Eastern Turkestan Information Bulletin Vol. 3 No. 5
Published by Eastern Turkestan Union in Europe
Eastern Turkestan Information Bulletin Vol. 3 No. 5 (October 1993)
ARE EASTERN TURKESTANIS FUNDAMENTALISTS ?
As long as the Soviet Union remained a monolithic state controlled from Moscow the peoples of Eastern Turkestan experienced a great deal of frustration when they attempted to voice their own grievances in Western countries. Since the collapse of the Soviet system and the emergence of independent states across Western Turkestan, Western press attention has increasingly focused on the situation in Eastern Turkestan. But together with the much appreciated attention to Eastern Turkestan's people, their peaceful struggle for democracy, human rights and self-determination there has arisen a tendency to use terms like "Muslims," "fundamentalists," and "Muslim separatists" in a way that encourages a misleading picture of the situation in Eastern Turkestan. Eastern Turkestan Information would like to offer a few comments intended to set some of the descriptions in a clearer light.
First, not all the peoples of Eastern Turkestan are Muslims. Situated on the historical Silk Road Eastern Turkestan connected East and West and became the seat of various ethnic and linguistic groups, cultures and religions. This variety is preserved today and includes, besides the Chinese settlers, some 17 ethnic groups following several different religious traditions. Among Eastern Turkestan's Muslims are Turkic peoples (Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tartars), Indo Europeans (Tajiks) and even ethnic Chinese (the Hui people). Buddhism is practiced by Mongols, Manchus, Tibetans and Yellow Uighurs, while many ethnic Russians are Orthodox Christians. For centuries these groups with their different cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds have lived at peace with one another. They all accept Eastern Turkestan as their Motherland and all of them share a longing for democracy, respect for human rights and self-determination.
Furthermore, although Turkestan is home to many Turkic groups, they form only a part of the 150 million Turkic people throughout the world. In the neighboring Gansu province of China there are thousands of Turkic speaking Yugurs or Yellow Uighurs who are Buddhists. There are Yakuts in Siberia, Chuvash along the Volga river and Gagauz in Moldavia, all of whom are Orthodox Christian Turkic peoples, as well as the Jewish Karaim in the Crimea and Baltic countries. The Turkic peoples of Eastern Turkestan feel themselves a part of this greater Turkic family.
It is thus incorrect to identify the Turkic peoples of Eastern Turkestan in particular, or the Turkic peoples in general, merely as "Muslims."
Second, the Turkic peoples of Eastern Turkestan, including the Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tartars, were never fundamentalists in the Western sense. A well-known Uighur religious leader recently responded to a question about fundamentalist activity in Eastern Turkestan in the following way: "To be able to become a fundamentalist first of all you have to know your religion very well. If a Muslim knows his religion very well he cannot be a fundamentalist. The Koran says: 'Don't fight one who does not fight you in your religion.' It says: All God's creatures are His family and he is the most beloved of God who doeth good to God and His creatures.' It says: 'Shall I not inform you of better acts than fasting, almsgiving and prayers? Making peace between one another. Enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.' But how many Muslims really know the essence of their religion?
"Unfortunately our people were deliberately left backward. Even today illiteracy in our country is estimated at 60 percent. In addition there have been 40 years of atheistic education. How can the Muslims of Eastern Turkestan be fundamentalists if they do not know their religion properly. We have been trying, under very difficult circumstances, to Eastern provide some Muslim Children with a progressive education. We believe that well-informed societies can make more responsible judgments about their own and world affairs, while uninformed societies may be more easily manipulated in directions threatening peace as a whole. If, after decades of atheistic education, to open a mosque, to seek a proper understanding of our own religion, or to provide progressive education to Muslim children is fundamentalism, then we are fundamentalists.
In 1992 The Turkic and Jewish world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Jewish immigration to the territories of the Ottoman Empire, one of the most theocratic states in Turkic history, which nonetheless welcomed hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492.
