A well-known Uyghur literature researcher is the latest confirmed case of Uyghur intellectuals having disappeared as the Chinese government continues its crackdown on academics in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Dr. Abdurehim Rahman had been a lecturer in the Department of Literature at Xinjiang University, but went missing after the winter vacation of 2018, raising fears he has joined the more than one million Uyghurs detained without due process in political re-education camps in the past 18 months.
Abdurehim is known to have travelled to Turkey to visit his wife in February. One of his contacts there, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFA’s Uyghur Service that the professor returned to Urumqi following his 15-day stay, after which all contact had been cut off.
“He came to Turkey with a group of artists to see his wife, a student at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul,” the source said. “While here, he visited many Turkology researchers from different universities to collect research material.”
“His aim was to take his research to a higher level,” the source said.
RFA contacted the security department of Xinjiang University but the call was disconnected after questions regarding Abdurehim were asked.
Following several calls to different departments within the university, a staff member from the literature department confirmed Abdurehim was no longer employed by the university.
“We don’t know anything about people who have been expelled from the University,” the staff member said.
RFA pressed further, asking for this staff member to relay details about his possible relocation to a re-education camp, and whether a verdict on his case had been announced, but the staff member only repeated that no lecturer by the name Abdurehim worked in the literature department.
Abdurehim’s academic career has been focused on Uyghur language grammar and ancient Uyghur literary works. He has published 4 books, one dictionary and over 50 research papers.
He chaired one of the two research conferences organised by China’s Department of Education and played an important role in the movement for teaching of the Uyghur language to children, having authored or edited much of the teaching materials.
Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.
China claims that it has sent an unspecified number of Uyghurs influenced by ‘extremism’ to these camps but many prominent Uyghur intellectuals, such as academics, professors, researchers, artists, singers businessmen and religious leaders are also being detained.
While Beijing initially denied their existence, the Uyghur chairman of Xinjiang’s provincial government, Shohrat Zakir, told China’s official Xinhua news agency last month that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.
Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.
Reported by Mihray Abdilim for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.