Prominent Uighur Scholar Missing, Feared Detained

August 13, 2018

A renowned scholar from China’s Uighur ethnic minority group disappeared in December, and her family and friends believe she was secretly detained as part of the Chinese government’s severe crackdown on Uighurs, The New York Times reported. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim group, have been detained for weeks, months or years in “re-education centers” in China’s far western Xinjiang region.

Rahile Dawut, a celebrated anthropologist who taught at Xinjiang University and wrote and lectured widely on Uighur folklore and traditions, has now been missing for eight months, and her family and friends have decided to speak out.

“Virtually all expressions of Uighurs’ unique culture are dangerous now, and there’s no better evidence of that than the disappearance of Rahile Dawut,” Rian Thum, an associate professor at Loyola University New Orleans who studies Uighur culture, told the Times. “There was a lot of hope that they would see that she was a nonthreat and release her, but that hope gradually dwindled.”

The Times noted that until recently Dawut’s work had been supported with grants and awards from China’s Ministry of Culture. One month before her disappearance, she gave a lecture at Peking University, in Beijing, on Uighur women.

At least one of Dawut’s graduate students has also disappeared, according to the founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, a group that lobbies the Chinese government on human rights cases.

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