Rebiya Kadeer once embodied China’s economic success. Born to penniless parents, she worked her way up and became one of the ten richest people in China. The government honoured her at the International Women’s Conference that took place in Beijing in 1995. But besides being extremely successful, Rebiya is also an Uyghur woman. Uyghurs are people with a Turkish origin who live in the Xinjiang autonomous region. China is mainly interested in the territory of the Islamic Uyghurs because of the large oil and gas reserves. When delivering an address to the National People’s Congress, Rebiya decides to put the cat among the pigeons. She criticizes the influx of Han migrants in Xinjiang, arguing that they take the Uyghurs’ jobs and undermine their culture. Rebiya is arrested and detained. Six years later, more dead than alive, she is allowed to leave prison and goes to the United States. There, she campaigns for the human rights of the Uyghurs, which takes its toll on her children.
Rebiya Kadeer was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize and attended the festival in 2010 within the scope of the A Matter of ACT programme.