According to a media report citing one of his former students and a police officer, a Uyghur educator who had previously been honored by the government for outstanding work is serving a seven-year sentence in China’s restive Xinjiang region for violating Chinese policy by instructing students in Uyghur – their native language.
Adil Tursun, a chemistry teacher and faculty director at Kashgar Kona Sheher County No. 1 High School, was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2018, after two years in detention, according to Radio Free Asia, citing his former student Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur activist and linguist based in Norway.
According to the media site, Abduweli chronicles missing and imprisoned Uyghurs in Xinjiang and identified Adil’s detention on a leaked Chinese government list of 10,000 “suspected terrorists” provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in April 2021.
According to Abduweli, Adil, who had previously been acknowledged by the government as one of the “nation’s outstanding teachers,” was imprisoned by officials for the “crime” of instructing kids in Uyghur since they couldn’t grasp the instructions in Chinese.
Xinjiang officials implemented a bilingual education policy that mandated Mandarin as the principal language of teaching in schools, with Uyghur language and literature taught as topics.
According to the authorities, the policy was adopted to help ethnic minority students enhance their standard Mandarin language abilities in order to make them more competitive in the profession. According to the media site, Uyghurs perceived the action as forced cultural integration aimed at weakening their Turkic heritage.
Regardless of the fact that some pupils cannot understand Mandarin instructions, practically all schools now restrict not only instruction in the Uyghur language but also the usage of normal Uyghur-language textbooks.
According to Radio Free Asia, Adil expressed his discontent with the Chinese government’s policy of eradicating the Uyghur language in schools.
When RFA inquired about Adil’s sentencing, Kona Sheher county police declined to answer questions but did not dispute that the instructor had been imprisoned.
“After his mistake was investigated, he was arrested. It was a previous mistake of his – to speak in Uyghur to his students while bilingual education was being implemented,” the media outlet quoted a police officer in Kashgar prefecture.
“He was handed over to the national-security branch of the police department and was sentenced to prison two years after his arrest,” he added.
For years, Chinese authorities have detained several Uyghur academics, influential businesspeople, and cultural and religious elites in Xinjiang as part of a sweeping crackdown on ethnic minorities.
According to the media source, about 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities have been incarcerated in a network of detention centers in Xinjiang since 2017, supposedly to prevent religious extremism and terrorist operations.