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Uyghur nationalism, or the East Turkestan independence movement, is the notion that the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group who primarily inhabit China's Xinjiang region (or "East Turkestan"), should form an independent state. Unlike the Han Chinese population, dominant throughout most of China, Uyghurs speak the Uyghur language and are generally Muslim.
The history of the region has become highly politicized, with both Chinese and nationalist Uyghur historians frequently overstating the extent of their groups' respective ties to the region. In reality, it has been home to many groups throughout history, with the Uyghurs arriving from Central Asia in the 10th century. By the 20th century they made up the vast majority of the population. In 1933 and 1944 attempts were made to declare an independent republic, but the first of these collapsed and the second was absorbed into People's Republic of China in 1949. Pro-independence groups maintain that this constitutes an illegal occupation.
Since then, a state-orchestrated mass migration from the 1950s to the 1970s has brought millions of Han Chinese into Xinjiang. Many Uyghurs reportedly feel that they are slowly being eradicated as an ethnic and cultural group, and Human Rights Watch describes a "multi-tiered system of surveillance, control, and suppression of religious activity" perpetrated by state authorities. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Uyghurs are currently held in political "re-education camps."  China justifies such measures as a response to the terrorist threat posed by extremist separatist groups.
There is no single Uyghur agenda, and organisations which support the formation of an independent Uyghur state or greater autonomy include both non-violent groups such as the World Uyghur Congress, led by Rabiya Kadeer, who lives in exile, and active terrorist organisations such as the Turkistan Islamic Party (often referred to as the "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" or ETIM) which often see the Uyghur struggle as part of a larger global jihad. Some groups, such as the East Turkestan Liberation Organization, are labelled as terrorists by China but not others.
- 1 Name
- 2 Historical background
- 3 Uyghur views by oasis
- 4 Restrictions
- 5 Support for East Turkestan independence
- 6 Attempts at independence
- 7 Official Chinese position on the movement
- 8 Reactions
- 9 Infighting between Uyghur separatists
- 10 Turkic nationalism
- 11 Argument for East Turkestan independence
- 12 Argument against East Turkestan independence
- 13 Groups
- 14 Leaders
- 15 Recent events
- 16 See also
- 17 Further reading
- 18 Notes
- 19 References
- 20 External links
The name "East Turkestan" was created by the Russian Sinologist Nikita Bichurin to replace the term "Chinese Turkestan" in 1829. "East Turkestan" was used traditionally to only refer to the Tarim Basin, and not Xinjiang as a whole, with Dzungaria being excluded from the area consisting of "East Turkestan".
Xinjiang before the Qing dynasty did not exist as one unit. It consisted of the two separate political entities of Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin (Eastern Turkestan). There was the Zhunbu (Dzungar region) and Huibu (Muslim region) Dzungharia or Ili was called Zhunbu 準部 (Dzungar region) Tianshan Beilu 天山北路 (Northern March), "Xinjiang" 新疆 (New Frontier), Dzongarie, Djoongaria, Soungaria, or "Kalmykia" (La Kalmouquie in French). It was formerly the area of the Zunghar Khanate 準噶爾汗國, the land of the Dzungar Oirat Mongols. The Tarim Basin was known as "Tianshan Nanlu 天山南路 (southern March), Huibu 回部 (Muslim region), Huijiang 回疆 (Muslim frontier), Chinese Turkestan, Kashgaria, Little Bukharia, East Turkestan", and the traditional Uyghur name for it was Altishahr (Uyghur: التى شهر, Алта-шаһар, ULY: Altä-shähär). It was formerly the area of the Eastern Chagatai Khanate 東察合台汗國, land of the Uyghur people before being conquered by the Dzungars. The Chinese Repository said that "Neither the natives nor the Chinese appear to have any general name to designate the Mohammedan colonies. They are called Kashgar, Bokhára, Chinese Turkestan, &c., by foreigners, none of which seem to be very appropriate. They have also been called Jagatai, after a son of Genghis khan, to whom this country fell as his portion after his father's death, and be included all the eight Mohammedan cities, with some of the surrounding countries, in one kingdom. It is said to have remained in this family, with some interruptions, until conquered by the Eleuths of Soungaria in 1683."
Between Jiayu Guan's west and Urumchi's East, an area of Xiniiang was also designated as Tianshan Donglu 天山東路 (Eastern March). The three routes that made up Xinjiang werea Tarim Basin (southern route), Dzungaria (northern route), and the Turfan Basin (eastern route with Turfan, Hami, and Urumqi).
Republic of China
Pan-Mongolian movements in Xinjiang
Mongols have at times advocated for the historical Oirat Dzungar Mongol area of Dzungaria in northern Xinjiang, to be annexed to the Mongolian state in the name of Pan-Mongolism.
Legends grew among the remaining Oirats that Amursana had not died after he fled to Russia, but was alive and would return to his people to liberate them from Manchu Qing rule and restore the Oirat nation. Prophecies had been circulating about the return of Amursana and the revival of the Oirats in the Altai region. The Oirat Kalmyk Ja Lama claimed to be a grandson of Amursana and then claimed to be a reincarnation of Amursana himself, preaching anti-Manchu propaganda in western Mongolia in the 1890s and calling for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty. Ja Lama was arrested and deported several times. However, he returned to the Oirat Torghuts in Altay (in Dzungaria) in 1910 and in 1912 he helped the Outer Mongolians mount an attack on the last Qing garrison at Kovd, where the Manchu Amban was refusing to leave and fighting the newly declared independent Mongolian state. The Manchu Qing force was defeated and slaughtered by the Mongols after Khovd fell.
Ja Lama told the Oirat remnants in Xinjiang: "I am a mendicant monk from the Russian Tsar's kingdom, but I am born of the great Mongols. My herds are on the Volga river, my water source is the Irtysh. There are many hero warriors with me. I have many riches. Now I have come to meet with you beggars, you remnants of the Oirats, in the time when the war for power begins. Will you support the enemy? My homeland is Altai, Irtysh, Khobuk-sari, Emil, Bortala, Ili, and Alatai. This is the Oirat mother country. By descent, I am the great-grandson of Amursana, the reincarnation of Mahakala, owning the horse Maralbashi. I am he whom they call the hero Dambijantsan. I came to move my pastures back to my own land, to collect my subject households and bondservants, to give favour, and to move freely."
Ja Lama built an Oirat fiefdom centered on Kovd, he and fellow Oirats from Altai wanted to emulate the original Oirat empire and build another grand united Oirat nation from the nomads of western China and Mongolia, but was arrested by Russian Cossacks and deported in 1914 on the request of the Monglian government after the local Mongols complained of his excesses, and out of fear that he would create an Oirat separatist state and divide them from the Khalkha Mongols. Ja Lama returned in 1918 to Mongolia and resumed his activities and supported himself by extorting passing caravans, but was assassinated in 1922 on the orders of the new Communist Mongolian authorities under Damdin Sükhbaatar.
The part Buryat Transbaikalian Cossack Ataman Grigory Semyonov declared a "Great Mongol State" in 1918 and had designs to unify the Oirat Mongol lands, portions of Xinjiang, Transbaikal, Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Tannu Uriankhai, Khovd, Hu-lun-pei-erh and Tibet into one Mongolian state. Agvan Dorzhiev tried advocating for Oirat Mongol areas like Tarbagatai, Ili, and Altai to get added to the Outer Mongolian state. Out of concern that China would be provoked, this proposed addition of the Oirat Dzungaria to the new Outer Mongolian state was rejected by the Soviets.
East Turkestan independence movements
A rebellion in Kashgar against Republic of China rule led to the establishment of the short-lived First East Turkestan Republic or Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (1933–1934). The Chinese Hui Muslim 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) crushed the Turkic First East Turkestan Republic at the Battle of Kashgar (1933) and Battle of Kashgar (1934). Hui Muslim leaders like Ma Shaowu, General Ma Zhancang and General Ma Fuyuan fought the Turkic separatists.
