Petition for the Immediate Release of Professor Rahile Dawut and other Uyghur scholars.
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Petition for the Immediate Release of Professor Rahile Dawut (alt. spellings: Reyila Dawuti, Rahilä Dawut) and other Uyghur scholars.
Rahile Dawut, an internationally renowned scholar of Uyghur culture, has disappeared in China. So have an untold number of other Uyghur professors, intellectuals, students, artists, farmers, and members of ethnic minority groups from all walks of life. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others have been interned in extra-legal re-education camps across the Xinjiang region of China’s northwest.
We the undersigned call upon President Xi Jinping and Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo to immediately release Professor Rahile Dawut and other Uyghur intellectuals from internment in prison, “educational transformation centers,” “vocational training” or other confinement under any name.
In December 2017, Prof. Dawut was to travel from Urumqi to Beijing, but she never arrived at her destination. She has been either imprisoned or sent to re-education camp.
Prof. Dawut is one of the foremost Uyghur scholars of her generation. A folklorist, anthropologist of religion, curator, and videographer, Dawut served as founder and Director of the Centre for Anthropology and Folklore at Xinjiang University. She has conducted pioneering fieldwork on the oral and visual culture of Uyghurs, including Sufi practices. Her research on Uyghur shrines (mazars) is pathbreaking. As a leader in applied anthropology, Prof. Dawut has made key contributions in cultural heritage protection, both material and immaterial, advocating for the preservation of Uyghur architectural and folk literary heritage.
Prof. Dawut has trained a generation of young Uyghur scholars in ethnographic fieldwork and videography. These students currently study in Australia, Europe, North America and elsewhere around the world. As a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Washington, and the University of Kent, Canterbury she helped explain Uyghur culture to colleagues worldwide. She has delivered invited lectures at Harvard, Cornell and the University of British Columbia, among other universities. She has received grants from the Firebrand Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Royal Anthropological Institute.
As noted by the American Anthropological Association in an open letter to U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad: “While Uighurs’ unique culture has been under scrutiny by China recently, Dr. Dawut, who wrote and lectured widely on Uighur folklore and traditions, is far from being a threat of any kind. In fact, until recently, her work had been supported with grants and awards from China’s Ministry of Culture.” Indeed, Prof. Dawut embodies the best values of anthropology: the promotion of inter-cultural understanding and empathy.
At the 10th Chinese Communist Party Congress in October 2017, President Xi Jinping made “Chinese wisdom” a centerpiece of the Chinese approach to solving humankind’s problems. We, the undersigned, also believe in Chinese wisdom, and ask that that wisdom be exercised in this and similar cases.
Please release Prof. Dawut and allow her to either a) continue her position at Xinjiang University or b) assume a post outside of China. Please also release all other extra-judicially interned Uyghurs, including professors, intellectuals, teachers, and students.
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