World, Europe

Tohti daughter receives EU award on behalf of father

Jailed Uighur economist, activist awarded Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

Fatih Hafiz Mehmet   | 18.12.2019
Tohti daughter receives EU award on behalf of father


The daughter of jailed Uighur economist and activist Ilham Tohti received a top EU award Wednesday on behalf of her father.

Jewher Ilham received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from EU Parliament President David Sassoli during a session in Strasbourg, France, according to a statement by the parliament.

Ilham said she does not know where her father is and 2017 was the last time her family received a word about him.

“Today, there is no freedom for Uyghurs in China,” she was quoted as saying. “Not at school, not in public, not even in private homes. My father, like most Uyghurs, has been labelled a violent extremist, with a disease that needs to be cured and mind that needs to be washed. It is under this false label of extremism that the government has put one million people – probably more – into 'concentration camps' where Uyghurs are forced to give up their religion, language and culture, where people are tortured and some have died.”

Sassoli said Tohti has been working for 20 years to promote dialogue and mutual understanding between Uighurs and other Chinese people.

Tohti, a former lecturer at a Beijing university, was arrested in January 2014 and handed a life sentence by Chinese authorities for allegedly promoting “separatism.”

The Xinjiang region is home to 13 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

Up to 1 million people, or about seven percent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to UN experts.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honor of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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