Sheng Shicai, a secret member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, came into power after a military coup. He disobeyed the decree and order from the Chinese central government, but still ruled the region under the name of the Republic of China.
Sheng Shicai later became anti-Russian when he became aware of the Soviet's intent to control his government. He expelled Soviet advisors and executed many Han Communists. Joseph Stalin was very angry with his convert and dispatched troops to invade Xinjiang. The Soviet troops helped the rebellion at Ili (Yining City) during the Chinese civil war. The rebellion lead to the establishment of the Second East Turkistan Republic (1944–1949), which existed in three northern districts (Ili, Tarbaghatai, Altai) of Xinjiang province of the Republic of China with secret aid from the Soviet Union (Russia used consistent effort to annex Chinese territory since the 17th century). The majority of Xinjang remained under the control of the Republic of China.
After winning the Chinese civil war in 1949, the People's Liberation Army took control of Xinjiang from Republic of China forces and the Second East Turkestan Republic.
Pan-Turkic Jadidists and East Turkestan Independence activists Muhammad Amin Bughra and Masud Sabri rejected the Soviets and Sheng Shicai's imposition of the name "Uyghur people" upon the Turkic people of Xinjiang. They wanted instead the name "Turkic ethnicity" (Chinese: 突厥族; pinyin: tūjué zú) to be applied to their people. Masud Sabri also viewed the Hui people as Muslim Han Chinese and separate from his own people. The names "Türk" or "Türki" in particular were demanded by Bughra as the real name for his people. He slammed Sheng Shicai for his designation of Turkic Muslims into different ethnicities, which could sow disunion among Turkic Muslims.
The usage of the name "Uyghur" for the modern ethnic group has led to anachronisms and falsehood when applied to history by both the PRC and Uyghur nationalists.
People's Republic of China
At the start of the 19th century, 40 years after the Qing reconquest, there were around 155,000 Han and Hui Chinese in northern Xinjiang and somewhat more than twice that number of Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang. A census of Xinjiang under Qing rule in the early 19th century tabulated ethnic shares of the population as 30% Han and 60% Turkic, while it dramatically shifted to 6% Han and 75% Uyghur in the 1953 census, however a situation similar to the Qing era-demographics with a large number of Han has been restored as of 2000 with 40.57% Han and 45.21% Uyghur. Professor Stanley W. Toops noted that today's demographic situation is similar to that of the early Qing period in Xinjiang. Before 1831, only a few hundred Chinese merchants lived in southern Xinjiang oases (Tarim Basin) and only a few Uyghurs lived in northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria).
Uyghur nationalists often incorrectly claim that 5% of Xinjiang's population in 1949 was Han, and that the other 95% was Uyghur, erasing the presence of Kazakhs, Xibes, and others, and ignoring the fact that Hans were around one third of Xinjiang's population at 1800, during the time of the Qing Dynasty.
In 1955 (the first modern census in China was taken in 1953), Uyghurs were counted as 73% of Xinjiang's total population of 5.11 million. Although Xinjiang as a whole is designated as a "Uyghur Autonomous Region", since 1954 more than 50% of Xinjiang's land area are designated autonomous areas for 13 native non-Uyghur groups. The modern Uyghur people experienced ethnogenesis especially from 1955, when the PRC officially recognized that ethnic category - in opposition to the Han - of formerly separately self-identified oasis peoples.
The People's Republic of China has directed the majority of Han migrants towards the sparsely populated Dzungaria (Junggar Basin), before 1953 most of Xinjiang's population (75%) lived in the Tarim Basin, so the new Han migrants resulted in the distribution of population between Dzungaria and the Tarim being changed. Most new Chinese migrants ended up in the northern region, in Dzungaria. Han and Hui made up the majority of the population in Dzungaria's cities while Uighurs made up most of the population in Kashgaria's cities. Eastern and Central Dzungaria are the specific areas where these Han and Hui are concentrated. China made sure that new Han migrants were settled in entirely new areas uninhabited by Uyghurs so as to not disturb the already existing Uyghur communities. Lars-Erik Nyman noted that Kashgaria was the native land of the Uighurs, "but a migration has been in progress to Dzungaria since the 18th century".
Both Han economic migrants from other parts of China and Uyghur economic migrants from southern Xinjiang have been flooding into northern Xinjiang since the 1980s.
Southern Xinjiang is where the majority of the Uyghur population resides, while it is in Northern Xinjiang cities where the majority of the Han (90%) population of Xinjiang reside. Southern Xinjiang is dominated by its nine million Uighur majority population, while northern Xinjiang is where the mostly urban Han population holds sway. This situation has been followed by an imbalance in the economic situation between the two ethnic groups, since the Northern Junghar Basin (Dzungaria) has been more developed than the Uighur south.
Since the Chinese economic reform from the late 1970s has exacerbated uneven regional development, more Uyghurs have migrated to Xinjiang cities and some Hans have also migrated to Xinjiang for independent economic advancement. Increased ethnic contact and labor competition coincided with Uyghur separatist terrorism from the 1990s, such as the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings.
In the 1980s, 90% of Xinjiang Han lived in north Xinjiang (Jiangbei, historical Dzungaria). In the mid-1990s, Uyghurs consisted of 90% of south Xinjiang (Nanjiang, historical Tarim)'s population. In 1980, the liberal reformist Hu Yaobang announced the expulsion of ethnic Han cadres in Xinjiang to eastern China. Hu was purged in 1987 for a series of demonstrations that he is said to have provoked in other areas of China. The prominent Xinjiang and national official Wang Zhen criticized Hu for destroying Xinjiang Han cadres' "sense of security", and for exacerbating ethnic tensions.
In the 1990s, there was a net inflow of Han people to Xinjiang, many of whom were previously prevented from moving because of the declining number of social services tied to hukou (residency permits). As of 1996, 13.6% of Xinjiang's population was employed by the publicly traded Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (Bingtuan) corporation. 90% of the Bingtuan's activities relate to agriculture, and 88% of Bingtuan employees are Han, although the percentage of Hans with ties to the Bingtuan has decreased. Han emigration from Xinjiang has also resulted in an increase of minority-identified agricultural workers as a total percentage of Xinjiang's farmers, from 69.4% in 1982 to 76.7% in 1990. During the 1990s, about 1.2 million temporary migrants entered Xinjiang every year to stay for the cotton picking season. Many Uyghur trading communities exist outside of Xinjiang; the largest in Beijing is one village of a few thousand.
In 2000, Uyghurs "comprised 45 per cent of Xinjiang's population, but only 12.8 per cent of Urumqi's population." Despite having 9% of Xinjiang's population, Urumqi accounts for 25% of the region's GDP, and many rural Uyghurs have been migrating to that city to seek work in the dominant light, heavy, and petrochemical industries. Hans in Xinjiang are demographically older, better-educated, and work in higher-paying professions than their Uyghur cohabitants. Hans are more likely to cite business reasons for moving to Urumqi, while some Uyghurs also cite trouble with the law back home and family reasons for their moving to Urumqi. Hans and Uyghurs are equally represented in Urumqi's floating population that works mostly in commerce. Self-segregation within the city is widespread, in terms of residential concentration, employment relationships, and a social norm of endogamy. As of 2010, Uyghurs constitute a majority in the Tarim Basin, and a mere plurality in Xinjiang as a whole.
Han and Hui mostly live in northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria), and are separated from areas of historical Uyghur dominance south of the Tian Shan mountains (southwestern Xinjiang), where Uyghurs account for about 90% of the population.
After the declarations of independence of the constituent republics of the area of Central Asia(Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) from the Soviet Union in 1991, calls for the liberation of East Turkestan from China began to surface again from many in the Turkic population.
Those that use the term Uyghurstan tend to envision a state for the Uyghur people. Those groups that adopt this terminology tended to be allied with the Soviet Union while it still existed (Indeed, Russia incited and aided the rebellion in attempt to annex these regions in the future). Since then some of the leaders of these groups have remained in Russia, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, or have emigrated to Europe and North America. It is worth noting that none of these identities are exclusive. Some groups support more than one such orientation. It is common to support both an Islamic and Turkic orientation for Xinjiang, for example, the founders of independent Republic in Kashgar in 1933 used names Turkic Islamic Republic of East Turkestan and Eastern Turkestan Republic the same time.
