Abdurehim Heyt

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Abdurehim Heyt
ئابدۇرېھىم ھېيت
Born (1962-06-01) 1 June 1962 (age 56)[1]
Alma materKashgar School of Art
(Graduated in 1986)
EmployerChina National Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Song and Dance Ensemble
Known forUyghur Dutar King
8 years imprisonment and alleged death reports

Abdurehim Heyt (Uyghur: ئابدۇرېھىم ھېيت, born 1962) is an internationally renowned ethnic Uyghur folk singer and compositor. He never writes songs[2]. In February 2019, Turkish government sources reported that he had died in custody in China, but this claim was contradicted by Chinese sources.


Heyt was renowned for his performances on the dutar, a two-stringed traditional instrument. He studied music in Beijing, and performed with national arts troupes in China. In March 2017, he was arrested and imprisoned, reportedly after performing a song, "Fathers", based on a traditional Uyghur poem calling on younger generations to respect the sacrifices of their forefathers and containing a reference to the "martyrs of war". He was reportedly serving an eight-year sentence.[3]

The Uyghur people are a Turkic language-speaking group, and a spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry described Heyit as a "distinguished poet".[3][4]

Reported death[edit]

It was reported, initially by Turkish media, that he died in custody in Urumqi on 9 February 2019, after being tortured. He was reportedly being held in a detention camp on an eight-year sentence. His death was not officially confirmed, but the reports led to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs objecting to the treatment of ethnic Uyghurs in the Xinjiang province of China, describing them as "human rights violations" and noting the "systematic assimilation policy of Chinese authorities against the Uighur Turks is a great embarrassment for humanity".[3][4]

On 10 February, Chinese state media released a video claiming to show Heyit on that day, with the man shown stating that he was in "good health" and that he was "in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating national laws". The US-based NED-funded Uyghur Human Rights Project questioned the authenticity of the video.[5] Magnus Fiskesjo, at Cornell University, stated that the recording appeared to be scripted and showed similar signs to confessions in which the subjects had been threatened or tortured.[6]

International reaction[edit]

The Turkish foreign ministry has accused China of holding Uyghurs in "concentration camps". China has responded that Turkey's comments are "completely unacceptable". With the exception of Turkey's statement, there has been little public condemnation from Muslim majority countries; analysts believe their complacency may be due to a fear of economic and political consequences.[3]


  1. ^ "Musicians: Abdurehim Heyt's fate is a signal for Uyghur art". www.rfa.org. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  2. ^ "A personal statement of family-friends", Muhtar and Waris Abdukerim Janbaz, 14 February 2019
  3. ^ a b c d "Turkey demands China close camps after reports of musician's death", BBC News, 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019
  4. ^ a b "China's treatment of Uighurs is 'embarrassment for humanity', says Turkey", The Guardian, 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019
  5. ^ "Abdurehim Heyit Chinese video 'disproves Uighur musician's death'", BBC News, 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019
  6. ^ Erin Handley, Michael Li, "'Dead' Uyghur poet Abdurehim Heyit appears on Chinese state media, says he's 'never been abused'", ABC News, 11 February 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2019

External links[edit]