Dolkun Isa is a Uyghur human rights activist from Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority region in China where Beijing is facing a movement for independence and autonomy.
Though Isa has publicly condemned violent methods to seek political rights, China and Taiwan have declared him a “terrorist”, especially after the 2009 mass riots in which at least 197 people were killed. After a serious threat to his life, he fled to Europe on a fake passport in 1997. He became a citizen of Germany in 2006.
Beijing used its influence and got a red notice issued against Isa from Interpol. China has put Isa on the most-wanted terrorist list since 2003 Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group, consider Eastern Turkistan or Xinjiang their historical home. The region was turned into a Chinese province when Qing dynasty occupied it and it was later named as Xinjiang in 1884. The region is almost cut off and journalists aren’t allowed to travel there.
Isa is the Executive Committee Chairman of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC).
He came into the limelight after a visa was granted to him by India to attend a conference in Dharamsala later this month. The decision was met with Chinese protests claiming that Isa is a ‘terrorist’ on the red notice of Interpol and the Chinese police. The issuance of the visa was seen as retaliation for China’s veto on the listing of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist at the UN. Pakistan-based Azhar is believed to have masterminded the Pathankot attack in India that claimed the lives of at least seven Indian security personnel. India believes that China’s veto came with the tacit support of Pakistan.
But the visa to Isa was eventually withdrawn by India on Monday possibly due to Chinese pressure.
(With inputs from Shubhajit Roy)