Uyghur Muslim opposition to a Buddhist Aspara statue in Ürümqi in Xinjiang was cited as a possible reason for its destruction in 2012. A Muslim Kazakh viewed a giant Buddha statue near Ürümqi as "alien cultural symbols".
Uyghur views by oasis
Uyghur views vary by the oasis they live in. China has historically favored Turpan and Hami. Uyghurs in Turpan and Hami and their leaders like Emin Khoja allied with the Qing against Uyghurs in Altishahr. During the Qing dynasty, China enfeoffed the rulers of Turpan and Hami (Kumul) as autonomous princes, while the rest of the Uyghurs in Altishahr (the Tarim Basin) were ruled by Begs. Uyghurs from Turpan and Hami were appointed by China as officials to rule over Uyghurs in the Tarim Basin. Turpan is more economically prosperous and views China more positively than the rebellious Kashgar, which is the most anti-Chinese region. Uyghurs in Turpan are treated leniently and favourably by China with regards to religious policies, while Kashgar is subjected to controls by the government. In Turpan and Hami, religion is viewed more positively by China than religion in Kashgar and Khotan in southern Xinjiang. Both Uyghur and Han Communist officials in Turpan soften the law and allow religious Islamic education for Uyghur children. Celebrating at religious functions and going on Hajj to Mecca are encouraged by the Chinese government, for Uyghur members of the Communist party. From 1979–1989, 350 mosques were built in Turpan. Han, Hui, and the Chinese government are viewed much more positively by Uyghurs specifically in Turpan, with the government providing better economic, religious, and political treatment for them. There were 20,000 mosques representing a 5.8 times of increase in total in Xinjiang in 1989.:236– Until separatist disturbances flared in 1996, China was lenient and allowed people to ignore the rule prohibiting government officials from observing religion.:237– Newer, bigger mosques have been financially assisted in being built by the Chinese government in Urumqi.:238– While in southern Xinjiang China implements strong rules regarding religion, in Urumqi, China treats the Uyghurs and religion less harshly.:240–
In Xinjiang, Communist Party members and civil servants who are employees of the government are not allowed to participate in religious activities while ordinary private citizens are allowed to practice religion and fast in Ramadan, students in public government directed schools are discouraged from participating in religious activities but not banned from doing so, the policy pertains to all religions- members of the Communist party are not allowed to carry out Daoist practices like Feng Shui.
The Diplomat reported that although Uyghur's religious activities are curtailed, Hui Muslims are granted widespread religious freedom and that therefore the policy of the Chinese government towards Uyghurs in Xinjiang likely reflects "not a distaste for Islam as such, but it is an absolute neurosis towards the threat – serious or not – of territory loss, and with no small degree of xenophobia thrown in there as well." China banned a book titled Xing Fengsu (Sexual Customs) which insulted Islam and placed its authors under arrest in 1989 after protests in Lanzhou and Beijing by Chinese Hui Muslims, during which the Chinese police provided protection to the Hui Muslim protestors, and the Chinese government organized public burnings of the book. The Chinese government assisted them and gave into their demands because Hui do not have a separatist movement, unlike the Uyghurs, Hui Muslim protestors who violently rioted by vandalizing property during the protests against the book were let off by the Chinese government and went unpunished while Uyghur protestors were imprisoned.
In 2007, anticipating the coming "Year of the Pig" in the Chinese calendar, depictions of pigs were banned from CCTV "to avoid conflicts with ethnic minorities". This is believed to refer to China's population of 20 million Muslims as pigs are considered unclean in Islam.
Although religious education for children is officially forbidden by law in China, the Communist party allows Hui Muslims to violate this law and have their children educated in religion and attend mosques while the law is enforced on Uyghurs. After secondary education is completed, China then allows Hui students who are willing to embark on religious studies under an Imam. China does not enforce the law against children attending mosques on non-Uyghurs in areas outside of Xinjiang. Since the 1980s Islamic private schools have been supported and permitted by the Chinese government among Muslim areas, only specifically excluding Xinjiang from allowing these schools because of separatist sentiment there.[a]
Hui Muslims who are employed by the state are allowed to fast during Ramadan unlike Uyghurs in the same positions, the amount of Hui going on Hajj is expanding, and Hui women are allowed to wear veils, while Uyghur women are discouraged from wearing them.
Different Muslim ethnic groups in different regions are treated differently by the Chinese government in regards to religious freedom. Religious freedom is present for Hui Muslims, who can practice their religion, build mosques, and have their children attend mosques, while more controls are placed specifically on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Hui religious schools are allowed and a massive autonomous network of mosques and schools run by a Hui Sufi leader Hong Yan was formed with the approval of the Chinese government even as he admitted to attending an event where Osama bin Laden spoke and also came into contact with other fundamentalist clerics while studying about Islam for 5 years in Pakistan.
The Uyghur terrorist organization East Turkestan Islamic Movement's magazine Islamic Turkistan has accused the Chinese "Muslim Brotherhood" (the Yihewani) of being responsible for the moderation of Hui Muslims and the lack of Hui joining terrorist jihadist groups in addition to blaming other things for the lack of Hui Jihadists, such as the fact that for more than 300 years Hui and Uyghurs have been enemies of each other, no separatist Islamist organizations among the Hui, the fact that the Hui view China as their home, and the fact that the "infidel Chinese" language is the language of the Hui.
Even among Hui Salafis and Uyghur Salafis, there is little coordination or cooperation and the two take totally different political agendas, with the Hui Salafists content to carry out their own teachings and remain politically neutral.
Support for East Turkestan independence
The Soviet Union supported the Uyghur Second East Turkestan Republic in the Ili Rebellion against the Republic of China. According to her autobiography, Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China, Rebiya Kadeer's father served with pro-Soviet Uyghur rebels under the Second East Turkestan Republic in the Ili Rebellion (Three Province Rebellion) in 1944–1946, using Soviet assistance and aid to fight the Republic of China government under Chiang Kai-shek. Kadeer and her family were close friends with White Russian exiles living in Xinjiang and Kadeer recalled that many Uyghurs thought Russian culture was "more advanced" than that of the Uyghurs and they "respected" the Russians a lot.
Many of the Turkic peoples of the Ili region of Xinjiang had close cultural, political, and economic ties with Russia and then the Soviet Union. Many of them were educated in the Soviet Union and a community of Russian settlers lived in the region. As a result, many of the Turkic rebels fled to the Soviet Union and obtained Soviet assistance in creating the Sinkiang Turkic People's Liberation Committee (STPNLC) in 1943 to revolt against Kuomintang rule during the Ili Rebellion. The pro-Soviet Uyghur who later became leader of the revolt and the Second East Turkestan Republic, Ehmetjan Qasim, was Soviet educated and described as "Stalin's man".
The Soviet Union incited separatist activities in Xinjiang through propaganda, encouraging Kazakhs to flee to the Soviet Union and attacking China. China responded by reinforcing the Xinjiang-Soviet border area specifically with Han Bingtuan militia and farmers. The Soviets massively intensified their broadcasts inciting Uyghurs to revolt against the Chinese via Radio Tashkent since 1967 and directly harbored and supported separatist guerilla fighters to attack the Chinese border, in 1966 the amount of Soviet sponsored separatist attacks on China numbered 5,000. The Soviets transmitted a radio broadcast from Radio Tashkent into Xinjiang on 14 May 1967, boasting of the fact that the Soviets had supported the Second East Turkestan Republic against China. In addition to Radio Tashkent, other Soviet media outlets aimed at disseminating propaganda towards Uyghurs urging that they proclaim independence and revolt against China included Radio Alma-Ata and the Alma-Ata published Sherki Türkistan Evazi ("The Voice of Eastern Turkestan") (شەرقىي تۈركىستان ئاۋازى) newspaper. After the Sino-Soviet split in 1962, over 60,000 Uyghurs and Kazakhs defected from Xinjiang to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, in response to Soviet propaganda which promised Xinjiang independence. Uyghur exiles later threatened China with rumors of a Uyghur "liberation army" in the thousands that were supposedly recruited from Sovietized emigres.
