Home > Media and News > Press Release > PRESS RELEASE – Ninth Anniversary of Prof. Ilham Tohti’s Arrest

For immediate release: 09:00 CET

Date: 15 January 2023

Subject:  Ninth Anniversary of Prof. Ilham Tohti’s Arrest

Contact: Enver Can, +491738912048, enver.can@web.de

The Ilham Tohti Initiative, today commemorating the Ninth anniversary of Prof. Ilham Tohti’s Arrest with growing concern about the health and whereabouts of the Uyghur scholar, urgently calls the Chinese government to inform his family that he is alive or NOT!  

llham Tohti is the most renowned Uyghur intellectual in the People’s Republic of China who is referred to as the “Mandela of the Uyghurs” by the Chinese intellectuals. Thus for over two decades he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese majority over the repressive religious, cultural and political conditions of the Uyghur people. As a result of his efforts he was arrested in his apartment on the 15th of January 2014 and subsequently on September 23rd  the same year sentenced to life in prison following a two-day show trial.

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 to prevent further deterioration.

There is no official information about whereabouts, health and physical conditions of Ilham Tohti, and his wife Güzelnur was not able to visit her husband for the last seven years. Despite the Chinese law stipulates, he is not enjoying his right of visitations and is de facto kept incommunicado. His daughter Jewher Ilham says, even she doesn’t know whether his father is alive.

This is a calculated and cruel deprivation. Observers say that the combination of denial of visits, 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 his plight away from international attention.

The CCP aimed to silence him through imprisonment, but the Uyghur scholar is now much better known by the international community than ever before. The UN, the EU, various democratic governments, thousands of academics and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have condemned his unjust imprisonment and have repeatedly called for his immediate release. Prof. Tohti, recognized as a “freedom fighter” has been awarded with more than 10 international human rights awards since his imprisonment – the most prestigious among them being the Sakharov Prize for “Freedom of Thought”, which he was awarded in 2019. He has also repeatedly been a candidate for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize and so far, twice was selected as one of the five finalists!

Mr. Reinhard Bütikofer (the Greens), member of the European Parliament and Head of its China Delegation, recalling the awarding of Ilham Tohti with the “Sakharov Prize” in 2019 and reiterating the EP’s call for his immediate and unconditional release, says:

“For many years, Ilham Tohti acted as a bridge builder between the Uyghurs, who were discriminated against in China, and the majority Han Chinese population. His sentencing to life imprisonment on arbitrarily constructed charges nine years ago is part of Xi Jinping’s ruthless policy of oppression against Uyghurs, which can only be described as a crime against humanity”.

Dr. Teng Biao who has said 9 years ago upon Ilham Tohti’s verdict, that the Uyghur scholar doesn’t belong to prison, but deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, today reminding that Ilham Tohti had sacrificed his freedom, family and everything else for human rights and freedom of his people, and to promote mutual understanding between the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese people, said:  “His passion, courage, and love have inspired so many people to stand up to the CCP’s brutal regime. We should not forget him.”

 Enver Can of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, recalling that the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lio Xiaobo had died at the Chinese prison without proper medical treatment, says, ”the Uyghur people around the world and the international community are deeply  concerned about both mental and physical health of Prof. Tohti, as the Chinese government give No information about the imprisoned scholar”. Mr. Engin Eroglu, member of the European Parliament in his statement commemorating the 9th Anniversary of Ilham Tohti’s imprisonment, said: “For Ilham Tohti’s family, I demand that the proof is provided that he is sill alive”!

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