Turkistan Islamic Party

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This article is about an Islamist-based organization. For the nationalist movement, see East Turkestan independence movement.
Turkestan Islamic Party
Flag of Turkistan Islamic Party.svg
Turkistan Islamic Party
Active 1997 – present
Ideology Uyghur nationalism
Sunni Islamism
Islamic fundamentalism
Pan-Islamism
Pan-Turkism
Pan-Turanism
Leaders Hasan Mahsum
Abdul Haq[1][2]
Abdul Shakoor al-Turkistani
Abdullah Mansour[3]
Headquarters North Waziristan, Pakistan
Area of operations China (Xinjiang)
Pakistan (North Waziristan)[4]
Afghanistan
Central Asia
Syria[5][6][7] (Jisr ash-Shighour in Idlib governate, Lattakia governate
Part of Battle of Victory
Army of Conquest[8]
Allies Turkey National Intelligence Organization (MİT)[9](suspected by the Syrian government)
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
al-Qaeda[10]
Nusra Front[11]
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan[12]
East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA)[13]
Opponents

Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China
Flag of Pakistan.svg Pakistan[14][15]
Flag of Syria.svg Syria[5]

Hezbollah (in Syria)[16]
Iran Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (in Syria)[16]
Flag of Afghanistan.svg Afghanistan
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Kazakhstan
Flag of Uzbekistan.svg Uzbekistan
Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg Kyrgyzstan
 Russia

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), or Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM), formerly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and other names,[a] is an Islamic terrorist and separatist organization founded by Uyghur militants in western China. Its stated goals are the independence of East Turkestan from China. According to the Chinese government, it is a violent separatist movement and is often responsible for terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.[17] According to Chinese report, published in 2002, between 1990 to 2001 ETIM had reportedly committed over 200 acts of terrorism, resulting in at least 162 deaths and over 440 injuries.[18] Since the September 11 attacks, the group has been designated as a terrorist organization by Kyrgyzstan,[19][20] (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.[21][22]) Kazakhstan,[23] Russia,[24] United Arab Emirates,[25][26] the United Kingdom,[27][28] China, and the United States.[29] Pakistan outlawed the group.[30] Its Syrian branch Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria is active in the Syrian Civil War.

History[edit]

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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] Nevertheless, the Soviet Union distributed Soviet passports among the Central Asian ethnics in Xinjiang to facilitate emigration to Kazakh SSR.[32] 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.[34] China accused the Soviets of engineering riots, and improved the military infrastructure there to combat it.[32]

Abdul Hameed, Abdul Azeez Makhdoom, and Abdul Hakeem Makhdoom launched the Islamic Party of Turkistan in 1940.[35] After being set free from prison in 1979, Abdul Hakeem instructed Hasan Mahsum and other Uyghurs in fundamentalist Islam.[36]

In 1989 Ziyauddin Yusuf started the group which was originally called East Turkistan Islamic Party(ETIP).[35][37] The name in Uyghur was (شەرقىي تۈركىستان ئىسلام پارتىيىسى) Sherqiy Türkistan Islam Partiyisi,[38] and in Turkish it was called Doğu Türkistan İslam Partisi.[39] The movement was reshuffled by Hasan Mahsum and Abudukadir Yapuquan in 1997 into its present incarnation.[40][41] 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. In Afghanistan, ETIM leaders met with Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to coordinate actions. There, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement dropped the "East" from its name as it increased its domain.[42] 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, during which the leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, was killed.[43]

However, ETIM resurged after the Iraq War inflamed mujaheddin sentiment.[44] The United States Department of State responded by listing it as a terrorist organization. Nonetheless, ETIM circulated a video in 2006 calling for a renewed jihad, and took advantage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to gain publicity for its attacks.[42] 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.[45]

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.[46] 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.[47] 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.[48][49]

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,[50][51][52] Türkistan Islam Partiyisining Islam Awazi Teshwiqat Merkizi,.[53]

Al-Qaeda support[edit]

