Rectification of Names: Ilham Tohti? Ilham? Tohti?

Rectification of Names: Ilham Tohti? Ilham? Tohti?

A minor tangent to the culmination this week of the separatism case against Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti is uncertainty over how to deal with his name and avoid faux pas akin to calling President Xi “Mr. Jinping” (or, worse still, Eleven Jinping). Chinese scholar Wang Lixiong addressed the issue at the start of a recent interview with Ian Johnson for The New York Review of Books (previously covered on CDT here):

First, I’d like to clarify his name. His real name is just Ilham. For Uighurs, the second name isn’t their family name; it’s their father’s name. So if you call him Tohti or Mr. Tohti, you’re addressing his father! The meaning of the name Ilham Tohti is “Tohti’s son, Ilham.” But if Ilham had a son say named Mehmet, his name would be Mehmet Ilham, not Mehmet Tohti. [Source]

Similarly, his U.S.-based daughter is named Jewher Ilham.

Sydney University history lecturer David Brophy answered an appeal for confirmation on Twitter:


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