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Rebiya Kadeer awarded the Rafto Prize

Rebiya Kadeer from China was awarded the Rafto Memorial Prize for 2004. The award will most likely provoke Chinese authorities.

The 58-year-old human rights activist has been jailed in north-west China since 2000. Her release date is 2006. However, Kadeer’s health is failing due to the prison confinement, and the Rafto Foundation has demanded that she is released immediately and without any strings attached.

Kadeer belongs to the Muslim minority Uighurs in the Xingjian province. She was arrested in 1999, allegedly for separatism and for handing over confidential government information to foreigners. During the court case, it was revealed that the information in question was articles cut out of local papers which she sent to her husband in the US.

According to a press release sent out by the Rafto Foundation, it wants, by awarding this prize to Kadeer, to direct a strong appeal to China to employ politics that protect the civil, economic and cultural rights of the Uighurs and other minorities in China.

Kadeer was a successful business woman who also was politically active. She is a former member of the most important political advisory board in Xingjian province, and she also participated in the UN’s Women’s conference in Beijing in 1995.

Prize provokes
The prize will without doubt provoke Chinese authorities as they have used the international attitude that has surfaced after the attacks in the US September 11, 2001, to attack ethnic Uighurs in the Xingjian province. The authorities blame Uighurian separatists for a series of bomb attacks, and the authorities have arrested several hundred and executed prisoners.

The imprisonment of Kadeer is also connected to the political work done by her husband, Sidik Rouzi, who escaped to the US in 1996. Before she was arrested, Kadeer was working on a project which goal was to help Urihurian women to start their own businesses.

This year’s award is number 18. The prize was established as a continuance of Professor Thorolf Rafto’s work for human rights. Former prize winners include Peace Prize winners Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos Horta, Kim Dae-jung and Shirin Ebadi.

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