Turkistan Islamic Party

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Turkistan Islamic Party
Flag of Turkistan Islamic Party.svg
Active1988 – present
IdeologyUyghur nationalism
Sunni Islamism
Islamic fundamentalism
Salafist jihadism
Motive(s)An Islamic state in Xinjiang and the entire Central Asia, eventually Caliphate[1]
LeadersZeydin Yusup 
Hasan Mahsum 
Abdul Haq[2][3][4]
Abdul Shakoor al-Turkistani 
Abdullah Mansour[5]
HeadquartersNorth Waziristan, Pakistan
Area of operationsChina (Xinjiang)
Pakistan (North Waziristan)[6]
Central Asia
Syria[7][8][9] (Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib Governorate, Latakia Governorate)
Part ofBattle of Victory
Army of Conquest[10]
Allies Al-Qaeda[11]
Flag of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.svg Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (Formerly Al-Nusra)[12]
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (splinter faction, allied with main faction until 2015)[13]
East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (denied)[14]
Opponent(s) China
 European Union
 United Arab Emirates
 United States[18]

In Syria:


Battles and war(s)Baren Township riot
Xinjiang conflict
Syrian Civil War
Turkistan Islamic Party
Traditional Chinese突厥斯坦伊斯蘭黨
Simplified Chinese突厥斯坦伊斯兰党

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) (Arabic: الحزب الإسلامي التركستاني‎) or Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM), formerly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and other names,[a] is an Islamic extremist organization founded by Uyghur jihadists in western China, considered broadly as a terrorist group. Its stated goals are to establish an independent state called "East Turkestan" in Xinjiang.[20] According to a Chinese report, published in 2002, between 1990 and 2001 the ETIM had committed over 200 acts of terrorism, resulting in at least 162 deaths and over 440 injuries.[21] The UN Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee has listed ETIM as a terrorist organization since 2002.[22]

Since the September 11 attacks, the group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union,[23] Kyrgyzstan,[24][25] (The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, Organization for Freeing Eastern Turkistan, and the Islamic Party of Turkistan were outlawed by Kyrgyzstan's Lenin District Court and its Supreme Court in November 2003.[26][27]) Kazakhstan,[28] Russia,[29] Turkey,[17] United Arab Emirates,[30][31] the United Kingdom,[32][33] China, the United States,[34] and Pakistan[35] outlawed the group. Its Syrian branch Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria is active in the Syrian Civil War.


The area known as Xinjiang had been a protectorate of China as early as 60 BC during the Han dynasty when it was part of the Protectorate of the Western Regions and also a protectorate of Tang dynasty China when it was part of the Protectorate General to Pacify the West, though there are numerous periods of independence from China. The historical area of what is modern day Xinjiang consisted of the distinct areas of the Tarim Basin and Dzungaria, and was originally populated by Indo-European Tocharian and Iranic Saka peoples who practiced the Buddhist religion. The area was subjected to Turkification and Islamification at the hands of invading Turkic Muslims during the Islamicisation and Turkicisation of Xinjiang. In the 18th century the Qing Dynasty reorganized the territory as a province, Xinjiang.[36] Yet, Russian influence was strong. Russian Orthodox Old Believers emigrated from Russia to Xinjiang in the early 19th century, and the Russian Civil War accelerated this immigration by adding white émigrés.[37] During China's warlord era in the 1910s–1920s, the Soviet Union propped up the separatist Second East Turkestan Republic in the Ili region while the rest of Xinjiang was controlled by the Republic of China. The Second East Turkestan Republic dissolved itself on Soviet orders when the Chinese communists established the People's Republic of China after the Chinese Civil War.[38] Nevertheless, the Soviet Union distributed Soviet passports among the Central Asian ethnics in Xinjiang to facilitate emigration to Kazakh SSR.[37] After the Sino-Soviet split, the Soviet Union amassed troops on the Russian border with Xinjiang, and bolstered "East Turkestan" separatist movements, which received moral and material support from other regional militant groups.[39] China accused the Soviets of engineering riots, and improved the military infrastructure there to combat it.[37]

