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Along the ancient Silk Road where Europe, Asia, and Russia converge stands the homeland of a peaceful ethnic minority, the Uyghurs (pronounced Wee-gurs). Their culture is filled with music, dance, family, and a love of tradition passed down by storytelling through the ages. In their case, the ages equates to millennia. Discovery of fossilized remains of a young Uyghur woman and boy dating back six-thousand-four-hundred-and-twelve years ago were found in the heart of their homeland as published in the The National Peopleâ€™s Republic of China Newspaper on February 17, 1981, and again published a week later in the regional Uyghur newspaper February 24, 1981.
This remarkable autobiographical journey traces the life of their modern-day transcendent leader Rebiya Kadeer from her humble beginnings to her position as a world figure. It reveals her life and death struggle for Uyghur self-determination and human rights in the face of the present communist domination by The Peopleâ€™s Republic of China. Mrs. Kadeer, as president of the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur American Association, exemplifies courage, intellect, and sacrifice, giving hope to the approximately twenty million Uyghurs worldwide. Recognized as an unofficial head of state, she regularly meets with world leaders as an indomitable figure devoted to the principles of non-violence.
Rebiya Kadeerâ€™s life story is one of legends. She was a refugee child; a poor housewife; a self-made multimillionaire; a high official in Chinaâ€™s National Peopleâ€™s Congress and then by the same government held as a political prisoner secluded in solitary confinement for two of her nearly six-year imprisonment. Today she lives as a political dissident near Washington, D.C. exiled from her own land in 2005.
Dragon Fighter is a revelation. A condemnation. A tell-all. A listing of names and dates of rampant Chinese government corruption, forced abortions, drug trafficking secured under the communistsâ€™ protective hand, murder, and ultimately the governmentâ€™s orchestrated genocide of the Uyghur people. Mrs. Kadeerâ€™s autobiography is a call for a non-violent resolution that would allow Uyghurs to find peace with China. Her call is heard around the world, and her level of heroism has placed her among the bravest who have ever given their lives for their country.
In Dragon Fighter, Mrs. Kadeer traces her compelling rise from oppression in childhood under Communist Party president Mao Zedong. Her youthful years reveal the values and history of the Uyghur culture contrasted with the famine, hardships, and crimes against humanity she and other Uyghurs suffered under the communist regime.
Her life story then leads into her instinctual business abilities. Starting as a poverty-stricken laundress who washed clothes by hand, her entrepreneurial talents drove her to amass a financial empire, known as the Akida Holding Company, through a chain of department stores, real estate, lumber, scrap iron, factories, and other operations. By 1993 (until her arrest in 1999) she had become the wealthiest woman in all of China, and the seventh wealthiest person in the country. Her fortune brought her power and access, and Chinaâ€™s Communist Party appointed her to the National Peopleâ€™s Congress as well as to other posts. But it was at this high-profile intersection where, in her words, â€œthose in power dropped their masks.â€ During this time Mrs. Kadeer was also vigorously working as a philanthropist and had invested millions of dollars to partially self-finance an improvement in Uyghur conditions. As Mrs. Kadeer reached the pinnacle of her authority within the Chinese government, at the same time, she was beginning to be seen as a political dissident by the very same government.
Her arrest for speaking out against human rights abuses suffered by Uyghurs actually occurred while she was en route to meet with a United States congressional delegation investigating Chinaâ€™s human rights transgressions. Mrs. Kadeerâ€™s arrest underscored the Chinese governmentâ€™s ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs, a program that was occurring at that time and continues to this day. The policies to completely exterminate this culture are in part fuelled by Chinese racial and religious bigotry, but perhaps more pragmatically by the Uyghur nationâ€™s massive oil reserves. The Chinese government claims that these reserves are second only to those of Saudi Arabia. The politics of oil, combined with a haunting intolerance of cultural diversity or even differing opinions, places the communist Chinese government among the worldâ€™s most egregious human rights violators.
In Dragon Fighter, Mrs. Kadeer writes of her nearly six years in Chinese captivity as a political prisoner. Her harrowing account of survival during those years provides a rare glimpse into one of the harshest, cruellest, most torturous incarceration systems in the world.
Her human rights case became an embarrassment to the Chinese government. Under international pressure, on March 17, 2005 her release and exile to the United States was brokered, though details of the negotiations remain hidden. Many speculate it was in exchange for the West relaxing criticism against China for its human rights violations. Indeed, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a delegation to Beijing only days after Mrs. Kadeerâ€™s release and the United Nationsâ€™ annual human rights report issued in Geneva at the time of Mrs. Kadeerâ€™s release made no reference to Chinaâ€™s known abuses.
The real and perceived threat Mrs. Kadeer poses to the Chinese government should not be underestimated. For example, in September 2008, worldwide media reported that China formally warned â€œa visiting delegation of Norwegian politicians that the Norwegian Nobel Committee should not award the Peace Prize to human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.â€ Mrs. Kadeer has long been a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Chinese government told the Norwegian Parliament delegation that relations would be damaged if the prize went to her.
Human Rights Watch honored Mrs. Kadeer with its highest award in 2000. Mrs. Kadeer is also the recipient of Norwayâ€™s Rafto Foundation for Human Rights Prize presented in 2004. Both achievements were awarded during her imprisonment and both were ill-received by Chinese officials. Sources also report that the Chinese government refers to Mrs. Kadeer as Chinaâ€™s Public Enemy Number One. In addition, even while living in exile in the United States, Mrs. Kadeer is under surveillance by Chinaâ€™s secret service bureau An Chuan Tingâ€”a covert operations agency comparable to the American Central Intelligence Agency.