The Soviet Union was involved in funding and support to the East Turkestan People's Revolutionary Party (ETPRP), the largest militant Uyghur separatist organization in its time, to start a violent uprising against China in 1968. In the 1970s, the Soviets also supported the United Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (URFET) to fight against the Chinese.
"Bloody incidents" in 1966–67 flared up as Chinese and Soviet forces clashed along the border as the Soviets trained anti-Chinese guerillas and urged Uyghurs to revolt against China, hailing their "national liberation struggle". In 1969, Chinese and Soviet forces directly fought each other along the Xinjiang-Soviet border.
The Soviet Union supported Uyghur nationalist propaganda and Uyghur separatist movements against China. The Soviet historians claimed that the Uyghur native land was Xinjiang and Uyghur nationalism was promoted by Soviet versions of history on turcology. Soviet turcologists like D.I. Tikhonov wrote pro-independence works on Uyghur history and the Soviet supported Uyghur historian Tursun Rakhimov wrote more historical works supporting Uyghur independence and attacking the Chinese government, claiming that Xinjiang was an entity created by China made out of the different parts of East Turkestan and Zungharia. These Soviet Uyghur historians were waging an "ideological war" against China, emphasizing the "national liberation movement" of Uyghurs throughout history. The Soviet Communist Party supported the publication of works which glorified the Second East Turkestan Republic and the Ili Rebellion against China in its anti-China propaganda war. Soviet propaganda writers wrote works claiming that Uyghurs lived better lives and were able to practice their culture only in Soviet Central Asia and not in Xinjiang. In 1979 Soviet KGB agent Victor Louis wrote a thesis claiming that the Soviets should support a "war of liberation" against the "imperial" China to support Uighur, Tibetan, Mongol, and Manchu independence. The Soviet KGB itself supported Uyghur separatists against China. Among some Uyghurs, the Soviet Union was viewed extremely favorably and several of them believed that people of Turkic origin ruled the Soviet Union, claiming that one of these Turkic Soviet leaders was Mikhail Gorbachev.
Uyghur nationalist historian Turghun Almas and his book Uyghurlar (The Uyghurs) and Uyghur nationalist accounts of history were galvanized by Soviet stances on history, "firmly grounded" in Soviet Turcological works, and both heavily influenced and partially created by Soviet historians and Soviet works on Turkic peoples. Soviet historiography spawned the rendering of Uyghur history found in Uyghurlar. Almas claimed that Central Asia was "the motherland of the Uyghurs" and also the "ancient golden cradle of world culture".
Xinjiang's importance to China increased after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, leading to China's perception of being encircled by the Soviets. The China supported the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet invasion, and broadcast reports of Soviet atrocities on Afghan Muslims to Uyghurs in order to counter Soviet propaganda broadcasts into Xinjiang, which boasted that Soviet minorities lived better and incited Muslims to revolt. Chinese radio beamed anti-Soviet broadcasts to Central Asian ethnic minorities like the Kazakhs. The Soviets feared disloyalty among the non-Russian Kazakh, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz in the event of Chinese troops attacking the Soviet Union and entering Central Asia. Russians were goaded with the taunt "Just wait till the Chinese get here, they'll show you what's what!" by Central Asians when they had altercations. The Chinese authorities viewed the Han migrants in Xinjiang as vital to defending the area against the Soviet Union. China opened up camps to train the Afghan Mujahideen near Kashgar and Khotan and supplied them with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of small arms, rockets, mines, and anti-tank weapons.
A chain of aggressive and belligerent press releases in the 1990s making false claims about violent insurrections in Xinjiang, and exaggerating both the number of Chinese migrants and the total number of Uyghurs in Xinjiang were made by the former Soviet supported URFET leader Yusupbek Mukhlisi.
After the establishment of the Soviet Union, many Uyghurs who studied in Soviet Central Asia added Russian suffixes to Russify their surnames and make them look Russian. Urban Uyghurs sometimes select Russian names when naming their children, in cities such as Qaramay and Urumqi.
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Turkistan Islamic Party) is allied with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan along with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan) and Al-Qaeda.
The organization renamed 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. 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. 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. TIP's Ṣawt al-Islām (Voice of Islam) media arm has released many 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) Arabic: («المركز الإعلامي للحزب الإسلامي التركستاني «صوت الإسلام).
The Shura Majlis of Al Qaeda included TIP (ETIM) member Abdul Haq al Turkistani. Al Qaeda also appointed TIP (ETIM) member Abdul Shakoor Turkistani as military commander of their forces in the FATA region of Pakistan.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a statement supporting Jihad in Xinjiang against Chinese, in the Caucasus against the Russians and naming Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan as places of warfare. Zawahiri endorsed "jihad to liberate every span of land of the Muslims that has been usurped and violated, from Kashgar to Andalusia, and from the Caucasus to Somalia and Central Africa". Uyghurs inhabit Kashgar, the city which was mentioned by Zawahiri. Zawahiri released another statement, saying: "My mujahideen brothers in all places and of all groups ... we face aggression from America, Europe, and Russia ... so it's up to us to stand together as one from East Turkestan to Morocco".
TIP released an image showing Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri meeting with Hasan Mahsum, the original and first leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party. For a while after he died, Osama bin Laden's successor was believed by some to be the ETIM leader Abdul Shakoor Turkistani because jihadist organizations have been powerfully influenced by ETIM.
Al-Qaeda ideologue Mustafa Setmariam Nasar wrote in support of the East Turkestan Independence Movement. Mustafa Setmariam Nasar had met some of these Uyghurs in Afghanistan where they trained as mujahidin. In 2006 Kavkaz Center reported that Al-Qaeda media arm Al-Fajr released a video urging Muslims to go on Jihad in support of the East Turkestan Independence Movement.
Al-Qaeda aligned al-Fajr Media Center distributes TIP material.
Al-Qaeda member Abu Yahya al-Libi spoke in support of "Jihad" in "East Turkestan" against China.[nb 1] Turkistanis were among ten Al-Qaeda allies who were killed alongside Abu Sahil al-Libi and Abu Laith al-Libi. Al-Qaeda leader Atiyyatullah Al-Libi's advice was published in Turkistan Islamic Party's magazine "Turkistan Al-Islamiyya".
The TIP has some members of other ethnicities besides the Uighur, a TIP suicide bomber in Afghanistan who attacked American troops was Nuruddin, a Turkish militant and he advocated that Turks and Uighurs mount "Islamic flags at the White House and Beijing's Tiananmen Square" while a TIP Kazakh member named Uspan Batir made an appearance in a video and said
There is a line artificially drawn by the infidel in between us—saying you are from Kazakhstan, Turkistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan—there is a line drawn artificially by the infidel, my brothers . . . The religion never came only to Kazakhs, it did not come only to Uighurs, and it did not come only to Arabs . . . Do not separate. Allah said, you do not separate to say that 'you are Kazakhstan, you are Turkistan and you are Uzbekistan.'
The Turkish TIP suicide bomber Nuruddin called for expulsion of "Crusader" and "Buddhist" "infidels", and called "Andalusia, East Turkistan, Chechnya, South Africa" as "lands of Islam". Nuruddin said that Allah "blesses" the "Jihad" in Somalia, Iraq, Chechnya, Yemen and other places and that the "Muslim Mujahideen" were fighting NATO and America. Nuruddin asked for more Turkish foreign fighters. He also asked for funding from Turkish people. In Afghanistan there are other Turkish members of TIP. Ebu Bekir Et Turki committed the suicide attack along with Nuruddin. TIP released a video of the TIP fighters Usame El Kurdi and Ebu Bekir Turki singing a nasheed in Afghanistan. A TIP member from Kazakhstan called Abduşşehit Turkistani was killed in Afghanistan. Nuruddin called for the destruction of other religions and for the world to be dominated by Islam.
