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Jewher Ilham

Uyghur Human Rights Fellow

Jewher Ilham is an emerging voice for the Uyghur people and an accomplished young scholar in her own right. Jewher is the daughter of Uyghur scholar, Ilham Tohti, an internationally noted moderate voice who was dedicated to bridging the gap between the Uyghur people and the Han Chinese. She arrived in the United States in 2013, following the detention of her father at the Beijing airport, as they were prepared to travel to Indiana University for Professor Tohti’s fellowship. This was the last time she saw her father. At eighteen years old, with little English and no plan, and unable to return safely to China, Jewher found herself having to start a new life in Bloomington, IN. Meanwhile her father’s situation worsened. In September of 2014, he was given an unprecedented life sentence based on the writings on his website, Uyghur Online, that promoted peaceful co-existence between the Uyghur people and Han Chinese. His conviction and sentence swiftly were condemned by the then-Obama White House and leaders throughout Europe and the EU. During the period between her father’s arrest and sentencing, Jewher enrolled as a student at Indiana University.

As an advocate for her father, she testified before the U.S. Congressional-Executive Committee on China, wrote op-eds in The New York Times, met with a number of government officials including former Secretary of State John Kerry, and received numerous awards worldwide on behalf of her father. In 2015, she recounted her experiences in her book, Jewher Ilham: A Uyghur’s Fight to Free Her Father. She was invited to be the key speaker at 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During the Ministerial, she was also invited to the White House to speak to President Trump on the Uyghur issue. Following that, she had the opportunity to speak at the UN General Assembly alongside the President of the United States on the atrocities the Chinese government is committing on the Uyghurs. In December 2019, Jewher accepted the Sakharov Price on behalf of her father and urged the European Parliament to take a stand and hold the Chinese government accountable. In February 2020, she was invited as the key speaker at Geneva Summit.

Jewher graduated with her B.A. from Indiana University in 2019. She is currently assisting on a documentary film about Uyghurs, as well as continuing to advocate on behalf of her father.

The last time I saw my father was in 2013. We were on our way to Indiana University, where he was scheduled to begin a fellowship. He was arrested before boarding the plane and taken away. A mild-mannered, studious professor…

During Captive Nations Week Summit 2020, we awarded the Victims of Communism Human Rights Award to Ilham Tohti, Uyghur activist and economist serving a life sentence in China for advocating for regional autonomy in Xinjiang. Tohti’s daughter, Jewher Ilham, who…

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