Star Scholar Disappears as Crackdown Engulfs Western China

URUMQI, China — She was one of the most revered academics through the Uighur ethnic minority in far western China. She had written extensively in addition to lectured across China in addition to the planet to explain in addition to celebrate Uighurs’ varied traditions. Her research was funded by Chinese government ministries in addition to praised by some other scholars.

Then she disappeared.

The academic, Rahile Dawut, 52, told a relative last December which she planned to travel to Beijing through Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region where she taught. Professor Dawut was in a rush when she left, according to the relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of punishment through the Chinese authorities.

She has not been heard through since, in addition to her family in addition to close friends are sure she was secretly detained as part of a severe clampdown on Uighurs, the largely Muslim group who call Xinjiang their homeland.

Professor Dawut’s trajectory — through celebrated ethnographer at Xinjiang University in Urumqi to clandestine detainee — illustrates a wider crackdown which has drastically constricted Uighur life in addition to culture.

Chinese officials have mostly avoided acknowledging the mass internments. although not even moderate academics like Professor Dawut appear secure. The government has purged what the idea calls “two-faced” Uighur teachers in addition to officials suspected of secretly resisting the hard-line policies.

“Since Uighurs are currently collectively under suspicion, any Uighur academic with foreign ties is actually branded a ‘two-faced intellectual’ — disloyal to the state in addition to in need of re-education,” said Rachel Harris, who studies Uighur music at the School of Oriental in addition to African Studies in London in addition to knows Professor Dawut as a friend in addition to academic partner.

“The accounts of the ‘re-education’ regime which people are undergoing in those camps are harrowing,” Professor Harris said by email. “I imagine my lovely, principled, dedicated colleague there, in addition to I feel incredibly angry.”

some other prominent Uighurs who have vanished from the past two years, apparently into detention, include writers in addition to website operators, a soccer star in addition to a favorite musician, according to Radio Free Asia in addition to overseas Uighur groups with extensive contacts in Xinjiang.

At least one of Professor Dawut’s graduate students in China has also disappeared, according to John Kamm, founder of the Dui Hua Foundation in San Francisco, which lobbies the Chinese government on human rights cases. He said his attempts to get information about Professor Dawut through Chinese officials had been unsuccessful.

“Everyone who has known her is actually under suspicion,” Mr. Kamm said. “Rahile Dawut is actually the human face of This particular unspeakable tragedy.”

A month before Professor Dawut left her last message, her life had a semblance of normality. She gave a talk on Uighur women in November at Peking University, speaking to a forum of scholars who have backed Mr. Xi’s assimilationist ethnic policies in Xinjiang.

Uighurs are a Turkic people, much closer in appearance, language in addition to customs to peoples across Central Asia than the Han who make up the vast majority of China’s population. The Chinese government had long been wary of defiance through them, given Uighurs’ heritage in addition to history of independence. Official alarm skyrocketed after deadly riots in Xinjiang in 2009 in addition to a series of primitive although bloody assaults on Han people, police officers in addition to officials.

although until recently, Professor Dawut’s work was welcomed by Chinese bureaucrats, as evidenced by grants in addition to support she received through the Ministry of Culture. She had earned an international reputation as an expert on Uighur shrines, folklore, music in addition to crafts which had been neglected by previous generations of scholars.

“I was deeply drawn to This particular vivid, lively folk culture in addition to customs, so different through the accounts in textbooks,” she said in an interview having a Chinese art newspaper in 2011. “Above all, we’re preserving in addition to documenting This particular folk cultural heritage not to ensure the idea can lie in archives or serve as museum exhibits, although so the idea can be returned to the people.”

After Mr. Xi came to power in 2012 in addition to installed a hard-line party functionary to run Xinjiang, the drive to root out dissent here accelerated. Xinjiang University in addition to some other schools became a particular focus.

Chris Buckley reported through Urumqi, China, in addition to Austin Ramzy through Hong Kong.