With the goal of establishing a Central Asian Islamic state, Uyghurs, Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz Kazakhs, and other ethnicities flocked to serve under Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader Juma Namangani.
The Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria uses the Jihadist Shahada flag with the name of the group in Arabic below the shahada: (الحزب الإسلامي التركستاني لنصرة أهل الشام) "Turkistan Islamic Party for the Support of the People of al-Sham". TIP in Syria also calls itself by the name of "Turkistan Islamic Party in the land of al-Sham" (الحزب الإسلامي التركستاني في بلاد الشام). A Jabhat al Nusra member named Abu Rabah helped Uyghur militants start their first camp in Syria and a Turkish language website based in Turkey was launched to recruit "Uyghur mujahideen" to fight in Syria for the Al-Qaeda affiliated Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party. TIP (ETIM) sent the "Turkistan Brigade" (Katibat Turkistani) (Arabic:كتيبة تركستاني) to take part in the Syrian Civil War, most noticeably in the 2015 Jisr al-Shughur offensive.[excessive citations] Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria include the Syrian branch of the Chechen Caucasus Emirate, Uzbek militants, and the Turkistan Islamic Party. The leader of TIP (ETIM) in Syria was Abu Rida al-Turkestani (أبو رضا التركستاني). Abu Rida Al-Turkestani gave a speech during the offensive in Jisr al-Shughur inviting "Muslims" from "East Turkestan" to come to Sham in order to "kill" "Nusayris" (Alawites). Abu Rida al-Turkestani gave a speech denouncing America and claiming Muslims are oppressed "in the land of Afghanistan, and in Turkestan, and in Waziristan, and in Burma, and in Bilad ash-Sham" In May 2015 in Jisr al-Shugour the Syrian army killed Abu Rida al-Turkestani near a hospital. TIP (ETIM) members in Syria fight alongside the Al-Qaeda branch Al Nusrah Front since TIP is allied to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan and conducted suicide bombings for Nusrah Front. The Turkistan Islamic Party (Uighur), Al-Katibat al-Tawhid wal Jihad (Uzbek) and Junud al-Sham (Chechen) all coordinate with Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria. Members of TIP have been killed in battle in Syria. TIP (ETIM) eulogized and applauded members of its organization who participated in suicide bombings and members who were killed in action in Jisr al Shughur. Members of the group helped other Jihadists enforce religious law in Idlib such as wrecking alcohol in stores and this was noted that with "support of Allah and by the strike of the fist of the Mujahideen from the Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham and Turkistan," that they undertook these actions by a Syrian Jihadist in Jaysh al Fateh. A Jabhat Al Nusra Jihadist called Abu Mohamed Al-Ansari interviewed by VICE News after the Idlib offensive said that "The battle was good, praise be to God. The brothers from all the groups started working together and coordinating. Each faction is responsible for a side. The majority were immigrant brothers from Turkestan. They are the ones who attacked the important points." The spokesman of Jabhat Al-Nusra Abu Maria al-Qahtani claimed that Muslims were "oppressed" in "Turkestan" and that Nusra needs to "defend" them. TIP (ETIM) joined in on the Jihadist offensive in the Al-Ghab plain along with Al-Qaeda affiliated Jund al Aqsa against the Syrian army, referring to the Syrian army by the disparaging name "Nusayri". In Idlib four villages were seized by the Turkistan Islamic Party around August 2015. and the TIP said they "met with the brothers in Jund al Aqsa". The villages of Al-Ziyarah, Mishk, and Tal Wassit were taken by the TIP in August 2015 and TIP boasted that "With the favor of Allah and his support our Mujahideen brothers took war booty from the infidels" (بفضل الله ونصره إخواننا المجاهدون أخذوا الغنائم من الكفار). TIP also seized the village of Zayzun in August. The village Qarqur was also taken by the TIP. A BMP was destroyed by TIP at Qarqur. The village of Mansura, Hama fell to the TIP which released a video showing battlefield wreckage and boasted that "these are the BMPs and the tanks of the infidels destroyed by the Mujahideen". (هذه ب م ب والدبابات للكفار دمرت من قبل المجاهدين). The villages of Muhambal, Msheirfeh, and Farikah fell to the TIP. The villages of Tal Himka (Tal Hamkeh), Tal Awar (تل عوار), Ziadiyah (زياديه) and Mahattat Zayzun w:ar:المحطة الحرارية (زيزون) fell to the TIP. The Turkistan Islamic Party and Jabhat Al-Nusra launched a joint operation which overran the Syrian military's Abu Dhuhur airbase during the Siege of Abu al-Duhur Airbase.[excessive citations] The Turkistan Islamic Party released photos of their Uyghur fighters at Abu Dhuhur.[excessive citations] At Abu Dhuhur, Sheikh Muhaysini (an Al-Qaeda linked Saudi cleric) took pictures with Turkistan Islamic Party which was released by Islam Awazi. Syrian regime military prisoners from Abu Dhuhur were exhibited in photos released by the Turkistan Islamic Party. A video released by Turkistan Islamic Party featured Junud al-Sham deputy leader Abu Bakr al Shishani. The Turkistan Islamic Party's Islam Awazi released photos of its fighters in Syria.
After the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, TIP's Islam Awazi released photos and a video of its fighters in Al Ghab on the battlefield with captions that said: "standing up strongly to the Nusayri army and the Russians." (المجاهدين التركستانيين يتصدى بقوة للجيش النصيري ومن قبل الروس). A second video of the battle in al Ghab was released by TIP.[excessive citations] In response to the Russian-backed offensive by the Syrian Army, the Turkistan Islamic Party sent fighters to the Ghab Plain to support rebels in fighting against the Syrian Army, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces. The Syria-based, Al-Qaeda linked Saudi cleric Abdullah Muhammad Al-Muhaysini arranged for foreign fighters of multiple backgrounds to repeat the phrase "The Levant is the graveyard of the Russians", in a video message, among them was a fighter claiming to be from "East Turkestan".
TIP's Islam Awazi released a photo showing the corpse of a beheaded Syrian army soldier, captioned : "The annihilation of one from the Nusayri regime gangs at the hands of the mujahideen - Ghamaam in Jebel Turkman" (هلاك أحد عصابات النظام النصيري على ايدي المجاهدين - غمام جبل التركمان ).
TIP released a photo of a rocket captioned : "Side of the rocket which bombarded the mujahideen but did not explode due to the favor of Allah - Ghamaam in Jebel Turkman" (جانب من الصاروخ الذي استهدف المجاهدين ولم ينفجر بفضل لله - غمام جبل التركمان). TIP released photos of uniforms, weapons, and ammunition captioned : "The war booty which was captured by the mujahideen from the axis - Ghamaam in Jebel Turkman"(الغنائم التي إغتنمها المجاهدون من محور غمام في جبل التركمان).
TIP's Islam Awazi media arm released photos of its members who carried out suicide bombings, Dadullah Turkistani and Abdulbasit (Turguncan) Turkistani. The TIP released pictures of dead Syrian soldiers they killed. Islam Awazi released photos of its own dead members killed in Syria, Abbas Turkistani, Ebu Firat Turkistani, Zübeyir Turkistani, Salim Turkistani, Abdul Muhsin Turkistani, and Ebu Jendel Turkistani.
Uyghur militant groups operate two Jihadist training camps in Syria. On 17 August 2013 the website Jihadology posted the March 2013 issue of TIP's Islamic Turkistan Arabic: (تركستان الإسلامية) Uyghur: (ئىسلامى تۈركىستان) magazine in which TIP displayed its fighters and their families, wives, and children in Syria on the side of the rebels.
