The World Uyghur Congress Thanks Rafto for Awarding Rebiya Kadeer

For Immediate Release
Contact: Alim A. Seytoff
World Uyghur Congress
Phone: 202-321-2388
Thursday, September 30, 2004

Washington – The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) expresses its sincere gratitude to the Rafto Foundation for awarding the Uyghur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer the 2004 Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize and for appealing the Chinese authorities for her immediate and unconditional release.

“We appreciate the Rafto Foundation for awarding such a prestigious prize to Rebiya Kadeer in light of her personal efforts in promoting the human rights of the Uyghur people under brutal Chinese oppression,” said Erkin Alptekin, President of WUC. “Mrs. Kadeer deserves such an honor and international recognition.”

Rebiya Kadeer was arrested by the Chinese authorities in August 1999 while she was on her way to meet some members of the U.S. congressional delegation at a hotel in Urumchi, the capital of East Turkestan. The

following year, she was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of “revealing state secrets.” The Chinese authorities showed publicly available newspapers as evidence of her “crime.”

“Mrs. Kadeer’s real crime was not revealing so-called state secrets. Her real crime was that she loved her people and defended their human rights and religious freedom in spite of official threats,” said Alim Seytoff, the Executive Chairman for WUC.

Rebiya Kadeer is a charismatic entrepreneur and successful business woman. In the 1990s, she emerged as a symbol for how minorities could succeed in China. In recognition of her significant contribution to women’s rights, Kadeer was appointed to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the “Xinjiang” Regional People’s Congress. She was also a delegate to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.

According to the Rafto Foundation, Rebiya Kadeer, now 58, has distinguished herself in the struggle for the rights of the Uyghurs and against social and economic marginalization. She has made significant contributions to securing women’s rights and in 1997 she founded the “Thousand Mothers Movement” to promote job training and employment for Uyghur women. Kadeer also established evening schools for Uyghurs who did not have the opportunity to go to ordinary school.

“It is our moral obligation to help the ones in need, and we must leave no one behind”, is Kadeer’s humanistic message to the suffering Uyghur people under Chinese rule.

The Rafto Foundation is worried about Kadeer’s health and asks for her immediate and unconditional release from the Chinese authorities. Through this award, the Rafto Foundation directs a strong appeal to the Chinese government to respect and protect the civil, economic and cultural rights of the Uyghurs as well as other minorities in China.

The annual Rafto Prize is awarded every year in memory of the Norwegian professor Thorolf Rafto who worked to eliminate poverty and the suppression in the world. The Rafto Prize will be presented on Sunday November 07, 2004 at the Bergen National Theater in Norway.