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24-09-06, 11:02
The Final Say

By PETER WORTHINGTON


It’s impossible to predict who of the 191 nominations for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (to be announced in Oslo on Oct. 13) is likely to win.

Sometimes the choice is blatantly political — as in 1994 when Yasser Arafat was co-winner with Israel’s Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, and in 1993 when Nelson Mandela shared the award with South Africa’s President Fredrik de Klerk.

Sometimes agencies are the winners — like Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) in 1999, and even UN Peacekeepers in 1988.

Five times in the last 15 years the Peace award has gone specifically for enhancing democracy and human rights, with four of these winners women: Myanmar’s (Burma’s) Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991; Guatemala’s Rigoberta Menchu Tum in 1992; Iran’s Shirin Ebadi in 2003; Kenya’s Wangari Maathai in 2004. At the time, none were household names in the West, yet all sought to help women and advance human rights.

So there’s no way of predicting who this year’s winner will be.

One who has been nominated is 59-year-old Rebiya Kadeer, whose courage and integrity are unassailable, and who last year was released from a Chinese prison after serving nearly six years, allegedly for leaking state secrets. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, says Kadeer was convicted of “endangering national security ... conniving with terrorist forces abroad” ... but as a gesture to mark the visit to China last year of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was “exiled to the United States.”

Rebiya Kadeer is an unusual woman. She is a Uighur (pronounced Wee-gar) — one of China’s 56 minority groups — from Xinjiang province in northwest China, where the Muslim Uighurs struggle to preserve their cultural and religious identity in what once was East Turkistan.

Kadeer, a businesswoman and mother of 11 children, ran afoul of Chinese authorities by setting up women’s associations, encouraging women to enter business, and arranging start-up loans for women. In short, she was a woman of influence in Xinjiang.

Passport confiscated

Her husband was a scholar, who’d served 10 years in prison for supporting human rights for minorities. He escaped and broadcasted for Radio Free Asia. When she refused to denounce or divorce him, Kadeer’s passport was confiscated, and she was later arrested and charged with leaking secrets (local newspaper clippings) when she met with a visiting U.S. Congressional delegation.

Today, she lives in Washington and works with the Uighur American Association (UAA), and aligns herself with Tibetans and other minorities persecuted in China.

After 9/11, the Chinese immediately equated the Muslim Uighurs with terrorism and al-Qaida. Alim Seytoff of the UAA, points out that Uighurs are unlike Arab or Pakistani Muslims, and are pro-Western and co-exist comfortably in a secular environment.

Before adopting Islam, Uighurs have been Buddhists, Christians, animists, Shamists — “a mixture of various religious traditions,” says Seytoff. “Since our land was seized by the Chinese in 1949, no Uighur has become a suicide bomber or practised violence.”

Ignored in the West

There may be 12 million Uighur in the world — with 2,000 in North America, hence the Western world’s tendency to ignore them.

Kadeer was nominated for the peace prize by Swedish Parliamentarian Annelie Enochson and endorsed by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization that fights for minorities in the developing world.

Of her nomination, Kadeer says she’s honoured, and views it as recognition of her peaceful campaign on behalf of Uighur women: “I am a woman of peace, and vigorously oppose all violence and acts of terrorism, and shall continue to speak out against China’s continued persecution — not only of Uighur people, but Tibetans, Mongolians and the Chinese people themselves.”

http://www.torontosun.com/News/Columnists/Worthington_Peter/2006/09/24/1888592.html