One of Sayfullakh Shishani's fighters in Jabhat al-Nusra claimed that a united faction called al-Muhajireen was formed out of the unification of the Uyghur Turkistan, Uzbek Abu Salyaha and Al-Bukhari, Ahlu Sunnah wal-Jama'a, and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar.
Arab news agencies reported that the Uyghurs in TIP, the Chechens in Junud Al Sham, Jabhat Al Nusra and Ahrar al Sham are being coordinated by Turkish intelligence to work with the Army of Conquest.
Syrian Churches have been demolished by Turkistan Islamic Party Uyghur fighters, who exalted in the acts of destruction, and in Homs and Idlib battlefields the Turkistan Islamic Party cooperated with Uzbek brigades and Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabhat al-Nusra and IS (ISIL) compete with each other to recruit Uyghur fighters. In Jisr al-Shughur a Church's cross had a TIP flag placed on top of it after the end of the battle.
Turkish connections were used by Uyghur fighters to go into Syria and the humanitarian Uyghur Eastern Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA) which is located in Turkey sent Uyghurs into Syria, endorsed the murder of the pro-China Imam Juma Tayir, applauded terrorist attacks in China, and posted on its website content from the terrorist organization TIP.
Fellow Al-Qaeda aligned Islamist organizations with the aim of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate cooperate with TIP (ETIM) whose own goal is an Islamic State, with TIP fighting against the militaries of Syria and Pakistan in addition to China and being assisted by Central Asian, Gulf, European, and North American based outfits and the TIP leader Abdullah Mansour used the words "mujahideen" and "jihadi operation" in a Uighur language video produced by TIP's Islam Awazi (Uyghur: ئىسلام ئاۋازى) Ṣawt al-Islām (Arabic:صوت الإسلام) Media Center when TIP took responsibility for the 29 October 2013 Tianmen Square terrorist attack.
In 2013 Islam Awazi released footage of Uyghur TIP members fighting against the Afghan National Army. Islam Awazi released a video of fighters training in eastern Afghanistan. A video released by Islam Awazi showed TIP members ambushing a bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan which was unarmed. One video released by Islam Awazi showed one of their members being knocked over and killed by the SPG-9 he was firing, accompanied by the phrase Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un in Arabic. TIP released old photos of Uyghur fighters in Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule. TIP released photos of dead Afghan soldiers they killed.
The Turkistan Islamic Party released a video titled "A Message to the Turkestanis" (رسالة الى التركستانيين) featuring Abdullah Al-Muhaysini, an Al-Qaeda cleric of Saudi origin. Muhaysini urged the "Turkistani Musims" to raise their children to love death like "infidels" love life. "Turkistani" is used as an alternate ethonym for "Uyghur" by some Uyghurs.
The Turkistan Islamic Party released a new video titled "Importance of Martyrdom Operations in Our Current Time" (أهمية العمليات الإستشهادية في زمننا الحاضر) (زامانىمىزدىكى پىدائىيلىق ئەمەلىيىتىنىڭ ئەھمىيىتى) by Abdullah al-Muhaysini.
The Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria released a "Visual Nasheed" (النشيد المرئي) titled "The Martyrs" (الشهداء) (شەھىدلەر) showing dead Turkistan Islamic Party militants who were killed in Syria along with descriptions of Jannah (جنة) (paradise) including Hoor (الحور) (virgins), saying that there would be 72 of them waiting for the dead "martyrs".
Camps training children for Jihad are being run by the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria. Photos of the child military training camps in Syria were released by the Turkistan Islamic Party, who labelled the children as "little mujahideen". Uyghur child soldiers being instructed in Sharia and training with guns were depicted in a video released by TIP.[excessive citations]
Photos of a training camp for Uyghur children run by the Turkistan Islamic Party were released by Islam Awazi. Photos released by Turkistan Islamic Party's Islam Awazi media which showed Uyghur militants along with Uyghur children in Syria, including one child holding an AK-47, the Uyghurs cooperated with Jabhat Al-Nusra and had pledged alleigance (bay'ah) to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Another photo released by Islam Awazi showed Uyghur children training with AK-47's and with shahada headbands at a camp in the Afpak (Afghanistan-Pakistan) region. Pictures were released by Islam Awazi of Afghanistan-based Turkistan Islamic Party training children for Jihad. A video of a training camp in Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal areas showing children being trained with weapons was released by the Turkistan Islamic Party's Islam Awazi.
Photos released by TIP's Islam Awazi showed Uyghur children in Idlib, Syria, with AK-47s, reading Qurans, and Burqa clad women praying. The child soldiers were also shown engaging in religious studies.
The village of Az-Zanbaqi (الزنبقي) in Jisr al-Shughur's countryside has become a base for a massive amount of Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party militants and their families in Syria, estimated at around 3,500, military camps in the area are training hundreds of children from these families; Hezbollah media, Iranian media and Syrian government media accused Turkish intelligence of being involved in transporting these Uyghurs via Turkey to Syria, with the aim of using them first in Syria to help Jabhat Al-Nusra and gain combat experience fighting against the Syrian Army before sending them back to Xinjiang to fight against China if they manage to survive.[excessive citations]
TIP's Islam Awazi encouraged entire Uyghur families including women and children to emigrate abroad to perform "Jihad". Chinese authorities reported that they discovered that Uyghurs attempting to move to Turkey via Southeast Asia had radical Islamist materials on their phones.
The Uyghur diaspora in the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul, Turkey, is the source of Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party Jihadists in Syria. A Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party fighter in Syria, Ibrahim Mansour, openly gave interviews to the Turkish media where he boasted to fighting the "Assad regime".
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The Islamic fundamentalist-Salafist-based movement, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant released a video featuring an 80 year old Uyghur man who came to join ISIS in Syria along with his grandchildren, wife, and daughter after he was inspired by his son who died in combat in Syria. The video featured Uyghur children singing about martyrdom and a 10 year old Uyghur child threatening China, saying : "O Chinese kuffar (non-believers), know that we are preparing in the land of the khilafah (caliphate) and we will come to you and raise this flag in Turkestan with the permission of Allah." The elderly Uyghur man said "'I made hijrah accompanied by my four grandsons, my daughter and my wife".
After Thailand deported Uyghurs back to China whom China suspected to have "been on their way to Turkey, Syria or Iraq to join jihad" , John Kirby, a United States State Department spokesman, slammed the move and said Thailand should "allow those remaining ethnic Uighurs to depart voluntarily to a country of their choice". TIP's "Islamic Turkistan" Twitter account condemned the deportation and called China and Thailand as "polytheist enemies of Allah" (أعداء الله المشركين).
The Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman Anakara Bureau Chief Abdullah Bozkurt said that the Islamist Erdoğan government in Turkey allowed Uyghur fighters to cross into Syria via Turkey and this was causing major problems in China-Turkey relations.[not in citation given]
Attempts at independence
Yaqub Beg establishment of Kashgaria
Also during the Dungan revolt, the Taranchi Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang initially cooperated with the Dungans (Chinese Muslims) when they rose in revolt, but turned on them, because the Dungans, mindful of their Chinese heritage attempted to subject the entire region to their rule. The Taranchi massacred the Dungans at Kuldja and drove the rest through Talk pass to the Ili valley.
First East Turkestan Republic
The first republic established by the Uighurs was short lived, the Uighur army was defeated by the Chinese Muslim 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army), which destroyed the Republic at the Battle of Kashgar (1934).
Second East Turkestan Republic
A Soviet backed state was created by Uighur rebels in northern Xinjiang. It was absorbed into the newly founded People's Republic of China in 1950.
Official Chinese position on the movement
People's Republic of China
Republic of China (Taiwan)
The Republic of China's (Taiwan) ambassador to Saudi Arabia[when?], Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang, in response to a request by a former Uyghur Mufti living in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Ahad Hamed for accommodations to be granted to Uyghurs living outside of China who held Republic of China passports, sent the following letter, which rejected Abdul Ahad Hamed's demands and his usage of the term "East Turkestan", upholding the official position of the Republic of China (Taiwan) that Xinjiang was a part of China and that it did not recognize the East Turkestan Independence Movement.
