US Exile Is Voice of Uighurs

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2009 1:50 AM CDT
"All the difficulties in my life prepared me for the tough times we face now," Rebiya Kadeer said recently.   (AP Photo/Miguel Villagran)
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(Newser) – The crisis in China's Xinjiang province has given an activist living in America and the Uighur movement a rare moment in the spotlight, reports the New York Times. Rebiya Kadeer, 62, has been championing the rights of China's Muslim minority from a Washington office since 2005 when she came to the US after spending years in a Chinese prison for allegedly stealing state secrets. China now blames the mother of 11 for unrest in the province.

Kadeer—known as the "Mother of the Uighurs"—rose from poverty to become a successful businesswoman before falling afoul of the Chinese government for speaking out about Uighur grievances. Two of her children were jailed in China after she was expelled. Five others have joined her in the US, where they have joined her efforts over the last week to mobilize exile groups and draw global attention to the cause.