The Mary Tefft White Cultural Center Lecture Series presents activist, Jewher Ilham, Wednesday, November 6, 2019, at 4:30pm in the Roger Williams University Library, Mary Tefft White Cultural Center.
Jewher Ilham 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. Jewher arrived in the United States in 2013, following the detention of her father at the Beijing airport, as both prepared to travel to Indiana University for Professor Tohti’s fellowship. It was the last time she’d see 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, Indiana. 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 in Indiana. 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 Secretary of State John Kerry, and received numerous awards worldwide on behalf of her father. In 2015, she recounted her experiences in the book, Jewher Ilham: A Uyghur’s Fight to Free Her Father (University of New Orleans Press), and in July 2019, she spoke at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Studies, hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Jewher recently graduated with a degree in Political Science, Arabic, and Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, and currently is assisting on a documentary film about Uyghurs, while continuing her advocacy work on behalf of her father and all Uyghurs.