Home > Ilham Tohti Archives > Awards & Honor > My acceptance speech receiving Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize on behalf of Ilham Tohti

Dear Madame President, dear Members of Parliament and distinguished guests!

I am very much honored to be here among you today and to represent my fellow-countryman Prof. Ilham Tohti – a brave and courageous hero of the Uyghurs. The Uyghurs are an ethnic group with significant contributions to Central Asian and world civilisation – and have been struggling to lead normal lives for many decades.

I express the sincere Thanks of Ilham Tohti, his Family and also the gratitude of the Uyghur people as a whole to you, Ms President Liliane Maury Pasquier, the Parlamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Vaclav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, for choosing him for the prestigious Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize!

Indeed Ms. President, Ilham Tohti’s selection for the Prize echoes your recent statement in which you say:

I QUOTE “The women and men who defend our human rights are the very best of us. Their courage and determination in standing up for basic principles of justice and fairness – often at great personal cost, risking their liberty and sometimes even their lives – deserve our profound respect and gratitude. They are on the front line of human rights.”

This statement, Ms. President, rings particularly true when referring to Ilham Tohti. To emphasise your declaration further, Ms President, and to affirm that Ilham Tohti is a worthy recipient of this award, let me convey that prior to his imprisonment, Ilham told the Voice of America that “even if I should die at the hands of the domestic security or state security police—don’t think that I’ve been killed by Han people and don’t let hatred come between our two peoples.” 

Then, even after being sentenced to life in prison in September 2014, he issued a statement through his lawyer saying that “peace is a heavenly gift to the Uyghur and Han people. Only peace and good will can create a common interest“!

So you see, lham Tohti’s selflessness, spirit and pure belief in the good of humanity will prevail, as this – along with hope – is something the Chinese Communist Party cannot take. Not from Ilham Tohti and not from all the unjustly imprisoned Uyghurs, Kazhaks and Kyrgyz and their families.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is a significant recognition by the Western Democratic community of Ilham Tohti’s work for human rights and freedom of his people. It will no doubt contribute to his survival behind bars and give the Uyghur people another impulse to continue resisting against oppression. Today, the Prize is distinguishing one person, but by doing so, is recognizing a whole population and giving the downtrodden a voice. 

For it is an entire people of Uyghurs that look to you for help. The Prize is hereby sending a strong signal to the communist rulers in Beijing, who question Western values, indicating that the free democratic world will NOT tolerate the continued violation against basic human rights!

I stand before you as one man – but with millions of Uyghurs behind me – who all thank you for your consideration of and attention towards our plight.

This is a milestone in our continued fight to free Ilham Tohti. And we will continue our fight until he and every last unjustly imprisoned person is freed.

Thank you for your attention!

Enver Can
President of the Ilham tohti Initiative e.V.

30 September 2019

Strasbourg – France

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