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Turkistan Islamic Party) is allied with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan[12] along with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan)[54] and Al-Qaeda.[55][56] One of the grievances against China by the TIP was that China implemented female and male equality.[57]

Al-Qaeda aligned al-Fajr Media Center distributes TIP material.[58]

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.[59]

Afghanistan and Waziristan[edit]

During the Battle of Kunduz in Afghanistan, foreign Islamist militants like Uyghurs, Chechens, Rohingya, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Uzbeks joined the Taliban in the attack.[60][61][62][63][64]

Syria[edit]

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.[65][66] Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria include the Syrian branch of the Chechen Caucasus Emirate, Uzbek militants, and the Turkistan Islamic Party.[67]

TIP has participated in:

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.[68] In Jisr al-Shughur a Church's cross had a TIP flag placed on top of it after the end of the battle.[69] The Uzbek group Katibat al-Tawhid wal Jihad (Tavhid va Jihod katibasi) released a video featuring themselves and the Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party attacking and desecrating Christian Churches in Jisr al-Shughur.[70][71] Jabhat al Nusra and Turkistan Islamic Party fighters were accused of displacing Christian residents of rural Jisr al-Shughour, and reportedly killed a Syrian Christian man along with his wife, accusing them of being Syrian government agents.[72] The Saudi news agency Al-Arabiya said that the area was Alawite.[73][74]

Child soldiers[edit]

Camps training children for Jihad are being run by the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria.[75][76][77] Uyghur child soldiers being instructed in Sharia and training with guns were depicted in a video released by TIP.[78]

Turkish support[edit]

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 killing of the pro-China Imam Juma Tayir, applauded attacks in China, and posted on its website content from the TIP.[79]

The Ambassador of Syria to China, Imad Moustapha, has accused Turkey of facilitating the entry of Uighur jihadists into Syria.[80]

The Islamist Turkish publisher "Beyaz Minare Kitap" (White Minaret Book) published a Turkish language book titled "Türkistan'dan Şehadete Hicret Hikayeleri 1" containing the biographies of Turkistan Islamic Party fighters along with praise of TIP fighters by Abdullah al-Muhaysini.[81][82]

Route into Syria[edit]

Ajnad al Qawqaz, Jund al-Sham, Katibat al-Tawhid wal Jihad, Ahrar Ash-sham, Turkistan Islamic Party, Jund al-Aqsa, and Jabhat al Nusra developed an "Emergency plan" to turn Idlib into a Syrian version of the "Tora Bora" complex in Afghanistan, the TIP fighters travel to Syria and Turkey via Laos, Philippines, and Thailand bringing entire Uyghur families.[83]

Ideology[edit]

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.[84] 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]

Structure[edit]

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:

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.[88] 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 reclassified as No Longer Enemy Combatant,[89] a panel of judges ordered them released into the United States. Despite the alarm of politicians that the release of terrorist camp-trained Uyghurs into the United States was unsafe and illegal, they could not be released back to China because of its human rights record.[90] Some of the Uyghurs have been transferred to Palau, and some to Bermuda despite objections by the United Kingdom, but the United States is having difficulties finding governments who will accept the rest.[91]

Attacks[edit]

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.[19] 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,[89] and an attack on paramilitary troops in Kashgar that killed 17 officers.[92] 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.[93] 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."[92]

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.[94]

Analysis[edit]

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 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."[95] The Uyghur American Association has publicly doubted the ETIM's existence.[96]

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.[97] 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."[97][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.[97][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.[98]

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".[99]

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.[100] 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.[101] Violent attacks were carried out by Turkey, Afghanistan, and Central Asian based groups.[102]

In 2010 responsibility for attacks in China was claimed by the Turkistan Islamic Party.[103]

Several attacks in 2011 in Xinjiang were claimed by the Turkistan Islamic Party.[104]

See also[edit]

Notes[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.[42][85] Other aliases adopted over the years are "East Turkistan Islamic Party", "Allah Party", and "East Turkistan National Revolution Association".[105]

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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