"In our country, men suffered most under Chinese rule," says Kadeer, now 63. "They were detained, tortured, imprisoned and executed." But it’s Uighur women she sees as "a strong force for change." In 1997 she founded the Thousand Mothers Movement, which aimed to empower Uighur females to start their own businesses. After only three months, the government banned the organization.
In 1999, Kadeer was arrested and imprisoned for allegedly stealing state secrets, because she intended to give news clippings about political prisoners in East Turkistan to a visiting U.S. delegation. "We will crush you like a snake," the chief of police reportedly told her. "And I will emerge from prison like an eagle," Kadeer replied.
In 2005, after six years behind bars, Kadeer was released to the U.S., where she now lives in exile in suburban Washington, D.C., and runs the
. She lobbies international leaders and works with human rights groups to pressure China to change its policies toward the Uighurs. "The persecution by the Chinese has reached the point of no return," Kadeer says. >