- Date of birth: March 6, 1974
- From: Maralbeshi County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China
- Profession: Freelance writer, poet, essayist and journalist
- Date of arrest: Nov. 29, 2004
- Sentence: 10 years in prison
- Expires: Nov. 30, 2014
- Condition: In 2009 Uyghur PEN and other organizations received reports from credible sources that Nurmuhemmet Yasin may have been tortured to death in prison. The last verifiable report on his state comes from UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, who interviewed Nurmuhemmet in prison in 2005. Nurmuhemmet Yasin told Nowak he had suffered repeated beatings in prison. Nowak has appealed for his release to no avail.
- A note on Nurmuhemmet Yasin's name: Nurmuhemmet is his given name, while Yasin is his father's given name. Neither is his family name. As such, it is preferable to avoid calling Nurmuhemmet Yasin simply "Yasin."
- A note on the Uyghur ethnicity: Nurmuhemmet Yasin belongs to the Uyghur ethnic group, a Turkic people closely related to the Uzbeks.
- Details of arrest: Nurmuhemmet Yasin was arrested in Kashgar on Nov. 19, 2004, for the publication of his short story, The Wild Pigeon (Yawa Kepter), first published in the bi-monthly Uyghur-language Kashgar Literature Journal (issue No. 5). After publication, the story was widely circulated and was recommended for an award by one of the biggest Uyghur literary web sites. It also attracted the attention of the Chinese authorities, who apparently consider the fable to be a tacit criticism of their government in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Chinese authorities confiscated his personal computer, which contained close to 1,600 poems, commentaries, stories and one unfinished novel
- Trial details: After a closed trial, during which he was denied access to legal representation, Nurmuhemmet Yasin was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was convicted of "inciting Uyghur separatism" in Yawa Kepter. The Kashgar Intermediate Court upheld the sentence on appeal, and he was transferred to Urumqi No. 1 Prison. Nurmuhemmet has not been allowed any visitors since his arrest. Korash Huseyin, editor of the Kashgar Literary Journal, was sentenced to three years' prison for publishing The Wild Pigeon.
- Professional details: Nurmuhemmet Yasin is an award-winning freelance Uyghur writer. He is known for his numerous short stories, essays and three volumes of poetry: First Love, Crying From the Heart and Come on Children. Some of his work had been selected for inclusion in Uyghur-language middle-school literature textbooks. The Wild Pigeon has been broadcast by Radio Free Asia's Uyghur Service. RFA has also translated the fable into English.
- Place of detention: Urumqi No. 1 Prison, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China
- Treatment in prison: Nurmuhemmet has been permitted no visitors since his arrest.
- Family: Married with two sons
- Honorary PEN roles: Honorary president of Uyghur PEN. Honorary member of American PEN, English PEN and Independent Chinese PEN
- Recent awards: In 2009, Human Rights Watch selected Nurmuhemmet for the prestigious Hellman/Hammett Award for writers targeted for their views. In 2008, he was shortlisted for the inaugural ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize, which highlights the role of the arts in promoting human rights and the sacrifices made by artists for freedom of expression.
- More on Uyghurs: Only a few years ago, news reports about Xinjiang province (also known as East Turkestan) were rare and few people outside of the region knew about the main ethnic group there, the Uyghurs. This has been a contributing factor to why China has been able to maintain some of its harshest policies in this region. Information abroad is increasing, however, as Uyghurs in exile become a voice for their people, communicating through NGOs and media. That trend must continue in order to ratchet up pressure on the authorities to respect fundamental rights.
Uyghurs are a Turkic people who practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam and speak Uyghur, a language closely related to Uzbek and more distantly to Turkish. Government restrictions make it impossible to verify how many Uyghurs live in China today. China puts the figure at 8 million, but academics examining census data have estimated the figure could be around 12 to 15 million.
Uyghurs are heavily marginalized economically, politically and culturally. Although the Chinese government has a formal policy of protecting their culture, the regional government has stated that it hopes to "unify" all ethnic groups within a century. Critics assert that "unify" is a euphemism for "assimilate." Minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to practice Islam and all mosques are state-controlled. There is no independent media and access for international journalists to Xinjiang is restricted. All literature and academic research into Uyghur history, culture and language is strictly censored.