Uyghur filmmaker who studied in Turkey prosecuted in China

Source: Ethnic ChinaLit ( (11/9/23)
Uyghur Film-maker Who Studied in Turkey Prosecuted in China

In “Uyghur film-maker claims he was tortured by authorities in China,” the Guardian reports that Ikram Nurmehmet, a director known for his Uyghur protagonists in films such as The Elephant in the Car, recently had his day in court in Ürümqi:

“I was held in a dark room for 20 days and physically tortured,” Nurmehmet reportedly said during the trial, adding that he had been made to give false confessions under duress while in detention. “I never joined any terrorist group or any political activities while I was in Turkey,” he said.

It is not clear who revealed what Nurmehmet testified, but the report notes that members of his family were present at the trial. That such a trial was open to anyone outside of the prosecution is rare, as China normally treats terrorism-related trials as state secrets. He has reportedly been charged with terrorism and participating in a separatist movement.

According to Peter Irwin, an associate director for research and advocacy at the Uyghur Human Rights Project, who also spoke to the Guardian, the Turkey connection is key:

“There are a lot of people being sentenced who went to Turkey. In some ways, what this film-maker was doing through his work – the humanisation of Uyghurs and [facilitating] communication between Uyghurs and Chinese people – I think the government is suspicious and worries about this kind of stuff.”

A Uyghur diaspora numbering in the tens of thousands currently resides in Turkey, and China frequently demands extradition of certain ones, whom it accuses of terrorism or separatism.

Officially, China argues that its program of mass incarceration of Xinjiang-based Uyghurs and to a lesser extent Kyrgyz and Kazakhs, implemented since about 2017, is primarily a temporary one aimed at educating them in the Chinese language and basic professional skills that will help them find employ.

However, several hundred Uyghur intellectuals — researchers, editors, scientists and senior university staff — whose educational level is already quite high, have also been sentenced and imprisoned. Among them is Rahile Dawut, a renowned anthropologist and expert in Uyghur folklore, who was disappeared by the Chinese government in 2017 and has not been seen since.

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