Third, the peoples of Eastern Turkestan are not separatists. They are not trying to curve up territories historically belonging to mainland China. Rather they are trying to end the illegal occupation of their homeland, which has historically belonged to the peoples of Eastern Turkestan. By force you may occupy someone's house, but that does not make it legal. Eastern Turkestan is not legally a part of China.
It is not only the Turkic Muslims of Eastern Turkestan who are struggling for democracy, human rights and self-determination. Buddhist Yellow Uighurs, Mongols and Tibetans, even Orthodox Christians in Eastern Turkestan are participating. Today the historically close relationship of Turkic Muslims and Buddhist Mongols and Tibetans continues to provide mutual support and protection at home and abroad. The Allied Committee of the Peoples of Eastern Turkestan, Inner Mongolia and Tibet, established in 1984, provides help wherever possible. Their biannual publication is called Common Voice.
At present, all of these groups are waging a life and death struggle for survival. They are being forced to choose between national extinction through gradual assimilation and a mortal struggle to defend their identity by heroic resistance. If they do not resist they will be assimilated in a few decades. If they resist they are labeled 'Muslim Separatists." To define this struggle, carried out with the participation of various ethnic linguistic, cultural and religious groups, as "Muslim Separatist" activity is wrong.
At certain times the people of Eastern Turkestan have, indeed, staged uprisings, and the Chinese authorities have accused Eastern Turkestanis of initiating bomb attacks. Although there have been no claims of responsibility for these attacks they were probably acts of desperation. The majority of people in Eastern Turkestan believe that they cannot use their cause to justify acts of terrorism. They know that major armed resistance would lead to the destruction of the peoples of Eastern Turkestan. They know that the Chinese government, which did not hesitate to send its army, tanks and airplanes to crush the democratic movement of students in Tiananmen Square under the eyes of the world, would not hesitate at the slaughter of Eastern Turkestanis. This was shown during the Baren uprising in 1990. To avoid providing Chinese authorities another such pretext the great majority of the peoples of Eastern Turkestan are carrying out their struggle for democracy, human rights and self-determination in a non-violent manner. They believe that under present circumstance the only alternative for the peoples of Eastern Turkestan is self-determination.
Finally, the peoples of Eastern Turkestan firmly believe that whatever injustices have been carried out in the name of religion, they are not condoned by the principle teachings of those religions. Love for humanity, peace and tolerance are at the core of all religions. Eastern Turkestanis are, therefore, troubled when some Western scholars, journalists and intellectuals confuse Muslims everywhere with the activities of extremists like Sheikh Abdul Rahman.
The total population of Muslims in world is estimated at almost one billion. More than half of these live in non-Muslim countries. Many of them are systematically persecuted, tortured or killed. Muslims in China are one example. Not only Turkic Muslims in Eastern Turkestan, but Chinese, Muslims, Mongol Muslims and Tibetan Muslims are all targets of the Chinese cultural genocide.
Sensational titles, scripts and articles are sometimes justified, and when they are objective and accurate they may be useful, but Eastern Turkestanis, like peoples throughout the world, seek the legitimate understanding of world opinion and reject categorization and superficial speculation that diminishes their human dignity.
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YUGURS APPEAL TO DALAI LAMA
Arif Ashchi, a Turkish journalist writing in the September issue of Atlas, published in Turkey, says that the Yugurs, or Yellow Uighurs, are seeking support from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
A Buddhist Turkic people, the Yugurs are closely related to the Uighurs of Eastern Turkestan and speak an older version of the Uighur language. By the 10th century most of the Uighurs in Eastern Turkestan had embraced Islam, but those living along the border areas between Eastern Turkestan and the Gansu province of China preserved their ancient Yellow Sect of Lamaist Buddhism and became known as Yugurs. According to 1990 Chinese statistics the total population of Yugurs is slightly more than 15,000. Yugurs themselves, however, claim that there are almost 15,000 Yugurs in Eastern Turkestan and thousands more in Gansu province.