Abdul Hameed, Abdul Azeez Makhdoom, and Abdul Hakeem Makhdoom launched the Islamic Party of Turkistan in 1940.[40] After being set free from prison in 1979, Abdul Hakeem instructed Hasan Mahsum and other Uyghurs in fundamentalist Islam.[41]

In 1989 Ziyauddin Yusuf (Zeydin Yusup) started the group which was originally called East Turkistan Islamic Party(ETIP).[40][42] The name in Uyghur was (شەرقىي تۈركىستان ئىسلام پارتىيىسى) Sherqiy Türkistan Islam Partiyisi,[43] and in Turkish it was called Doğu Türkistan İslam Partisi.[44] The movement was reshuffled by Hasan Mahsum and Abudukadir Yapuquan in 1997 into its present incarnation.[45][46] This group was referred to as "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" (ETIM) by the Chinese government but the group itself never used that name. In 1998 Mahsum moved ETIM's headquarters to Kabul, taking shelter under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The Chinese government alleges that Mahsum met with leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban including Osama bin Laden in 1999 in Afghanistan to coordinate actions, though Mahsum denied this.[47] There, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement dropped the "East" from its name as it increased its domain.[48] The group's infrastructure was crippled after the United States invaded Afghanistan and bombed Al Qaeda bases in the mountainous regions along the border with Pakistan, after which the leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, was killed by a Pakistani raid on an Al-Qaeda camp in 2003.[49]

However, ETIM resurged after the Iraq War inflamed mujaheddin sentiment.[50] The United States Department of State has yet to fully list it as a foreign terrorist organization under Title 8 of the United States Code Section 1189,[51][52] though the United States Department of the Treasury has blocked the property and prohibited transactions with the terrorist organization according to Executive Order 13224[53] and the State Department has blocked its members for immigration purpose.[54] In 2006, ETIM circulated a video calling for a renewed jihad, and took advantage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to gain publicity for its attacks.[48] The ETIM is said to be allied with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan) prompting China to urge Pakistan to take action against the militants.[55]

The new organization called itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) and abandoned usage of the name ETIM, although China still calls it by the name ETIM and refuses to acknowledge it as TIP.[56] The Turkistan Islamic Party was originally subordinated to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) but then split off and declared its name as TIP and started making itself known by promoting itself with its Islamic Turkistan magazine and Voice of Islam media in Chinese, Arabic, Russian, and Turkish in order to reach out to global jihadists.[57] Control over the Uyghur and Uzbek militants was transferred to the Pakistani Taliban from the Afghan Taliban after 2001, so violence against the militant's countries of origins can no longer restrained by the Afghan Taliban since the Pakistani Taliban does not have a stake in doing so.[58][59]

TIP's Ṣawt al-Islām (Voice of Islam) media arm releases video messages. The full name of their media center is "Turkistan Islamic Party Voice of Islam Media Center" Uyghur: (تۈركىستان ئىسلام پارتىيىسى ئىسلام ئاۋازى تەشۋىقات مەركىزى) Türkistan Islam Partiyisi Islam Awazi Teshwiqat Merkizi,[60][61][62] Türkistan Islam Partiyisining Islam Awazi Teshwiqat Merkizi.[63]

Al-Qaeda links[edit]

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Turkistan Islamic Party) is allied with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan[13] along with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan)[64] and Al-Qaeda.[65][66] One of the grievances against China by the TIP was that China implemented restrictions on the number of children, and the demolition of historical Muslim urban areas.[67]

TIP member Abdul Haq al Turkistani joined al-Qaeda's executive leadership council in 2005[68] and TIP member Abdul Shakoor Turkistani was appointed its military commander of its forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.[69] Abdul Haq was so apparently highly placed in al-Qaeda leadership that he served as a mediator between rival Taliban factions and played an integral role in military planning.[70]

The Uyghurs East Turkestan independence movement was endorsed in the serial "Islamic Spring"'s 9th release by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the chief of Al-Qaeda. Zawahiri confirmed that the Afghanistan war after 9/11 included the participation of Uighurs and that the jihadists like Zarwaqi, Bin Ladin and the Uighur Hasan Mahsum were provided with refuge together in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.[71]

Other al-Qaeda members such as Abu Yahya al-Libi,[72][73] and Mustafa Setmariam Nasar[74]─who had met some Uyghurs in Afghanistan where they trained as mujahidin[75]─have also expressed personal support.

