View Full Version : Alim Seytoff's letter to OhmyNews: East Turkistan Terror Overstated

Uyghur News
06-09-06, 23:45
East Turkistan Terror Overstated
[Letter to the Editor] Responding to 'Terrorist Bombings Averted in Xinjiang'
Alim Seytoff (internews)

Published 2006-09-07 10:21 (KST)

I would like to make several points in response to the article "Terrorist Bombings Averted in Xinjiang," published on Sept. 4. While I am grateful to Mr. Schaefer for acknowledging that the majority of Uyghurs are peaceful, he has gotten many of his facts wrong. First of all, he has done a disservice to himself and to the millions of Uyghurs in East Turkistan (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) by taking at surface value China's claims that it has uncovered Uyghur "terrorist" plots to bomb oilfields, power plants and highways. China's state-run media consistently publishes unsubstantiated reports about terrorism in East Turkistan in order to justify its continued repression in the region.

The real threat that exists in East Turkistan is not that of Uyghur "terrorism," but rather the draconian methods being used by the Han Chinese authorities, who have carried out a systematic campaign of imprisonment, execution, birth control, and religious, educational and employment discrimination against the Uyghur people. These abuses, recognized widely by respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have only increased since the horrible September 11 attacks on the United States, as China has found the attacks a convenient excuse to increase suppression under the auspices of the "war on terror." China exploits the "war on terror" to justify its continued abuses against the Uyghurs, and to address the so-called threats of "terrorism," "splittism" and "religious extremism."

In East Turkistan, any action hinting at the slightest dissent or opposition to the status quo may be labeled as "terrorism" by the Chinese authorities. The Chinese regime is extremely reluctant to lose their grip on power in a region that is one-sixth of their total land mass, wealthy in natural resources, and provides a buffer against Central Asia, as well as a place to send hundreds of thousands of surplus workers and to carry out its lucrative, large-scale "Go West" development scheme.

There is little doubt that politically-motivated violence has been carried out against Chinese government and some civilian targets by Uyghur individuals and groups. However, there is research that claims there hasn't been an armed, politically motivated incident of violence targeting the Chinese authorities in East Turkistan since 1998. Given the Chinese authorities' controls on information, this claim is currently impossible to verify. China's own officials have wavered in the "official" statistics that they have disseminated to the public in recent years, with XUAR Party Chairman Ismail Tiliwaldi even saying in April 2004 that "In Xinjiang, not one incident of explosion or assassination took place in the last few years. [...] Last year Xinjiang's public security situation was very good." (See Xinhua, April 12, 2004) Depending on whether Chinese officials wish to entice potential investors to come to Xinjiang or to achieve their political goals of portraying Uyghurs as dangerous "splittists," such figures may vary widely and arbitrarily. Political goals are also a factor in China's linkage of al Qaeda with "terrorist organizations within East Turkistan," but China has yet to provide any evidence to substantiate claims that any violent political activists in East Turkistan are part of a broader network of international terrorist affiliations.

With respect to the 1997 riot in Yining (known by Uyghurs as Ghulja), eyewitness accounts have said that anywhere between nine and 103 people were killed when police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration (which was not a pro-independence rally, as the author stated.) The demonstration was in response to several issues, including the banning of traditional Uyghur gatherings called meshrep, important social meetings for discussing and resolving community affairs. Meshrep in Ghulja had been very successful at addressing problems which many people thought the Chinese authorities had ignored, such as alcohol and drug abuse among Uyghur youth.

Following this incident, Chinese police reportedly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of people, some who had merely gone out to search for friends and family. Witnesses have described their methods as indiscriminately violent, causing further serious injuries and deaths. For instance, according to Amnesty International's research, around 300 people were made to stand outside in winter conditions for several hours having been hosed down with water. Several people contracted frostbite and some had to have hands, feet or limbs amputated. After the Yining incident, Amnesty reported that more than two hundred Uyghurs were executed by the Chinese government within two years.

The vast majority of Uyghurs in East Turkestan, who are opposed to terrorism, observe a relatively liberal strain of Islam. Indeed, the evidence suggests that those who carry out the tiny number of violent acts in East Turkistan do so not in order to work towards a goal of a Muslim state, but rather as a spontaneous act spurred by discontent over unequal treatment (which is not to say that even this minute percentage of violent acts is at all justified, it is merely to distinguish these acts from organized acts of "terrorism" designed to destabilize and weaken a political regime).

Due to a lack of the political motivations that color China's public portrayal of the situation in East Turkistan, the many thousands of violent acts that are proven to be perpetrated throughout China proper each year are not portrayed as terrorism, separatism, or splittism. Sadly, China seems to be succeeding in unfairly using unsubstantiated claims of violent acts of terrorism in East Turkistan to fool the international community into believing in an organized terrorist threat in the region. By using the "East Turkistan terror" bogey, it is able to effectively lessen international criticism of its heinous treatment of East Turkistan's native peoples, and in fact to garner support for intensifying its suppression of the general population. Let us hope that the world will wise up to China's tricks, and to see through its curtain of lies to the real truth of China's extreme human rights violations in East Turkistan.

Alim Seytoff
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Uyghur American Association
1700 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20006
tel. 202-349-1496
fax 202-349-1491

source: http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?no=315889&rel_no=1