She has survived one assassination attempt in Virginiaâ€”the assailant remains at large according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, the bureau did successfully trace another clandestine operation against Mrs. Kadeer to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. According to Congressional Quarterly, â€œprivately, senior FBI officials say they donâ€™t want the U.S. to take any steps that would provoke a tit-for-tat reaction from Beijing: the expulsion of CIA or FBI agents from China.â€
Tragically, her children remaining in China are imprisoned there as political dissidents. In fact it is well known that Mrs. Kadeer was warned, before the American State Department negotiated her release from prison, to keep silent about the Chinese government or her children and remaining relatives in China would receive harsh punishment. This matter of retribution against Mrs. Kadeerâ€™s imprisoned children because of her human rights activities is of American concern. In September 2007, the United States House of Representatives passed House Resolution 497 calling for the Chinese government to immediately release her children.
Though her human rights campaign on behalf of Uyghurs is less known than that of His Holiness The Dalai Lamaâ€™s on behalf of Tibetans, both individuals in working for their respective nations literally share a border in China. These occupied areas are referred to by the communist government as Autonomous Regionsâ€”Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region. The two leaders are friends and mutually support each otherâ€™s causes. Efforts are underway to collaborate together further in the name of dignity for all of their respective citizens and for all people throughout the world. Indeed, the Uyghur nation, sometimes referred to as East Turkestan, has been called â€œChinaâ€™s other Tibetâ€ as similar oppressive policies exist against both populations.
As spokesperson for the nearly twenty million Uyghurs worldwide, Mrs. Kadeerâ€™s human rights campaign is gaining more public awareness, as it rightfully deserves. United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosiâ€™s recent related public statements included recognition of Mrs. Kadeer as â€œa champion of human rights for the Uyghur people.â€ Speaker Pelosi added, â€œThank you for your tireless efforts and unquantifiable sacrifices for the cause of freedom and human rights in China.â€
Former United States President George W. Bush in meeting with Mrs. Kadeer at a Prague conference, brought the Uyghurs plight to international attention. In his speech at this conference he said, “The talent of men and women like Rebiya is the greatest resource of their nationsâ€”far more valuable than the weapons of their army or oil under the ground.”
United States congressman Frank Wolf in congressional hearings said, â€œRebiya Kadeer is one of the most relentless and courageous leaders in the fight for human rights and religious freedom in China. Her spirit of hope in the face of despair is an inspiration to everyone who has had the privilege of knowing her.â€
United States congressman Chris Smith said, â€œAt turning points in history one honest and courageous man or woman often comes to represent the entire people in the eyes of the world. For the Uyghur people, deprived of their religious freedom, robbed of their cultural and linguistic rights and marginalized in their own homeland by the government-organized Han Chinese migration, it is Rebiya Kadeer.â€
Further on the worldwide stage, Amnesty International director T. Kumar said, â€œRebiya Kadeer is an example of those who fight for justice around the world. Her courage to speak out led her to harsh imprisonment in China. She sacrificed her successful business empire to fight injustice. Currently, Chinese authorities have imprisoned her two sons in an attempt to silence her. Even with that pain, she continues to fight. She is a prime example of a champion of freedom.â€
Executive Director Therese Jebsen and Chairman Arne Lijedahl LynngÃ¥rd of the Rafto Foundation in Norway, stewards of the Rafto Prize for Human Rights, said â€œThe 2004 Rafto Prize laureate Rebiya Kadeer is known as the mother of the Uyghur people. She is a moral pillar, a brave woman of wisdom, truth and self-sacrifice who has made it her life’s work to alert the world to the suffering of the Uyghur people.â€
Swedish parliamentarian Annelie Enochson said, â€œThroughout the years I have found Mrs. Kadeer to be a very humble as well as energetic leader full of integrity. She deserves all respect for her struggle to strengthen the dignity of the Uyghur people.â€
Rebiya Kadeer is president of the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur American Association. She is devoted to the principles of non-violence. Recognized as an unofficial head of state, she regularly meets with world leaders. While still imprisoned in China, Norwayâ€™s Rafto Foundation for Human Rights honored her in 2004 with the Rafto Prize. Human Rights Watch honored her with its highest award in 2000. Other institutions honoring Ms. Kadeer include the United States Congress, the European Union Parliament, and the United Nations.
While still a citizen in her own homeland, she was passionate in helping downtrodden Uyghurs and others, especially women and children. In order to educate children from poor families, she established full scholarships and free public schools. She also initiated the â€œThousand Mothers Movementâ€ to empower women to start their own businesses.
She and her husband Sidik Rouzi, also a Uyghur political dissident who served eight years in a Chinese prison before gaining asylum in the United States, have eleven grown children. Back in China, two of their sons remain in Chinese prisons and their daughter under house arrestâ€”held as punishment against Mrs. Kadeerâ€™s human rights activism. She lives near Washington, D.C.
Alexandra Cavelius has been active as a freelance journalist and non-fiction author for many years. She has published numerous books including most recently the war biography Leila: The Story of a Bosnian Girl. She lives in Germany.
One Womanâ€™s Epic Struggle for Peace with China
with Alexandra Cavelius
Introduction by His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Kales Press, a W. W. Norton affiliate
Hardcover, Fully Bound, Jacketed
6 â…› x 9 Â¼ inches, 448 pages
24 full-color pages of photographs
Price: U.S. $28.95
Publication date: May, 2009
Kales Press, Inc
7031 Columbine Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92011