Al-Qaeda aligned al-Fajr Media Center distributes TIP material.[76]

Afghanistan and Waziristan[edit]

During the Battle of Kunduz in Afghanistan, foreign Islamist militants of Uyghur, Chechen, Rohingya, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek ethnicity joined the Taliban in their attack.[77][78][79][80][81]


TIP (ETIM) sent the "Turkistan Brigade" (Katibat Turkistani), also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria to take part in the Syrian Civil War, most noticeably in the 2015 Jisr al-Shughur offensive.[82][83] Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria include the Syrian branch of the Chechen Caucasus Emirate, Uzbek militants, and the Turkistan Islamic Party.[84]


The NEFA Foundation, an American terrorist analyst foundation, translated and released a jihad article from ETIM, whose membership it said consisted primarily of "Uyghur Muslims from Western China." The East Turkestan Islamic Movement's primary goal is the independence of East Turkestan.[20] ETIM continues this theme of contrasting "Muslims" and "Chinese", in a six-minute video in 2008, where "Commander Seyfullah" warns Muslims not to bring their children to the 2008 Summer Olympics, and also saying "do not stay on the same bus, on the same train, on the same plane, in the same buildings, or any place the Chinese are".[85]

Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna has said that ETIM is closely associated with the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), and that there are "many sympathizers and supporters" of ETIM in the WUC. China has accused the WUC of orchestrating the 2009 ethnic violence in Urumqi; similarly, Gunaratna said that one of ETIM's aims is to "fuel hatred" and violence between the Han and the Uyghur ethnic groups, adding that it represented a threat to China and the Central Asia region as a whole.[86]


In October 2008, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security released a list of eight terrorists linked to ETIM, including some of the leadership, with detailed charges.[87] They are:

Name Aliases Charges Whereabouts
Memetiming Memeti Abdul Haq Leading the organization, inciting ethnic tensions in 2006 and 2007, buying explosives, organizing terrorist attacks against the 2008 Summer Olympics Thought to have been killed in North Waziristan drone attack[88][89] Resurfaced in 2014[3]
Emeti Yakuf
(Emet Yakuf)
Aibu Abudureheman, Saifula, Abdul Jabar Threatening to use biological and chemical weapons against servicepeople and Western politicians for the 2008 Olympics, disseminating manuals on explosives and poisons Killed in North Waziristan drone attack[90]
Memetituersun Yiming
(Memet Tursun Imin)
Abuduaini Raised funds for ETIM, tested bombs in the run-up to the Olympics Since 2008, Western Asia
Memetituersun Abuduhalike
(Memet Tursun Abduxaliq)
Metusun Abuduhalike, Ansarui, Naijimuding Attacked government organizations, money laundering for ETIM operations, buying vehicles and renting houses for attacks Unknown
Xiamisidingaihemaiti Abudumijiti
(Xemsidinahmet Abdumijit)
Saiyide Recruiting for ETIM in the Middle East, blew up a Chinese supermarket Unknown
Aikemilai Wumaierjiang
(Akrem Omerjan)
Assisted Xiamisidingaihemaiti Abudumijiti in the supermarket attack Unknown
Yakuf Memeti
(Yakuf Memet)
Abudujilili Aimaiti, Abudula, Punjab Sneaked into China illegally to gather information on Chinese neighborhoods, a failed suicide attack against oil refinery Killed in North Waziristan drone attack[91]
Tuersun Toheti
(Tursun Tohti)
Mubaixier, Nurula Organizing a terror team for the 2008 Olympics, buying raw materials for them and requesting chemical formulas for explosives Killed in North Waziristan drone attack[91]

Guantanamo Bay detainees[edit]

