Promoting Uyghur language comes with price

Image: Abduwel Ayup Twitter

On ‘International Mother Language Day’, let us not forget the Uyghur poets, writers and intellectuals who have paid a heavy price for promoting the Uyghur language. Uyghur poet Qasim Sidiq is one such author. He was sentenced to 15 in prison for his writings about the Uyghur mother language, Uyghur literary scholar Abduweli Ayup tweets. In his poems, Sidiq encouraged Uyghurs to preserve their mother tongue. Ayup himself is an active promoter of the Uyghur language and ended up in prison in his homeland for running Uyghur language pre-school programs.

Qasim Sidiq’s arrest likely occurred in March 2017, Radio Free Asia Uyghur Service reported in January 2021. The timing coincides with the larger scale Chinese efforts of the extra-judicial mass incarcerations of Uyghurs and other Turkic groups.

According to anonymous sources told the RFA, Sidiq had been interrogated by police ‘on several previous occasions. The authorities used Sidiq’s song lyrics and poems as ‘evidence’ for charges against him of ‘inciting ethnic hatred.’

Several Uyghur groups in the diaspora preserve and cultivate Uyghur language literature: Uyghur Pen,  World Uyghur Mother Writers UnionTeklimakan Uygur Neshriyat, Turkey’s oldest Uyghur-language publishing house, and tens if not hundreds of individual Uyghur authors publish writing in their websites and social media. 

By Anne Kader