Friday, 11 April 2014

Like Father, Like Daughter

Jewher Ilham speaking to US Congress about her father's situation in China
The daughter of Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti told a hearing in US Congress on Wednesday of how her father's arrest has shown China's low tolerance for peaceful expressions of grievances by the minority group.

Tohti is an economist in Beijing and is one of the most vocal critics of China's treatment of Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group. He was detained in January and accused of separatism, a charge that could result in the death penalty.

Jewher Ilham, 19, is studying at Indiana University and she told US lawmakers her father is not separatist and is opposed to violence.

"In fact he is exactly the sort of person a rational Chinese political structure would seek to engage in order to address the conditions of the Uyghur people," she told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which looks at human rights.

Ilham Tohti has not been heard from since he was detained
"By arresting my father and threatening him with charges that carry the severest penalties, it has driven many Uyghurs to a point where they can't even imagine that their... grievances can get any sort of hearing under Chinese rule," she said.

Ilham said she had no news of her 44-year-old father's condition and she was worried about her family, which are under 24-hour surveillance, with as many as eight security officers outside their home.

She gave a prepared statement in English and explained that initially she was planning to join her father for only a month when he took a one-year position at Indiana University from February last year.

But Tohti was stopped at Beijing International Airport from going to the US and so Ilham went on her own. She has been studying English at the university ever since.

Beijing is naive to think they have silenced Tohti -- instead they have given an opportunity to his daughter to take up his cause -- outside of China. With her father's integrity respected as a measured and rational academic, Ilham may join the cause to push for better human rights conditions for Uyghurs in China.

As shown by her eloquence in speaking English, she can explain to the world why Uyghurs are oppressed in China, thus shining a spotlight on the country's dark stain of human rights abuses.

Arresting Tohti has made Uyghurs more desperate, which may explain why a group of them committed the horrific knife attack in the train station in Kunming in early March.

If China wants to decrease its chances of having more innocent lives killed, it should release Tohti and listen to him talk about Uyghurs' grievances.

He is the best representative the Uyghurs have, and the Central Government's best hope in deescalating tensions in the region. But will Beijing listen?


  1. Ilham Tohti devotes his life to the cause of establishing good relationship and harmony between Uyghur and Han. He is be the nest candidate for the head of Uyghur Autonomous Region.

    1. Hi Aus Uyghur thanks for reading my blog post. Yes I totally agree with you. But when the government detains him... what hope do Uyghurs have in China? It's a sad situation similar to Tibetans...