With all due respect to your previous position in the Government of Sinkiang and to the confidence placed in you by His Excellency the President of the Republic of China, I hope that you will refrain from using expressions which should not be used by one who occupied the position of a mufti. We are all serving our beloved country trying to do our best for our countrymen. I also hope that you will refrain from using the expression "The Turkestani Nation" which was the creation of one Abdul Qayyum Khan while he was living in Germany. We are working for the welfare of the true people of Sinkiang not for the Turkestanis living outside Sinkiang or the followers of Abdul Qayyum Khan.
Ambassador of Nationalist China in Saudi Arabia
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. Several Uyghur fighters were shot dead by Kyrgyzstan's security forces in January 2014.
Arab countries politically supported China in the OIC with especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt helping China squash any potential anti-Chinese motion by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on the Uyghurs, Egypt viewed its own internal sectarian problems like China's and Sudan was also concerned about external interference in its internal problems as well, while Indonesia had to deal with its own internal Islamists and emphasized that there was no religious conflict but instead ethnic based disturbances in Xinjiang to calm the situation down. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt helped China kill off a statement on the Xinjiang situation in the OIC. There has been no public reaction by the Arab League, Saudi Arabia and Iran on the situation and China has built stronger relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia due to their influence in the Islamic world.
Rebiya Kadeer claimed that Turkey is hampered from interfering with Uyghurs because it recognizes that its own Kurdish issue may get interfered with by China in retaliation. An appeal for Chinese products to be boycotted by Nihat Ergun failed in 2009.
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.
Turkistanislamder complained that the veil and headscarf are banned in Uzbekistan under Islam Karimov's rule.
The Turkistan Islamic Party's magazine "Turkistān al-Islāmīyyah" Issue #14 endorsed attacks and killings against Chinese workers and referred to "Martyrdom Operations" against a police station and a "Martyr's Brigade".
In "Islamic Turkistan" Issue #12 photo of the founders of the First East Turkestan Republic including Sabit Damulla Abdulbaki was titled "Men who marked history in their blood" رجال سطروا التاريخ بدمائهم (1933–1352) featured with the caption "Founders of an independent islamic state in the Hijri year 1352 in East Turkestan" (مؤسسوا دولة إسلامية مستقلة عام 1352هـ في تركستان الشرقية).
TIP published a video showing Denis Mamdou Cuspert and Mohamed Mahmoud of Millatu-Ibrahim being applauded by IMU member Yassin Chouka.
Infighting between Uyghur separatists
During the First East Turkestan Republic, the Turkic nationalist ideology of the Republic led to hostility between different Muslim ethnic groups. The Uyghurs and Kirghiz, who were both Turkic Muslim peoples, fought against the Chinese Muslims of southern Xinjiang and sought to expel them with the Han Chinese. This led several Chinese Muslim Generals like Ma Zhancang, Ma Fuyuan, and Ma Hushan to fight against the Uyghur attempts and independence.
Argument for East Turkestan independence
The Uyghur American Association claims that Many Uyghurs face religious persecution and discrimination at the hands of the government authorities. Uyghurs who choose to practice their faith can use only a state-approved version of the Koran; They also claims that many nationalists are killed or tortured or jailed for their independence efforts, and even non-violent protesters have said to have been facing human rights abuses. They claim dress, language, and culture are slowly being eroded away as more and more ethnic Han are moving there in the Migration to Xinjiang. They claim religion and way of life are misunderstood and the government cracks down on any sign of resistance. The "Uyghur Human Rights Project" alleges that children under the age of 18 were banned from a mosque in southern Xinjiang.
Uyghur nationalists condemn Xinjiang reeducation camps operated by the Xinjiang local government for their unethical treatment of detainees since 2014 and unprecedentedly intensified since a hardline party leader, Chen Quanguo, took charge of the region in August 2016. These camps are operated secretly and outside of the legal system; people can be locked up without any trial. Local authorities are reportedly holding hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and Muslims from other ethnic minorities in these camps, claiming the detentions are a bid to counter extremism and terrorism.
It is estimated that Chinese authorities may have detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic Muslims, Christians and also foreign, especially Kazakhstani, citizens to be kept in these shrouded internment camps throughout the region.
Uyghur is the dominant language in southern Xinjiang while Mandarin is the dominant language in northern Xinjiang.
Argument against East Turkestan independence
China claims to have a historic claim on modern-day Xinjiang dating back two thousand years. East Asian migrants arrived in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, while the Uighur people arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, based in modern-day Mongolia, around the year 842. It fears that independence movements are largely funded and led by outside forces that seek to weaken China. China points out that despite such movements, Xinjiang has made great economic strides, building up its infrastructure, improving its education system and increasing the average life expectancy.
Uyghur independence activists express concern over the Han population changing the Uyghur character of the region, yet the historical native land of the Uyghurs is not the whole land of Xinjiang, but Tarim basin. Professor James A. Millward pointed out that the capital of Xinjiang Urumqi was even originally a Han and Hui (Tungan) city with few Uyghur people before recent Uyghur migration to the city, but foreigners mistakenly think that Urumqi was originally a Uyghur city and that the Chinese destroyed its Uyghur character and culture. Moreover, the Han and Hui mostly live in northern Xinjiang Dzungaria, and are separated from areas of historical Uyghur dominance south of the Tian Shan mountains (southwestern Xinjiang), where Uyghurs account for about 90% of the population. While a few people try to give a misportrayal of the historical Qing situation in light of the contemporary situation in Xinjiang with Han migration, and claim that the Qing settlements and state farms were an anti-Uyghur plot to replace them in their land, Professor James A. Millward pointed out that the Qing agricultural colonies in reality had nothing to do with Uyghur and their land, since the Qing banned settlement of Han in the Uyghur Tarim Basin and in fact directed the Han settlers instead to settle in the non-Uyghur Dzungaria and the new city of Urumqi, so that the state farms which were settled with 155,000 Han Chinese from 1760–1830 were all in Dzungaria and Urumqi, where there was only an insignificant amount of Uyghurs, instead of the Tarim Basin oases.
Uyghur nationalist historians such as Turghun Almas claim that Uyghurs were distinct and independent from Chinese for 6000 years, and that all non-Uyghur peoples are non-indigenous immigrants to Xinjiang. However, the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) established military colonies (tuntian) and commanderies (duhufu) to control Xinjiang from 120 BCE, while the Tang Dynasty (618–907) also controlled much of Xinjiang until the An Lushan rebellion. Chinese historians refute Uyghur nationalist claims by pointing out the 2000-year history of Han settlement in Xinjiang, documenting the history of Mongol, Kazakh, Uzbek, Manchu, Hui, Xibo indigenes in Xinjiang, and by emphasizing the relatively late "westward migration" of the Huigu (equated with "Uyghur" by the PRC government) people from Mongolia the 9th century. The name "Uyghur" was associated with a Buddhist people in the Tarim Basin in the 9th century, but completely disappeared by the 15th century, until it was revived by the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
Uyghur nationalists often incorrectly claim that 5% of Xinjiang's population in 1949 was Han, and that the other 95% was Uyghur, erasing the presence of Kazakhs, Xibes, and others, and ignoring the fact that Hans were around one third of Xinjiang's population at 1800, during the time of the Qing Dynasty. At the start of the 19th century, 40 years after the Qing reconquest, there were around 155,000 Han and Hui Chinese in northern Xinjiang and somewhat more than twice that number of Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang. A census of Xinjiang under Qing rule in the early 19th century tabulated ethnic shares of the population as 30% Han and 60% Turkic, while it dramatically shifted to 6% Han and 75% Uyghur in the 1953 census, however a situation similar to the Qing era-demographics with a large number of Han has been restored as of 2000 with 40.57% Han and 45.21% Uyghur. Professor Stanley W. Toops noted that today's demographic situation is similar to that of the early Qing period in Xinjiang. In northern Xinjiang, the Qing brought in Han, Hui, Uyghur, Xibe, and Kazakh colonists after they exterminated the Zunghar Oirat Mongols in the region, with one third of Xinjiang's total population consisting of Hui and Han in the northern are, while around two thirds were Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang's Tarim Basin.
