A prominent Uyghur academic has been sentenced to life in prison by the Chinese government, on baseless accusations of endangering state security. Rahile Dawut, a highly respected 57-year-old professor, had lost an appeal against the decision earlier this month. 
This deeply troubling incident is part of a broader pattern in which China has been repeatedly accused of crimes against humanity in East Turkestan, known officially as Xinjiang. The sentence follows an appeal against a 2018 conviction.
Campaign groups have alleged that China has detained over a million Uyghurs in what the state euphemistically terms “re-education camps”.
Hundreds of thousands have been handed prison sentences, with grave implications for Uyghur academics and intellectuals like Dawut.
John Kamm, the Executive Director of the Dui Hua Foundation which represents detained academics in China, expressed his concern, stating:
“The sentencing of Professor Rahile Dawut 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.” 
Daughter’s heart-wrenching plea
Remarks by Dawut’s daughter, Akeda Pulati, have reflected the anguish of countless Uyghur families,
“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 esteemed scholar’s ordeal began with a secret trial in December 2018 in a Xinjiang court.
Her arrest the previous year, on charges of “splittism” and endangering state security, underscores the state’s systematic crackdown on intellectual and cultural figures within the Uyghur community.
Academic legacy in jeopardy
An expert in Uyghur folklore and traditions, Dawut had been a dedicated professor at Xinjiang University’s College of Humanities before her arrest.
She is also the founder of the Ethnic Minorities Research Centre at the university in 2007, conducting fieldwork throughout East Turkestan.
Her academic contributions extend beyond China’s borders; she has lectured at top institutions in the US and UK, including Harvard and Cambridge universities respectively.
Dui Hua Foundation has revealed the unfortunate fact that Dawut is only one of many Uyghur intellectuals who have faced detention, arrest, and imprisonment since 2016.
While one part of the Ummah endures the viciousness of the Zionist state in Gaza, another also remains persecuted and oppressed at the hands of a different regime: East Turkestan.
Despite years of campaigning and advocacy resulting in a welcome increase in those who are aware of the disastrous situation the Chinese regime has put Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in, simply not enough is being done to force the government to cease its abusive policies of ethnic cleansing.
Millions are trapped in concentration camps reminiscent of the historical Soviet labour camps, better known as gulags. Thousands are deployed in forced labour settings outside of the prisons, with such a labour force propping up much of the world's silicon, cotton, condiment, and other industries.
We condemn the unlawful detention of Professor Rahile Dawut in the strongest terms, and continue to call on the Chinese government to end its brutal genocide of the Uyghurs.
We urge readers to continue to support the Stand4Uyghurs campaign in all its forms, be that through protest, raising awareness, lobbying local representatives, or boycotting brands tainted by Uyghur slave labour.
Global accusations amid China’s denial
The international community has been alarmed by the horrific crimes unfolding in East Turkestan for many years. The United States, among others, has accused China of genocide in the region.
Leading organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have similarly levelled accusations of crimes against humanity against the Chinese government. However, China continues to deny these allegations.
Concerning Dawut’s case, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Mao Ning, stated that she had “no information”, further highlighting the secrecy surrounding the situation. 
East Turkestan’s Uyghur population, which numbers around 12 million and is predominantly Muslim, continues to face an uncertain and deeply troubling future in what China refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
The sentencing of Professor Rahile Dawut reminds us of the urgent need for international attention and action to address and ultimately end these grave abuses and violations of our Uyghur brothers and sisters’ inalienable rights.
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