According to the Atlas article, without schools in their own language their mother tongue is gradually being replaced by Chinese. Yugurs are also reported to be having difficulty educating young Buddhist monks as religious education is prohibited. Yugurs are now seeking the help of H.H.. the Dalai Lama in providing training to Yugur Buddhist monks in foreign countries in much the same way that Turkey has helped some Yakut, Chuvash and Gagauz youth studying in Orthodox Christian schools in Turkey.
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NUCLEAR TESTS DESPITE PROTEST
The London-based Verification Technology Information Center has confirmed that China conducted an underground nuclear test in Lop Nor, Eastern Turkestan, on October 5, 1993, ending an international nuclear moratorium. The test caused a tremor measuring up to 5.8 on the open-ended Richter scale with a yield in the range of 10-90 kilotons.
This was the 39th known Chinese test. Eastern Turkestanis say that almost 210,000 people in various parts of the country as a result of fallout from the nuclear testing. Today almost no one in Eastern Turkestan is completely healthy. The Lop Nor testing has reportedly caused an increase in the incidence of cancer to the point that almost one in ten inhabitants suffers from the disease.
At an international conference organized by Nevada-Semey-Lop Nor Movement in Almaty, Kazakhstan in August Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, called on China immediately to stop nuclear testing in Lop Nor. In an unusually forceful speech he said that the peoples of Eastern Turkestan were still suffering huge losses in connection with nuclear testing in that country. He said that there was particular concern about the ecological consequences of nuclear explosions at the Lop Nor test site.
A large demonstration was organized in front of the Chinese Embassy in Almaty, on October 1 calling for China to stop nuclear tests in Lop Nor, the return of Chinese settlers in Kazakhstan and respect for human rights in Eastern Turkestan.
The Almaty correspondent of the Chinese newspaper Xinxi Ribao, stated that the increasingly frequent and strident criticism of China in Kazakhstan's mass media has caused bewilderment and offense.
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UIGHUR WARNS KYRGYZSTAN
According to Interfax news agency, in a conference on the formulation of Kyrgyzstan's foreign policy held in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan on September 29, Nurmuhammed Kenjiev, chairman of Ittifak (Unity of Uighur Society in Kyrgyzstan) said that Kyrgyzstan could not afford to ignore Chinese ambitions in Central Asia. He said that China was a source of danger for the region. He quoted Chinese official documents welcoming the collapse of the USSR as the end to the threat from the north and the opening of a way into the region for China. Kenjiev, who is also a member of the Kyrgyz parliament, said that China intended to "populate" Central Asia within the next five decades and Europe five decades later. "It is with this goal in mind that the Chinese authorities encourage ethnic Chinese to settle in new Central Asian states," he said. Over 500,000 Chinese had crossed into Kazakhstan in the last three years. Some 75,000 of these had settled in Kyrgyzstan and 100,000 in Uzbekistan said the Ittifak chairman. He emphasized that Kyrgyzstan ought to protect its interests by adopting legislation regulating entering and leaving the country and the status of foreigners residing in the country. Kenjiev also said that nuclear testing in Eastern Turkestan had caused significant environmental damage in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
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CHINESE BRIBES TO KYRGYZSTAN ?
Following an ancient policy China tried to bribe Kyrgyzstan to oppose Eastern Turkestani activities on Kyrgyz territory.
According to Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen told his Kyrgyz counterpart, Ednan Karabayev, that Beijing appreciated Bishkek's opposition to activities that might hurt China. In this connection China has extended at least 5 million dollars in commodity credits to Kyrgyzstan and bilateral trade has flourished at the Silk Road town of Aksu in Eastern Turkestan bordering Kyrgyzstan.
Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz Ambassador to Ankara, meeting Mr. Isa Yusuf Alptekin at a luncheon in Istanbul, on September 24, denied that this money was a 'bribe" to oppose the Uighur activities in Kyrgyzstan. Ambassadors from other Central Asian Republics also attended the luncheon which was organized by the Eastern Turkestanis living in Istanbul to thank the Central Asian governments for their concern on human rights abuses in Eastern Turkestan.
