Daughter of imprisoned Uighur scholar speaks out 7 years after he was arrested boarding flight to US


The daughter of an imprisoned Uighur scholar is on a mission to shed light on China’s human rights abuses after her father was arrested in Beijing’s International Airport and sentenced to a life behind bars on separatism charges.

Jewhar Ilham told “Bill Hemmer Reports” Wednesday that her father Ilham Tohti was invited in February 2013 as a visiting scholar to Indiana University. Jewhar and her father were preparing to board their flight to the U.S. when her father was arrested.

“2013, Feb. 2, was last time I saw my father at the Beijing International Airport,” Jewhar said. “He was invited by Indiana University as a visiting scholar and I was only planning to accompany him and spent three weeks as a vacation, but as a teenager, I appeared to have no threats to the government officials. I was allowed to leave the country, but my father was arrested at the airport.”

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After being placed on house arrest for 11 months, Tohti, a well-known economics professor in Beijing, was given an unprecedented life sentence based on the writings on his website, Uyghur Online, that promoted peaceful coexistence between the Uyghur people and Han Chinese.

“There are hundreds of thousands of daughters and sons just like me that can’t see their parents, cannot call their parents and cannot communicate. They don’t even know, just like me, if their parents are alive or not.”

—  Jewhar Ilham, ‘Bill Hemmer Reports’

“He was well-known for his peaceful suggestions and his website,” Jewhar said. “My father wanted to use this website to create understanding and to promote peaceful dialogue or coexistence between the Uighurs people and the Han Chinese.”

Because many social media outlets and search engines are banned, Tohti created his website to “provide a platform for the people, the Uighurs and the Han Chinese…to create understanding with each other,” Jewhar explained.

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“There is only one type of information, and that is state TV. And of course, that creates various information’s towards the Chinese citizens. And people with lack of understanding might have created hate with each other.”

Somewhere between one and five million Uighurs have been sent off to what the Beijing government officially refers to as “re-education camps” — classified by Jewhar as a “concentration camp.”

“My father is not the only person who is imprisoned,” she said. “There are thousands of hundreds of Uighurs just like my father [that] are locked up in a prison or concentration camp. There are hundreds of thousands of daughters and sons just like me that can’t see their parents, cannot call their parents and cannot communicate. They don’t even know, just like me, if their parents are alive or not.”

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