The United States captured 22 Uyghur militants from combat zones in Afghanistan in 2006 on information that they were linked to Al-Qaeda.[92] They were imprisoned without trial for five to seven years, where they testified that they were trained by ETIM leader Abdul Haq, at an ETIM training camp. After being found No Longer Enemy Combatant[93], i.e. never having been enemy combatants, a panel of judges ordered them released into the United States. Despite the alarm of politicians that the release of embittered former Guantanamo detainees into the United States was unsafe and illegal, they could not be released back to China because of its human rights record.[94]


  • In 2007, ETIM militants in cars shot Chinese nationals in Pakistani Balochistan and sent a videotape of the attack to Beijing, in retaliation for an execution of an ETIM official earlier that July.[24]
  • ETIM also took credit for a spate of attacks before the 2008 Summer Olympics, including a series of bus bombings in Kunming, an attempted plane hijacking in Urumqi,[93] and an attack on paramilitary troops in Kashgar that killed 17 officers.[95]
  • On 29 June 2010, a court in Dubai convicted two members of an ETIM cell of plotting to bomb a government-owned shopping mall that sold Chinese goods. This was the ETIM plot outside of China or Central Asia. The key plotter was recruited during Hajj and was flown to Waziristan to train.[96]
  • In July 2010, officials in Norway interrupted a terrorist bomb plot, another instance of ETIM branching out of its original regions and cooperating with international groups. New York Times correspondent Edward Wong says that ETIM "give[s] them a raison d'être at a time when the Chinese government has... defused any chance of a widespread insurgency... in Xinjiang."[95]
  • In October 2013, a suicide attack in Tiananmen Square caused 5 deaths and 38 injuries. Chinese police described it as the first terrorist attack in Beijing's recent history. Turkistan Islamic Party later claimed responsibility for the attack.[97]


Critics say that the threats ETIM itself makes are exaggerated, and that ETIM embellishes its own image and commits psychological warfare against China for its false threats, including forcing it to increase security. Dru C. Gladney, an authority on Uyghurs, said that there was "a credibility gap" about the group since the majority of information on ETIM "was traced back to Chinese sources", and that some believe ETIM to be part of a US-China quid pro quo, where China supported the US-led War on Terror, and "support of the US for the condemnation of ETIM was connected to that support."[98] The Uyghur American Association has publicly doubted the ETIM's existence.[99]

On 16 June 2009, Representative Bill Delahunt convened hearings to examine how organizations were added to the US blacklist in general, and how the ETIM was added in particular.[100] Uyghur expert Sean Roberts testified that the ETIM was new to him, that it wasn't until it was blacklisted that he heard of the group, and noted that "it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the organization no longer exists at all."[100][dead link] The Congressional Research Service reported that the first published mention of the group was in the year 2000, but that China attributed attacks to it that had occurred up to a decade earlier.[100][dead link]

Stratfor has noted repeated unexplained attacks on Chinese buses in 2008 have followed a history of ETIM targeting Chinese infrastructure, and noted the group's splintering and subsequent reorganization following the death of Mahsum.[101]

Intelligence analysts J. Todd Reed and Diana Raschke acknowledge that reporting in China presents obstacles not found in countries where information is not so tightly controlled. However, they found that ETIM's existence and activities could be confirmed independently of Chinese government sources, using information gleaned from ETIM's now-defunct website, reports from human rights groups and academics, and testimony from the Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Reed & Raschke also question the information put out by Uyghur expatriates that deny ETIM's existence or impact, as the Uyghurs who leave Xinjiang are those who object most to government policy, are unable to provide first-hand analysis, and have an incentive to exaggerate repression and downplay militancy. They say that ETIM was "obscure but not unknown" before the September 11 attacks, citing "Western, Russian, and Chinese media sources" that have "documented the ETIM's existence for nearly 20 years".[102]

Uyghur Islamists on 25 February 1997 in Urumqi committed bus bombings. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed and acknowledged by factions of certain diaspora Uyghurs.[103][104]

In Beijing's Xidan district, a bus bomb killed two people on 7 March 1997 and Uyghur separatists boasted that they were behind the attack.[105] The participation of Uyghurs in the bus bombing was dismissed by the Chinese government even while the Turkey-based "Organisation for East Turkistan Freedom" boasted to committing the attack.[104][106] Violent attacks were carried out by Turkey, Afghanistan, and Central Asian based groups.[107]

