xinjiang.

He then did a master’s degree at Minzu University in Beijing, where he would go on to become a teacher in economics and social problems associated with Xinjiang and Central Asia.


While his academic work focused on Uighur life in China, he was vocal about Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang which had resulted in financial and material obstacles for the minority.

” He was critiquing the financial basis of the Chinese presence in Xinjiang, pointing out that Han Chinese people were benefitting from the economic activities there disproportionately- which the Uighurs were omitted the resources extraction and development that was taking place there,” Rian Thum, author of The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History and a professor at Nottingham University, told Al Jazeera.

The Uighurs are a predominantly Sunni Muslim, Turkic-speaking community[File: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]

In 2006, Tohti released the Uighur Online site, where he and others would write on the struggle of Uighurs.

In spite of criticism, Tohti promoted for much better understanding in between the Han and his own neighborhood on political, economic and cultural matters.

Elliot Sperling, an academic and friend of Tohti’s who passed away in 2017, had explained him as someone who was “interested in dialogue”.

Author Thum said Tohti’s work was prescient, describing a widescale crackdown in Xinjiang that started two years ago.

” He is the only Uighur scholar who was living in China in the system, who gave any type of crucial analysis of China’s policies in Xinjiang, and he did so with fantastic insight and rigour,” he said.

Over the course of his profession, Tohti was bothered and reprimanded several times by Chinese authorities for his criticism of the federal government in both Xinjiang and Beijing.

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From 1999 to 2003, Chinese authorities disallowed him from mentor. It became near-impossible for him to release in any trusted scholastic publication or journal.

On January 5, 2014, Tohti was detained and later that year, charged with separatism.

Sent to prison for life for working relentlessly in defence of the rights of China’s Uyghur minority, Ilham Tohti is the winner of Parliament’s 2019 Sakharov human rights reward pic.twitter.com/xcqpYgsEly

— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) December 17, 2019

Tohti was convicted of inciting “ethnic hatred” and for the heading of an “eight-member separatist criminal organisation”, according to his legal representatives.

The court that bied far Tohti’s sentence said he had actually spread out separatist beliefs through his website – which has actually given that been eliminated – and organised students to write and distribute short articles seeking Xinjiang’s separation from China.

Human Rights View ( HRW) stated there was no readily available evidence that Tohti engaged in “any form of speech or behaviour that might be construed by any objective requirement as inciting violence or unlawful action”.

A petition previously this year signed by civil liberties organisations and scholars, consisting of Amnesty International and Noam Chomsky, pointed out “significant concerns” with his trial.

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They required the Chinese government release Tohti and “ observe calls for the release of an unknown variety of Uighur scholars currently detained”

Uighur activist Tahir Imin, part of the Uighur National Network, and who has family members currently kept in Xinjiang, told Al Jazeera that Tohti is still a function model for Uighurs all over the world.

” His spirit of humanism and love for his nation and sacrifice always teaches us to continue to battle versus injustice whatever is the cost,” he said.

Tohti has actually gotten several awards considering that his jail time, which his supporters hope increase his international profile and aid cause him being freed.

” One of our leading priorities is to ensure nobody forgets him,” Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW, informed Al Jazeera.

” We require to remind the world that here is a person who spent his whole career, and his platform as a scholar, essentially to talk about inequality in between various ethnic groups and how to fix it, and is rotting away.”

Ilham said she is still hopeful of fulfilling her daddy again.

” I am a very favorable person … my daddy constantly taught me to very positive.

” I believe one day he will be released. I will always hope and wish for that.”

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