Concern over Sanubar Tursun: Uyghur Cultural Icon's Concerts Cancelled in France

Sanubar Tursun, world-renowned Uygur musician, scheduled to tour France in February 2019 is a major artist in the Uyghur community. Sanubar Tursun has performed notably in Turkey, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, the UK and the US. Her February 2019 concerts in France, announced in Spring 2018, were cancelled in early November 2018 as she faced difficulties leaving China.

In her article published on January 17, 2019 in The Globe Post, Rachel Harris, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London) and expert in Uyghur music, expressed her concerns about the sudden disappearance of one of the most influential figures in Uyghur music, Sanubar Tursun, her long-term collaborator and friend since 2000. Indeed, none of Sanubar Tursun’s international collaborators has been able to reach her since late November 2018.
These concerns are not unsupported: they are grounded in an attested critical situation. Over the past few months, the Chinese state conducted massive arbitrary arrests of Uyghur intellectuals and arbitrary detentions of up to a million Uyghurs in Northwest China according to several reports unveiled by the UN in August 2018.
Since 2017, the Uyghurs, a Turkic people native to Central Asia who live in a region essential to China’s New Silk Road development, have been undergoing systematic forms of repression and oppression at an unprecedented level, as revealed by several experts on the region, international organizations and testimonies from former detainees or their relatives. Academic and press articles as well as statements by official institutions and organizations have provided extensive evidence to contradict China’s claim that the situation is a “national struggle against religious extremism and separatism”.
Different sources close to Sanubar Tursun reported that she was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. Chinese officials, who were contacted by journalists from RFA and the New York Times among others, refused to comment on this information or on Sanubar Tursun’s current location. The only certainty to date is that the name of Sanubar Tursun can be added to a growing list of academics, artists and public figures who disappeared in the past few months.
The case of Sanubar Tursun reminds us how powerful, but also exposed, fragile and vulnerable the voice of an artist is. This is unfortunately one example amongst many in the tragedy that is unfolding in the Uyghur region, and that now disrupts the French and international art scene, as well as the life of its audience who were looking forward to meet Sanubar Tursun in February.
This letter is thus calls on all the venues where Sanubar Tursun performed in the past, or was scheduled to perform this year, as well as the international community of ethnomusicologists and artists, to join us in signing this letter and express their concern over and unconditional solidarity with Sanubar Tursun, Uyghur artists and the whole Uyghur community which is currently under attack.

China’s mass arrest of Uyghur intellectuals:
Reports on one million Uyghurs in detention camps:
Rachel Harris’s article on the disappearance of Sanubar Tursun:


