Söyüngül Chanisheff was born on 3 October 1940, in the Urumqi, capital of of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (aka East Turkistan). She enrolled at the Medical University of Xinjiang after completing her secondary education in 1958. She was imprisoned in 1962 on charges of separatism and spent three years in solitary confinement while forced to do hard labour. Upon her release from prison in 1966, the year when the Cultural Revolution started, she was put under a state surveillance regime and suffered numerous hardships until she managed to leave the country with her family in 1981. She has since been living in Australia.