April 10, 2018

Reports and Public Statements

CESS statement concerning the detention of Rahile Dawut, Professor of Uyghur Folklore, detained in Xinjiang

CESS statement concerning the detention of doctoral student Xiyue Wang

CESS Taskforce on Fieldwork Safety – Final Report

Statement of the Central Eurasian Studies Society Regarding Academic Freedom in Turkey (English and Turkish)


CESS Statement concerning the detention of Rahile Dawut, Professor of Uyghur Folklore, detained in Xinjiang

published on September 7, 2018:

On behalf of the members of the Central Eurasian Studies society, we write to express our strong concern over the disappearance of our academic colleague Rahile Dawut. In November 2017 she suddenly vanished, and the CESS, based on evidence supplied by her colleagues and in the press, believes that she has been detained and is currently likely being held in one of the ‘political re-education centers’ set up by the Chinese government in the northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang.[i]

Rahile Dawut is a well-known and respected professor and scholar, a long-standing researcher of Uyghur culture and folklore, a prolific author and global project leader, and active mentor and colleague who has collaborated with many of our peers in the region.  Her own ethnography and recordings stand by themselves as an archive of Uyghur cultural heritage, and she has done immense work to bring these traditions to a global stage in a series of national and international projects.[ii]

The academic community of CESS represents an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars committed to the free and open dissemination of knowledge in and about Central Eurasia.  We were dismayed to learn of her disappearance, and consider that the Chinese government is ultimately responsible for her safety.  We also know well that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs (both public figures as well as private citizens) are being held in China’s ‘re-education centers’ in Xinjiang.[iii] Such detention constitutes a major violation of human rights and freedoms, and in the case of our academic colleagues, also a clear and obvious disregard for academic freedom, a trend which is unfortunately increasing in many parts of the world today.  The academic community of CESS condemns these detentions and wishes for the safe return of our colleague.


This statement has been co-signed by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).

a record of CESS’ public statements can be found here



[i] To raise attention and awareness, CESS has recently published a blog on the issues which contains links to further sources of news and scholarship, that may be found here.

[ii] We thank Rachel Harris for her help in the preparation of this statement.

[iii] For a recent report on these camps with contributions from CESS members see, for example, What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps by Rian Thum or China is Treating Islam Like a Mental Illness by Sigal Samuel.


CESS statement concerning the detention of doctoral student Xiyue Wang

Circulated to members of the CESS mailing list on October 13, 2017:

On behalf of the members of the Central Eurasian Studies Society we write to express our strong concern over the conviction by the Iranian judiciary of our fellow academic researcher Xiyue Wang on charges of espionage.
Wang is a doctoral student in history at Princeton University, USA. He was in Iran conducting archival research for his doctoral dissertation on 19th and early 20th century Iranian history. Wang was arrested in Iran in August 2016 and in April 2017 he was sentenced to ten years in prison. His case is currently under appeal.
The arrest and detention of academic researchers is of great concern to all our members. His arrest and secret trial constitute an infringement of intellectual freedom and sets a worrisome precedent for Iran’s openness to the world.
We petition for the immediate release of Xiyue Wang.
You may also wish to refer to information about Xiyue Wang’s case on Princeton University’s website.




CESS Taskforce on Fieldwork Safety – Final Report

March 6, 2016

Following incidents in 2014 involving researchers of CESS’ scholarly community, CESS in 2015 created the Task Force on Fieldwork Safety (TFFS). The TFFS’s charge was to learn scholars’ perceptions of risks and safety concerns involved with conducting fieldwork in Central Eurasia, to assess the conditions for conducting such fieldwork, and to provide recommendations for CESS, as an academic society, to consider.
The TFFS has issued its final report — a document sure to prompt important discussions in our various scholarly communities. We look forward to carrying these conversations forward, as they are crucial to our common scholarly purpose.
As this represents a tremendous amount of (volunteer!) work, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the members of the TFFS for all they have contributed:
Dr. Noor Borbieva, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne
Dr. Krista Goff, Department of History, University of Miami
Dr. John Heathershaw, Department of Politics, University of Exeter (Chair)
Dr. Jennifer Murtazashvilli, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Chris Whitsel, Department of Sociology, North Dakota State University

Ed Schatz
Immediate Past-President, CESS




Statement of the Central Eurasian Studies Society Regarding Academic Freedom in Turkey (English and Turkish)

January 21, 2016

The Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS) expresses its deep concern about the treatment of academics who signed a petition critiquing the Turkish government’s policies toward minority Kurds. CESS stands in solidarity with all academics who wish in their private or professional capacity to express opinions about important matters of the day, including political ones. CESS is distressed by reports that those who expressed their opinion via the petition could face prosecution for alleged “terrorist organization propaganda.” CESS is further concerned about a climate of intimidation that signatories of the petition are reported to face in their university environments. Turkey has enjoyed a strong reputation as a country that values pluralism and vibrant public debate, and the aforementioned developments risk destroying that reputation — a reputation that has been an important basis for Turkey’s standing in the world and its progress and prosperity. As a scholarly association, we stand firmly behind the principle of academic freedom and call upon Turkish authorities to respect this principle without condition.

in Turkish

21 Ocak 2016

Bizler, önemli bulduğu güncel konularda kişisel ve/veya profesyonel görüş -siyasi olanlar dahil- bildiren tüm dünya akademisyenleriyle dayanışma içindeki Orta Avrasya Çalışmaları Derneği (CESS) üyeleri olarak, Türk Hükümetinin akademisyenlerine karşı tutumundan rahatsızız. Hükümetin Kürt azınlığa yönelik politikasını imzalı dilekçe yayınlayarak eleştiren akademisyenlere yönelik yürütülen karalama kampanyasını kınamaktayız. Görüşlerini adı geçen dilekçe ile bildirenler hakkında ‘terörist örgütlenme propagandası’ iddiası ile kovuşturma açıldığına dair belgeler bizi ziyadesiyle rahatsız etmektedir. CESS üyeleri ayrıca, dilekçeyi imzalayanlara karşı kendi üniversitelerinde korkutma/yıldırma ortamının yaratılmasından fevkalade tedirgindir. Kalkınma hamleleriyle özel bir refah modeli oluşturduğunu ve kamuya açık şeffaf tartışma ortamını çoğulculuk ilkesiyle desteklediğini düşündüğümüz Türkiye’nin dünya ölçeğindeki itibarının, bu menfi gelişmelerden zarar gördüğü de aşikârdır. Akademik özgürlük ilkelerinin arkasında durma kararlılığındaki akademik bir dernek olarak, Türk yetkililerden bu ilkelere kayıtsız şartsız saygı göstermelerini talep etmekteyiz.

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