Connect with us

News

Star Scholar Disappears as Crackdown Engulfs Western China

Published

on

Star Scholar Disappears as Crackdown Engulfs Western China

URUMQI, China — She was one of the most revered academics from the Uighur ethnic minority in far western China. She had written extensively and lectured across China and the world to explain and celebrate Uighurs’ varied traditions. Her research was funded by Chinese government ministries and praised by other scholars.

Then she disappeared.

The academic, Rahile Dawut, 52, told a relative last December that she planned to travel to Beijing from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region where she taught. Professor Dawut was in a rush when she left, according to the relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of punishment from the Chinese authorities.

She has not been heard from since, and her family and close friends are sure she was secretly detained as part of a severe clampdown on Uighurs, the largely Muslim group who call Xinjiang their homeland.

Professor Dawut’s trajectory — from celebrated ethnographer at Xinjiang University in Urumqi to clandestine detainee — illustrates a wider crackdown that has drastically constricted Uighur life and culture.

“Everyone who has known her is under suspicion,” Mr. Kamm said. “Rahile Dawut is the human face of this unspeakable tragedy.”

A month before Professor Dawut left her last message, her life had a semblance of normality. She gave a talk on Uighur women in November at Peking University, speaking to a forum of scholars who have backed Mr. Xi’s assimilationist ethnic policies in Xinjiang.

Uighurs are a Turkic people, much closer in appearance, language and customs to peoples across Central Asia than the Han who make up the vast majority of China’s population. The Chinese government had long been wary of defiance from them, given Uighurs’ heritage and history of independence. Official alarm skyrocketed after deadly riots in Xinjiang in 2009 and a series of primitive but bloody assaults on Han people, police officers and officials.

But until recently, Professor Dawut’s work was welcomed by Chinese bureaucrats, as evidenced by grants and support she received from the Ministry of Culture. She had earned an international reputation as an expert on Uighur shrines, folklore, music and crafts that had been neglected by previous generations of scholars.

“I was deeply drawn to this vivid, lively folk culture and customs, so different from the accounts in textbooks,” she said in an interview with a Chinese art newspaper in 2011. “Above all, we’re preserving and documenting this folk cultural heritage not so that it can lie in archives or serve as museum exhibits, but so it can be returned to the people.”

After Mr. Xi came to power in 2012 and installed a hard-line party functionary to run Xinjiang, the drive to root out dissent here accelerated. Xinjiang University and other schools became a particular focus.

Chris Buckley reported from Urumqi, China, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong.

Elias Alex Ifeanyichukwu is a realist, keen writer born in Nigeria, he is a graduate and an active member of JoelsBlog Team, Elias Alex has a great sense of humor, writes great contents and is ready to serve you with what's Latest in Nigeria!

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Loading...