  1. Ahmed Al-Badr, PhD in Ethnomusicology, Alberta, Canada
  2. Jane Alaszewska, SOAS (Université de Londres)
  3. Phil Alexander, University of Glasgow
  4. Elise Anderson, Indiana University
  5. Sandrine Arnoux-Rebai, Professeure de l’Education nationale, France
  6. Isabelle Assayah, Drôme, France
  7. Laurent Aubert, ancien directeur de l’ADEM (Atelier d’ethnomusicologie – musique et danse du monde)
  8. Alexandra Balandina, TEI Central Greece
  9. Cassandre Balosso-Bardin, University of Lincoln
  10. Ildikó Bellér-Hann, University of Copenhagen
  11. Margaret Birley, Keeper of Musical Instruments, Horniman Museums and Gardens
  12. François Borel, Musée d’ethnographie et Université de Neuchâtel
  13. Albertine Bourget, Journaliste
  14. Etienne Bours, journaliste RTBF, Belgique
  15. Gardner Bovingdon, Indiana University
  16. Raquel Campos Valverde, London South Bank University
  17. Martina Catella, musicienne, ethnomusicologue et pédagogue, Paris
  18. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, UCLA, Los Angeles
  19. Sandrine Emmanuelle Catris, Augusta University
  20. Luc Charles-Dominique, Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis
  21. Jérôme Cler, Université de la Sorbonne
  22. Michael Clarke, National Security College, ANU
  23. Mathieu Clavel, musicien et organisateur de concerts, Lausanne, Suisse
  24. Fabrice Contri, directeur, Ateliers d’ethnomusicologie, Genève
  25. Maëlle Coulange, musicienne, Lussas, France
  26. Isabelle Courroy, musicienne, L'oreille buissonnière, France
  27. Dean Craven, King’s College, London
  28. Anne Damon-Guillot, Université de Lyon/Université de Saint-Etienne
  29. Patrik Dasen, ethnomusicologue, Genève
  30. Kiku Day, etnomusicologue, Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Denmark
  31. Joël Delmas, Bours, France
  32. Monique Desroches, professeure émérite, Université de Montréal
  33. Yousra Dhahbi, musicienne et pédagogue, Lausanne
  34. Samantha Dieckmann, University of Oxford
  35. Cécile Douge, Besançon
  36. June Teufel Dreyer, University of Miami
  37. Byron Dueck, Senior Lecturer and Head of Music, The Open University
  38. Vincent Durand-Dastès, INALCO (Paris)
  39. Arienne Dwyer, University of Kansas
  40. Lejla Dzambazov, ethnomusicologist, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  41. Argibel Euba-Ugarte, University of the Basque Country / Université du Pays Basque.
  42. Magnus Fiskesjö, Cornell University
  43. Giuseppe Frana, musicien, Cava de' Tirreni, Italie
  44. Renata Frana, musicienne, Cava de' Tirreni, Italie
  45. Vanessa Frangville, Université libre de Bruxelles
  46. Dora Gama Statunato, musicienne, Italie
  47. Georges Goormaghtigh, Université de Genève
  48. Catherine Grant, musician, researcher and teacher, Brisbane, Australia
  49. Paul Grant, musicien et pédagogue, Genève
  50. Mahmoud Guettat, professeur émérite, Université de Tunis
  51. Roberte Hamayon, anthropologue, EPHE, PSL, Paris
  52. Rachel Harris, SOAS (Université de Londres)
  53. Mireille Helffer, directeur de recherche honoraire au CNRS, Paris
  54. David Hugues, SOAS (Université de Londres)
  55. Angela Impey, SOAS (Université de Londres)
  56. Kristina Jacobsen, University of New Mexico
  57. Marie José Justamond, présidente du festival Les Suds à Arles
  58. Thierry Kellner, Université libre de Bruxelles
  59. Chérif Khaznadar, président de la Maison des cultures du monde, Paris
  60. Ondřej Klimeš, Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences
  61. Frank Kouwenhoven, Director of CHIME, European Foundation for Chinese Music Research
  62. Jean Lambert, Musée de l'Homme, Paris
  63. Hubert Laot, ancien Directeur de l’Auditorium du Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet
  64. Sylvie Laurent, Musée des Confluences, Lyon
  65. Madeleine Leclair, Musée d'ethnographie de Genève
  66. Gregory B. Lee, Directeur, IETT, Professeur d'études chinoises et transculturelles, Université de Lyon
  67. James Leibold, La Trobe University
  68. Bernard Lortat-Jacob, directeur de recherche honoraire au CNRS, Paris
  69. Nicolas Magriel, musician and ethnomusicologist
  70. Victor H. Mair, University of Pennsylvania
  71. Dominique Maliesky, Sciences Po Rennes
  72. Sarah Manasseh, ethnomusicologist and performer
  73. Maria Manca, MDC, Université Paris Diderot
  74. Denis-Constant Martin, Sciences-Po, Bordeaux
  75. Silvia Maria Mastropierro, Molfetta, Italie
  76. Mukaddas Mijit, Université de Toulouse
  77. Simon Mills, Durham University
  78. James Millward, Georgetown University
  79. Patrick Morell, cinéaste, New York
  80. Jeremy Narby, anthropologue indépendant
  81. Bruno Netti, University of Illinois
  82. Edith Nicol, mélomane et activiste culturelle, France
  83. Georgette Nummelin, SOAS (University of London)
  84. Matthieu Rietzler, Directeur de l’Opéra de Rennes
  85. Jaboc Olley, University of Muenster
  86. Tom Pauwels, Ensemble Ictus, Bruxelles
  87. Rowan Pease, SOAS (University of London)
  88. Carol Pegg, University of Cambridge
  89. Eddy Pennewaert, Colophon Records, Bruxelles
  90. Stelios Petrakis, musicien et luthier, Heraklion
  91. François Picard, Président de la Société française d’ethnomusicologie
  92. Pribislav Pitoeff, Musée de l’Homme, Paris
  93. Jean-Luc Plouvier, Ensemble Ictus, Bruxelles
  94. Douglas Ponton, University of Catania
  95. Ian Price, musicien
  96. Vinca Prost, styliste
  97. Julie Pruche, Finistère Sud, France
  98. Anne K. Rasmussen, William & Mary, Past-President, Society for Ethnomusicology
  99. Dilnur Reyhan, INALCO (Paris)
  100. Sean Roberts, George Washington University
  101. Eric Schluessel, University of Montana
  102. Mathieu Schweizer, Conservatoire de Lyon
  103. Kengo Saito, musicien et comédien
  104. Joanne Smith Finley, Newcastle University
  105. Rune Steenberg, University of Copenhage
  106. Henry Stobart, Royal Holloway University of London
  107. Shzr Ee Tan, RHUL
  108. Hwee-San Tan, SOAS (Université de Londres)
  109. Dante Tanzi, composer, Italy
  110. Marie Thiérault, Université de Montréal
  111. Sabine Trébinjac, CNRS
  112. Emmanuelle Troy, Gironde, France
  113. Fanny Valembois, co-fondatrice du festival Made in Asia
  114. Gerd Van Looy, Ensemble Ictus, Bruxelles
  115. Valence Vieillevigne, Canada
  116. Florent Villard, Science-po Rennes
  117. Veronique Walsh, PhD student in ethnomusicology, SOAS (University of London)
  118. Frances Wilkins, The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
  119. Gloria Wong, Société de Musique Chinoise de Colombie Britannique
  120. Abigail Wood, University of Cambridge and University of Haifa
  121. Owen Wright, SOAS (University of London)
  122. Vincent Zanetti, Radio Télévision Suisse
  123. Adrian Zenz, independent researcher

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