View Full Version : Growing Up Han: Reflections on a Xinjiang Childhood

26-10-09, 22:21

26-10-09, 23:40
East Turkistan is not China
The Chinese claim East Turkistan has been part of China since the ancient times. This is a pure distortion of history. East Turkistan is part of Central Asia, not China. It is located outside of China’s traditional border, the Great Wall. In fact, China itself was ruled for much of the past 1000 years by nomadic outsiders from the north, such as Mongols, Khitans and Manchus. East Turkistan was first occupied by the Qing Dynasty in 1884. The Qing Dynasty was established by Manchus, who was a nomadic people from North East Asia. They first occupied China in 16th Century and gradually expanded their empire by occupying neighboring Mongolia, Tibet and East Turkistan. They ruled China for more than 300 years until it was overthrown by the Chinese nationalists in 1911. The Chinese behaved as if they were entitled to inherit the Qing Dynasty territory, but the Uyghurs, Tibetans and Mongols disagreed. East Turkistan people declared independence in 1933. But, the East Turkistan Republic lasted less than a year. East Turkistan people did not stop fighting for freedom. They succeeded again in 1944 to restore the East Turkistan Republic. The Chinese communists invaded East Turkistan in 1949 and has been carrying out a brutal and draconian colonial rule there ever since.

Actually, one does not need to dig into the history books to find the truth. The facts on the ground today speak for it self. We as a people have nothing in common with the Chinese. We have a different language, different culture, different traditions, different religion, different food, different tools, different clothes, different music and dancing and any thing you name it. If East Turkistan were part of China since the ancient times, we would not be so different. The truth is that there were no Chinese in East Turkistan before 1884. There were less than 5% Chinese in East Turkistan in 1949. There was not a single village or city built by the Chinese back then.

History of Uyghur People
Before 840 AD, the Southern East Turkistan, which refers to the region south of Tangri Mountains, was inhabited by several Caucasian peoples who spoke Indo-European languages. They lived in several small kingdoms that paid tribute to the powerful Turkic empires in the north. In the past 30 years many archeleogical sites related to these people have been excavated, uncovering many historical artifacts including dozens of perfectly preserved mummified bodies. The Northern East Turkistan was inhabited by nomadic Turkic tribes. One of those Turkic tribes known as Orkhun Uyghur established a vast empire in 740 AD at the north side of Tangri Tagh stretching from the Aral Sea in the West to the Pacific Ocean in the East. In 840 AD, they were defeated by another Turkic tribe named Kyrgyz and forced to move to the south. Some of them moved to Hexi Corridor, an area west of China which is now part of China’s Gansu province and established a new Kingdom there. Some of them moved to the Turpan-Qumul region, which is at the northeast section of East Turkistan and established the Kara-Hoja Uyghur Kingdom. During the same period, another Turkic tribe named Karluk who allied with Uyghurs in the Uyghur Empire also moved south to settle around Kashgar region and established the Khara Khanid Kindom. These events started the Turkification of the formerly Caucasian inhabitants of the south East Turkistan. Over the next 1200 years these different groups of people gradually merged together to form a nation—the modern Uyghurs. This diverse peoples and cultures formed our collective identity are still apparent today. For example, Caucasian features are still dominant among the Uyghurs in Kashgar and Hoten region, where blue or green eyes and light brown hairs are quite common, while people around Qumul and Turpan tend to have more Mongoloid features. People from different oasis wear slightly different traditional clothes, notably hats. The art of sky walking is practiced mainly in the Yengisar County of Kashgar. There is a debate about when this nation started to call themselves Uyghurs.

Uyghurs Suffering under Chinese Oppression
Xinjiang, which we call East Turkistan, is home to 9.8 million Uyghurs according to official statistics. Like the Tibetans, we have been subjected to political and religious persecution, arbitrary detention, torture, execution, racial discrimination in the areas of education, healthcare and employment, forced abortion and cultural genocide ever since the Chinese communists invaded our homeland in 1949. China flooded our homeland with Chinese immigrants and marginalized the local people. But, unlike the Tibetans we have received very little attention from the world.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., the Chinese began to justify its persecution in East Turkistan as a contribution to the global war on terror, because Uyghurs happen to be Muslim and resist the Chinese occupation of our homeland. China also used its growing international influence to secure cooperation from neighboring states to arrest and deport Uyghurs who had fled persecution.
East Turkistan is rich in natural resources. It is home to some of the biggest oil and natural gas deposits in the world, providing one third of China’s domestic supply today. However, recent economic development in the area benefits mainly the Chinese immigrants but not the Uyghurs and other local peoples. The huge oil industry basically does not hire Uyghurs. Most of the other public or private enterprises owned by Chinese also publicly say they do not hire Uyghurs. The only jobs available for Uyghur college graduates have been being teachers at Uyghur schools. Luckily, the Chinese did not learn Uyghur, otherwise these teaching positions would have been take by the Chinese as well. But, in 2002 the government declared that the Uyghur language was “out of step with the 21st century,” and started to shift the entire education system to Chinese, replacing Uighur teachers with newly arrived Chinese.
Government constantly attacks the cultural and ethnic identities of Uyghurs. The authorities organized public burnings of Uighur books. Earlier this year, the government announced plans to raze the city of Kashgar, the centuries-old cultural center of the Uighur civilization. In a few weeks, the old city will have almost entirely disappeared, forcing out 50,000 families to newly constructed, soulless modern buildings. The historical Kashgar Medres (school) where the 11th Century great scholar and linguist Mahmut Kashgari, the author of the Divani the Turk (Turkish Dictionary), attended school was demolished in summer.
Uyghurs under 18 are prohibited from practicing religion. Students and government workers are also prohibited from practicing religion. If they violate, they will lose jobs or be expelled from school. During Ramadan fasting Uyghurs are forced to eat at work places and schools. Control over religion was extended last year to prohibit traditional customs such as religious weddings and burials.
No mechanisms exist by which Uyghurs may express their grievances in response to this repression. Any Uyghur who dares to express the slightest protest, however peaceful, is immediately met with brutal force, instead of any attempt to deal responsibly with the real problems they face. As a result, tremendous amount of frustration has been building up.