Imprisoned Chinese economist and writer Ilham Tohti, who was arrested in his Beijing home in January, is being honored with the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. His daughter, Jewher Ilham, a student at Indiana University, will accept the award on her father’s behalf at the PEN 2014 Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on May 5.
According to the statement from PEN, Tohti, was "long harassed by Chinese authorities for his outspoken views on the rights of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority." The 44-year old writer, a member of the Uyghur PEN Center, was charged with "separatism," which carries a penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment, or even the death penalty in extreme cases. He is currently being held at a detention center thousands of miles from Beijing in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
“Tohti represents a new generation of endangered writers who use the web and social media to fight oppression and broadcast to concerned parties around the globe,” said PEN president Peter Godwin. “We hope this honor helps awaken Chinese authorities to the injustice being perpetrated and galvanizes the worldwide campaign to demand Tohti’s freedom.”
Thirty-five of the 38 writers who were in prison at the time they won the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award since its inception in 1987, according to PEN, and have been "freed due in part to the attention and pressure generated by the award."