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China Jails Revered Uyghur Scholar For Life in Cultural Crackdown
Amid its sweeping crackdown in Xinjiang, China has now decided to sentence renowned Uyghur scholar and folklorist Rahile Dawut to life in prison, a rights group revealed this week, sparking grief and fury. The California-based Dui Hua Foundation disclosed Thursday that Dawut was handed a life term after disappearing in 2017, citing a Chinese government source.
Dawut's daughter said the harsh sentence on her innocent mother, a respected academic, leaves her distraught and demanding her immediate release. The prominent scholar's jailing signifies China's harsh drive to suppress Uyghur academics and culture itself.
Over 300 Uyghur intellectuals have been detained, striking at the heart of their traditions according to advocates. Rights groups estimate up to three million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily incarcerated in internment camps in Xinjiang.
The US and other nations accuse China of genocide and crimes against humanity through its systematic repression. But Beijing denies abuses, saying it runs vocational centers to counter extremism. It has provided scant information on Dawut's case.
Disappeared Since 2017, Secretly Jailed For 'Splittism'
Dawut vanished in 2017 and was then tried and convicted in 2018 on alleged separatism charges frequently used to target Uyghurs. She unsuccessfully appealed the unknown sentence before being jailed for life according to the new information.
Her research focused on Uyghur customs and oral histories. As a prominent cultural figure, Dawut lectured globally and published seminal books on preserving traditions. She was a professor at Xinjiang University when detained.
Advocates say her sentencing despite outstanding scholarly contributions demonstrates China's clear intent to culturally annihilate Uyghurs. By jailing esteemed intellectuals, Beijing aims to rip the heart out of the community and erase their identity according to critics.
Family and Colleagues Grieve a Major Loss for Uyghur Heritage
Dawut's daughter voiced anguish over her innocent mother unjustly imprisoned, calling for her immediate release on humanitarian grounds. Her students and scholarly community also grieved the tragic abuse of power.
Rights groups urged China to free Dawut and other jailed Uyghur academics immediately, calling her life sentence a cruel tragedy depriving Uyghurs of their heroes. But prospects appear dim without sharper global backlash over China's repression in Xinjiang.
Cultural Erasure Part of China's Broader Campaign of Assimilation
Experts argue destroying symbols of Uyghur identity serves China's goal of forcibly assimilating the minority into the dominant Han culture through its integrationist drive.
Along with mass detentions, forced labor schemes, sterilization and youth separation, demolishing Uyghur language, intellectual life and religion aims to dissolve resistance against the state's vision. But critics say this amounts to cultural genocide, suffocating Uyghur existence.
Dawut's harsh sentencing demonstrates why China's blanket denial of any abuses in Xinjiang fails to withstand evidence. While some perpetrators may face justice eventually, irreparable harm continues before decisive action is taken.
An Esteemed Woman of Letters Reduced to Another Number
Accounts of Uyghurs enduring arbitrary detention and separation from loved ones have become numbingly commonplace. Each tragedy echoes the communal trauma.
But Rahile Dawut was no ordinary victim. She was Central Asia's foremost female ethnographer, renowned for preserving Uyghur folk wisdom. Her books were considered cultural treasures, making China's reduction of this woman of letters to another anonymous prisoner even more appalling.
Her jailing triggers global outrage but also deeper despair over a seemingly unstoppable assimilationist agenda. Far more than her own freedom, the Uyghur people yearn for the freedom of their threatened traditions that Dawut so powerfully represented.
Yet after erasing hundreds of intellectuals and razing cultural sites, China seems undeterred in systematically reprogramming Xinjiang's minorities to erase the unique identities it deems threatening.
Without urgent change, fear grows that Dawut's treasured scholarship risks being reduced to records in exile while becoming forbidden knowledge in its ancestral homeland. Extinguishing the light of Uyghur heritage serves a dark purpose that demands determined resistance.
Summarised from the original article by - voanews.com
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