The recognition dedicated to "freedom of thought" is the most important of the European Union. Tohti, 50 years old today, has been in jail since 2014 with a life sentence for separatism. He fought for dialogue between his ethnic group and the majority Han. President of the EU Parliament: "We demand his immediate release".
Brussels (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The European Parliament has awarded the Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti the Sakharov Prize 2019 for freedom of thought, the most prestigious recognition of the European Union.
Tohti, 50 years old today, has for years been fighting for the rights of his minority in the Xinjinag Autonomous Region and for this reason Beijing has imprisoned him. In announcing the Award, Parliament President David Sassoli asked the Chinese authorities for his "immediate release".
Tohti was a writer, economist and professor at Minzu University (of minorities) in Beijing. He has been in prison since 2014 to serve a life sentence with the charge of "separatism". In fact, for 20 years he has worked to encourage dialogue between the Uyghur minority and the majority of the Han ethnic group in Xinjiang.
Sassoli stated that Tohti "dedicated his life" to represent his ethnic group and is a "voice of moderation and reconciliation". His daughter Jewher Ilham, who lives in the United States, said: "I am so proud and grateful that my father's efforts to bring peace and harmony to the Uyghur people have been recognized all over the world. I hope this award will push other countries to speak and act against the atrocities that the Uyghurs endure ”.
The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnicity of Muslim religion that lives in Xinjiang. China is accused of having detained at least one million of them, subjected to brainwashing to weaken their attachment to the Islamic faith, against their will. Against the testimony of many survivors, Beijing has always maintained that the camps are only "vocational training centers".
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress that brings together the minority diaspora, rejoices at the European Parliament's decision by defining the life and ideals of Tohti “an inspiration for the Uyghur people. His treatment was a precursor of the crimes against humanity to which the Chinese government then subjected the Uighur population ". "We are asking China - he added - for the immediate release of Tohti and all the other prisoners in the country".