In 2010 responsibility for attacks in China was claimed by the Turkistan Islamic Party.[108]

Several attacks in 2011 in Xinjiang were claimed by the Turkistan Islamic Party.[109]

Nick Holdstock, in a New York Times interview claimed that no organization is taking responsibility for attacks in Xinjiang, and that there is not enough proof to blame any organization for the attacks, that most "terrorism" there is "unsubstantiated", and that posting internet videos online is the only thing done by the "vague and shadowy" ETIM.[110] Wall Street Journal claimed that Al-Qaeda was not connected to Uyghurs and claimed that no attacks were performed by ETIM (TIP).[111] French journalist Ursula Gauthier claimed that the ETIM is currently not classified as terrorist by the USA approvingly cited people who called into question whether it is real, suggesting that they are wrongly being blamed by China for violent attacks and she claimed "probably" "abuse, injustice, expropriation" of Uighurs justified retribution in the form of mass slaughter at a coal mine.[112] Reuters cited claims that there is no group called ETIM (TIP).[113] The "Doğu Türkistan Bülteni Haber Ajansı" which supports the TIP, cited a Reuters article which claimed that Uyghurs are viewed as terrorists in China.[114] The "Doğu Türkistan Bülteni Haber Ajansı" praised a TIP member, Hamza (Muhammad Ali Told Rahim), who joined the Turkistan Islamic Party as one of the "mujahideen" fighting in Khorasan (Afghanistan) on 15 December 2006 and returned to Kashgar to participate in the 2011 Kashgar attacks in which he was killed, citing from a Human Rights Watch report which praised Hamza.[115]

Gordon G. Chang in an interview with Clarion Project attacked the designation of ETIM as terrorist and tried claiming that Uighurs have little terrorists among them.[116] Freedom House tried to throw shade on the idea that the attackers in the 2013 Tiananmen Square attack were Uighurs, and then justified the attack by saying the attacker must have been in "desperation" if it was Uighur.[117]

Lebanese American political scientist and Al Akhbar columnist As'ad AbuKhalil slammed and criticized western media for not reporting on the massive Turkistan Islamic Party inghimasi participation in the Aleppo offensive (June–August 2016) since it goes against their agenda.[118] He criticized Charles Lister,[119] Fabrice Balanche[120] and New York Times reporter Roger Cohen for this.[121] The Long War Journal confirmed that Al Qaeda affiliated Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party Jihadists fought in Aleppo.[122] A suicide bomber who blows up after using up all his conventional weapons first is an inghimasi.[123]

Richard Bernstein in the New York Review of Books tried to deny that Syria had any Uyghur jihadist presence.[124] as did the Daily Mail[125] and The Sydney Morning Herald.[126] David Volodzko admitted that the Al-Qaeda allied Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party was fighting in Syria, and refuted and disproved the claims that Uyghurs were not in Syria made by "The Sydney Morning Herald", the Daily Mail, and Bernstein's article in the New York Review of Books.[127] Muhanad Hage Ali wrote an exposé on Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party jihadists in Syria.[128]

Andrew McGregor wrote about the Turkistan Islamic Party's presence in North Waziristan.[129] The Uighur fighters were praised by Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda before a Turkistan Islamic Party performed the Bishkek bombing on 30 August.[130] The Turkistan Islamic Party slammed and attacked Assad, Russia, NATO, the United States and other western countries in its propagand outlets like the "Islamic Turkestan" magazine and its Telegram channel.[131]

As clarified by TIP head Abdul Haq, the Turkistan Islamic Party is allied to Al-Qaeda.[132] The flow of TOW missiles of US manufacture to the TIP in Syria has been noted.[133]

See also[edit]


  • ^a The official name of the organization since 1999 is the "Turkistan Islamic Movement", but in English it is known by its old name and acronym, ETIM.[48][85] Other aliases adopted over the years are "East Turkistan Islamic Party", "Allah Party", and "East Turkistan National Revolution Association".[134]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Reed, J. Todd; Raschke, Diana (2010). The ETIM: China's Islamic Militants and the Global Terrorist Threat. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-313-36540-9