Missing Uyghur Professor Alim Ahet is a highly trained intellectual; he doesn't need any education from the Chinese government
Missing Uyghur Professor Presumed Detained in Xinjiang Political ‘Re-education Camp’
A Uyghur professor and founder of a Uyghur language software firm has been missing for more than a year and is presumed detained in a political “re-education camp” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to sources.
A group of Uyghur intellectuals living in exile recently posted to social media a list of colleagues they believe are interned in the XUAR’s vast network of camps, where up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017.
Among those on the list is Alim Ahet, a faculty member at the School of Mathematics and System Science at Xinjiang University in the XUAR capital Urumqi, who the exiled intellectuals noted had “disappeared” from their WeChat group in January 2018.
Since then, they said, Ahet’s overseas contacts have been unable to communicate with him and believe he has been arrested.
Ahet had partnered with Microsoft while working as a lecturer at Xinjiang University and in 1998 formed Urumqi UighurSoft Computer Ltd.—the first company to produce software in the Uyghur, Kazakh and Kirgiz languages.
UighurSoft also produced dictionary software used by speakers of Uyghur, Kazakh and Kirgiz to study Chinese, as well as the first software to include a spell checking function for the three languages.
Ahet’s firm gained him recognition as a ground breaking software developer and in 2011, Chinese officials recognized him with an award as a “top ten innovator of China.”
While investigating Ahet’s disappearance, RFA’s Uyghur Service found that his name had been scrubbed from the faculty list on the Xinjiang University School of Mathematics and System Science website.
RFA spoke to a Chinese staff member at the school who confirmed that Ahet “is no longer working here.”
When asked when he had left the school, the staff member hung up the phone.
RFA was also able to contact a source in Urumqi who revealed under the condition of anonymity that Ahet had “not been seen in public for the last year.”
Alim Ahet’s former schoolmate, Norway-based Uyghur activist Helchem Memtimin—who last saw the mathematician in the XUAR in 2003 after he returned from a trip to London—told RFA he had disappeared sometime “in the summer of 2018.”
Memtimin called Ahet “one of the most intelligent and quick-thinking students in class,” and questioned why he would be targeted by authorities.
“The Chinese government has incarcerated millions of people in re-education camps, including a vast number of highly educated, extraordinary individuals,” said Memtimin, a member of the Norway Uyghur Association.
“Alim Ahet is a highly trained intellectual; he doesn’t need any education from the Chinese government,” he said, adding that if Ahet is being held at a camp, authorities should release him “immediately and unconditionally.”
Though Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the XUAR, told China’s official Xinhua news agency in October 2018 that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs. Official propaganda for a time called them “boarding schools.”
China recently organized two visits to monitor re-education camps in the XUAR—one for a small group of foreign journalists, and another for diplomats from non-Western countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Thailand—during which officials dismissed claims about mistreatment and poor conditions in the facilities as “slanderous lies.”
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.
Adrian Zenz, a lecturer in social research methods at the Germany-based European School of Culture and Theology, has said that some 1.5 million people are or have been detained in the camps—equivalent to just under 1 in 6 members of the adult Muslim population of the XUAR—after initially putting the number at 1.1 million.
Michael Kozak, the head of the State Department’s human rights and democracy bureau, in an apparent reference to the policies of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, said in March people “haven’t seen things like this since the 1930s” and called the internment of more than a million Uyghurs “one of the most serious human rights violations in the world today.”
In November 2018, Scott Busby, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, said there are “at least 800,000 and possibly up to a couple of million” Uyghurs and others detained at re-education camps in the XUAR without charges, citing U.S. intelligence assessments.
In remarks at a news conference at the Pentagon on May 3 that rankled Beijing, Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said “the Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news conference on May 6 that China “voiced strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to Schriver’s comments, which he called “totally inconsistent with the facts.”
Reported by Sada for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes
Alim Ahat, the founder of Uighursoft, was sent to China’s concentration camps without any judicial decision in 2018
Alim Ahat, the founder of Uighursoft, was sent to China’s concentration camps without any judicial decision last year. He revealed the magical power of Uyghur language through algorism, suggesting that it may have a store of some 50 million words. SOS!
International organizations such as the European Parliament (EP) and Amnesty International have drawn attention to unaccounted for scientists and intellectuals of the Uighur community.
Many intellectuals and academics in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are suspected of being held in concentration camps.
More than one million Uighur Turks have been detained in prison or faced arbitrary arrests in China since 2016.
According to information collected by Anadolu Agency reporters from the EP, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), there are many well-known academics, scholars, artists, professional athletes and scientists among the disappeared Uighur community leaders.
Muhammad Salih Hajim, one of the most important religious scholars and opinion leaders of the Uighur community, as well as academics Abdulnehed Mehsum and Ayhan Memet died while they were held in concentration camps.
The EP’s decision on Oct. 4, 2018 expressed great remorse for these deaths.
Despite calls from the international community, academics such as Eli Mamut, Hailaite Niyazi, Memetjan Abdulla, Abduhelil Zunun and Abdukerim Abduwel, who have been mentioned in the EP report, are being detained by the Chinese administration for arbitrary crimes.
The disappearance of Rahile Dawut, a prominent scholar and anthropologist, made global headlines.
Amnesty International’s report: “China: Where are They?” included statements by Akeda, daughter of Rahile Dawut, saying that she had not heard from her mother since December 2017. She fears that her mother could be in one of the concentration camps.
Some other well-known names that the Uighur diaspora and their associations deem unaccounted for are as follows:
Gulpina Tasmemet, former Xinjiang University faculty member
Abdulkadir Celalettin, a historian
Ekber Omar, former director of Kasgar University
Taspolat Teyip, former rector of Xinjiang University
Professor Abdurrahman Bey
Gayretcan Osman, classical literature writer
Alim Ahat, founder of technology company Uygursoft
-International reactions to China
International human rights organizations have brought to attention millions of Uighurs in Xinjiang who are kept in Chinese concentration camps under the pretext of “re-education”.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination organized a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, where human rights organizations declared that Chinese authorities detain Uighurs as prisoners in “political re-education” camps.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that a large number of individuals were detained in the past two years under the pretext of “preventive police measures” and sent to concentration camps called “political re-education” camps without any judicial decision.
Turkey also called on the international community and the UN chief “to take effective measures in order to bring to an end this human tragedy in Xinjiang”.
China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
China stepped up its restrictions on the region in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils and introducing what many experts see as the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance program, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.