Ilham Tohti, an outspoken critic of China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority, has been awarded the Sakharov Prize for 2019.
Tohti is an economics scholar and belongs to the Uyghur community. He has been responsible for bringing the world’s attention to the treatment of the Uyghur community by China. It has been reported that thousands of people from this ethnic community have been held in camps in the Xinjiang region of China.
Tohti has relentlessly worked to encourage dialogue and understanding between the Chinese and the Uyghurs.
Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014.
While China has condemned and accused him of separatism, various human rights groups across the world have called for his release.
What is the Sakharov Prize?
Named after the renowned Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, often called the Sakharov Prize, is awarded by the European Parliament. It is awarded “every year to honour exceptional individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. ”
It was first awarded in 1988; the inaugural recipients of the prize were South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela and Russian human rights campaigner Anatoly Marchenko. It has also been awarded to Bangladeshi feminist activist Taslima Nasrin, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, and human rights activist Malala Yousufzai.