In general, the wide variety of groups who seek independence can be distinguished by the type of government they advocate and the role they believe an independent East Turkestan should play in international affairs. Groups who use the term East Turkestan tend to have an orientation towards western Asia, the Islamic world, and Russia. These groups can be further subdivided into those who desire secularism, and identify with the struggle of secular Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, versus those who want an Islamic theocracy and identify with Saudi Arabia, the former Taliban government in Afghanistan, or Iran. In many cases the latter diminish the importance or deny the existence of a separate Uyghur ethnicity and claim a larger Islamic identity. These groups tend to see an independent East Turkestan in which non-Turkic, and especially non-Islamic minorities, such as the Han Chinese would play no significant role.
Some of the groups that support independence for East Turkestan have been labeled terrorist organizations by both the People's Republic of China, the United Nations and/or the United States. Pro-independence organizations overseas include the East Turkistan National Freedom Center, the East Turkistan Government in Exile, and the East Turkestan Liberation Organization (Transnational Hizb ut-Tahrir). The most noticeable event towards the East Turkistan Independence Movement was the establishment of the East Turkistan Government in Exile by a group of East Turkistani immigrants led by Anwar Yusuf Turani in Washington D.C. on 14 September 2004. The target audience of these organizations is generally the Western governments and public, as almost none of the websites are in Chinese or Uyghur, and most Uyghurs in China and Central Asia have never heard of them. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM, also East Turkestan Islamic Party), which has claimed responsibility for attacks in Xinjiang, has been identified as a terrorist organization by the governments of China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and the United States, as well as the United Nations.
Uyghur separatist leader Isa Alptekin met with the ultra-nationalist Pan-Turkic fascist leader Alparslan Türkeş. Alptekin used anti-Armenian language while in Turkey and claimed that innocent Turkish Muslims were massacred by Armenians.
There continues to be concern over tensions in the region, centering upon Uyghur cultural aspirations to independence, and resentment towards what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch describe as repression of non-Han Chinese culture.
Conversely, many Han Chinese perceive PRC policies of ethnic autonomy as discriminatory against them (see autonomous entities of China). Independence advocates view Chinese rule in Xinjiang, and policies like the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps as Chinese imperialism. The US and the UN have labelled the East Turkestan Islamic Movement a terrorist group.
The tensions have occasionally resulted in major incidents and violent clashes during the PRC period. For example, in 1962, 60,000 Uyghur and Kazakh refugees fled northern Xinjiang into the Soviet Union to escape the famine and political purges of the Great Leap Forward era; in the 1980s there was a smattering of student demonstrations and riots against police action that took on an ethnic aspect; and the Baren Township riot in April 1990, an abortive uprising resulted in more than 50 deaths.
A police roundup of suspected separatists during Ramadan resulted in large demonstrations that turned violent in February 1997 in an episode known as the Ghulja Incident that led to at least 9 deaths. The Urumqi bus bombs of 25 February 1997, perhaps a response to the crackdown that followed the Ghulja Incident, killed 9 and injured 68. Speaking on separatist violence, Erkin Alptekin, a former East Turkestan National Congress chairman and prominent Uyghur activist, said "We must emphasise dialogue and warn our youth against the use of violence because it de-legitimises our movement". Despite much talk of separatism and terrorism in Xinjiang, especially after the 9-11 attacks in the United States and the US invasion of Afghanistan, the situation in Xinjiang was quiet from the late nineties through mid-2006. In 2005, Uighur author Nurmemet Yasin was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for inciting separatism following his publication of an allegorical short story, "The Blue Pigeon".
On 5 January 2007 the Chinese Public Security Bureau raided a suspected terrorist training camp in the mountains near the Pamir Plateau in southern Xinjiang. According to the reports, 18 terrorists were killed and another 17 captured in a gun battle between the East Turkestan Independence Movement and PRC forces. One police officer was killed and "over 1,500 hand grenades... were seized."
Many Islamic Mujahideen have come and committed terrorism in the Xinjiang autonomous region. It is feared by the National Government that radicalization of Chinese Uighurs by the Uighur Diaspora will occur. 2014,''China has jailed almost two dozen people including "wild imams" who preach illegally in the western region of Xinjiang where the government says Islamists are waging a violent campaign for a separate state.'' Supporters of the Uighur movement, criticized by China and her allies as supporters of international terrorism include Turkey.
In 2008, the Chinese government announced that several terrorist plots by Uyghur separatists to disrupt the 2008 Olympic Games involving kidnapping athletes, journalists and tourists were foiled. The security ministry said 35 arrests were made in recent weeks and explosives had been seized in Xinjiang province. It said 10 others were held when police smashed another plot based in Xinjiang back in January to disrupt the Games. However, Uyghur activists accused the Chinese of fabricating terror plots to crack down on the people of the region and prevent them airing legitimate grievances. Some foreign observers were also skeptical, questioning if China was inflating a terror threat to justify a clampdown on dissidents before the Olympics.
In the run-up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, during which world attention was drawn by pro-Tibet protests along the Olympic torch relay, Uyghur separatist groups staged protests in several countries. According to the Chinese government, a suicide bombing attempt on a China Southern Airlines flight in Xinjiang was thwarted in March 2008.
Four days before the Beijing Olympics, 16 Chinese police officers were killed and 16 injured in an attack in Kashgar by local merchants. Chinese police injured and damaged the equipment of two Japanese journalists sent to cover the story. Four days later a bombing in Kuqa killed at least two people.
On 27 August, two Chinese police officers were killed and seven more wounded near the city of Kashgar when their patrol was ambushed by at least seven militants, including one woman, wielding knives and automatic weapons. Apparently the patrol was lain upon in a corn field while acting on an erroneous tip from another woman that had been suspected of assisting militants. According to Uighur sources Chinese officials have been "cracking down" on ethnic Uighurs, detaining large numbers in recent weeks and view the incident as Uighurs resisting arrest. Reportedly, 33 people died in Xinjiang because of clashes in the month of August.
On 5 July 2009, riots broke out in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The state media reported close to 150 people dead. While the riots occurred after a demonstration protesting the deaths of two Uyghurs in the June 2009 Shaoguan incident, the central government claimed that the riot had been masterminded by separatists abroad, particularly exiled leader Rebiya Kadeer.
2015 Bangkok bombing
The 2015 Bangkok bombing is suspected to have been carried out by the Pan-Turkic neo-fascist Turkish ultra-nationalist organization Grey Wolves due to Thailand's deportation of Uyghur terrorist suspects back to China instead of allowing them to travel to Turkey for asylum, a Turkish man named Adem Karadag was arrested by the Thai police in connection to the bombing with Turkish passports and bomb making materials found in his apartment, the Grey Wolves are described by the media as a terrorist group and became famous for their assassinations and killings of journalists, liberals, and leftists in Turkey, their member Mehmet Ali Ağca's assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, and their involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh War and the Chechen war due to the Muslim and Turkic populations of those areas since their aim is the unification of all Muslim Turkic peoples into one state spanning from Central Asia to the Balkans.
Due to risk of terrorism and the manufacture of counterfeit passports, Uyghur foreigners in Thailand were placed under watch by Thailand Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. Due to suspicion of terrorism, the Thai police were put on alert after the arrival of 2 Turkey based Uyghurs.
- List of active separatist movements in Asia
- East Turkistan Government in Exile
- East Turkestan Liberation Organization
- East Turkestan Islamic Movement
- Separatist movements of China
- Hong Kong independence movement
- Inner Mongolian independence movement
- Taiwan independence movement
- Tibetan independence movement
- World Uyghur Congress
- 2008 Uyghur unrest
- 2013 Xinjiang unrest
- Xinjiang conflict
- Affirmative action in China
- Human rights of ethnic minorities in China
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