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CHINESE MUSLIM DEMONSTRATIONS
Chinese Muslims have staged protests in Ningxia, Qinghai and Gansu Provinces, over the appearance of a book considered to be insulting to Muslims. The protests have led to clashes with security forces, attacks on official buildings and cars being set on fire. According to reports Chinese Muslims trying to go to Peking to continue their demonstration were detained at railway stations and at airports. Hundreds of Chinese Muslims were reportedly arrested and sent to political indoctrination camps.
There are officially 8.5 million Chinese Muslims. known as Hui. Their mother tongue is Chinese and most of them live in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. There are great numbers of Hui living in Gansu, Qinghai and other parts of China. Another book, "Sex Habits," published by the Shanghai Cultural House, provoked fierce demonstrations in China in May 1989 when thousands of Muslims in China staged protest marches throughout the country.
Officially China claims to have about 25 million Muslims, but independent estimates are closer to 40 million.
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KYRGYZSTAN BROADCASTS IN UIGHUR
Kyrgyz journalist Tinchik Bek has reported that Kyrgyz State radio and TV have started to broadcast in the Uighur language every Friday. Although the broadcasts are directed primarily at the 40,000 Uighurs living in Kyrgyzstan. they can be received in many parts of Eastern Turkestan.
Radio and television broadcasts from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in the Uighur language have also been strengthened recently. Uighur language broadcasts of the Kazakh and Uzbek State Radios are on a daily bases.
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The Society for Threatened Peoples organized a joint demonstration with Tibetans and Eastern Turkestanis living in Germany in front of the Chinese Consulate in Hamburg, Germany, on September 22,1993. The aim of the demonstration was to protest the illegal occupation of Tibet and Eastern Turkestan by the Chinese and the persecution of people living in these countries and to demand a boycott of the Olympic games if Beijing were selected host city. In the meantime Sidney was chosen.
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EASTERN TURKESTANI AT CONFERENCE
Mr. Omer Kanat, General Secretary of the Eastern Turkestan Union in Europe addressed a Turkic Conference held in Philipsburg, Germany, on September 22 organized by the Turkish Federation in Frankfurt. Mr. Kanat noted that after the fall of the USSR most Turkic peoples had declared their independence. The only Turkic country remaining under foreign domination, he said, was Eastern Turkestan. The peoples of Eastern Turkestan were faced with the danger of total assimilation. He said an appeasement policy was encouraging Chinese brutality in eastern Turkestan and he called on the Turkish government to adopt a more forceful policy in order to deter the persecution of the peoples of Eastern Turkestan.
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'FINAL SOLUTION' FOR TIBET
Sources inside China reveal that Chinese authorities have decided on strong measures to put an end to Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule in Tibet. These include a further flooding of Tibet with Chinese settlers and manipulation of senior religious circles to create divisions among Tibetans.
According to a press statement released by The Tibet Bureau in Geneva, the information stemmed from a secret meeting convened by the United Front, the principal body of the Chinese Communist Party which is responsible for Tibetan policies related to Eastern Turkestan and Inner Mongolia. Tibetans have meanwhile appealed to UN for intervention.
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WILL CHINA BECOME ANOTHER YUGOSLAVIA ?
According to an 86 page Chinese internal report, China will break apart like Yugoslavia soon after paramount leader Deng Xiaoping dies unless the Chinese Central government takes drastic steps to halt mounting regionalism. The report also proposed adopting a U.S. style federal system that would reshape China's rubber-stamp parliament into a more democratic institutions and create a legal framework for handling conflicts of interest between Beijing and the provinces. The report, obtained by AFP, was written by two influential Yale University-educated scholars and printed by the Chinese Academy of Science. It predicts a power struggle between Beijing and the provinces as well as inter-provincial clashes. The report was distributed to government leaders and senior lawmakers.
UNPO NOMINATED FOR NOBEL PRIZE
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire has nominated the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples organization (UNPO) for the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. The UNPO is an international organization established by nations and peoples not represented as such at the United Nations and other international organizations. This organization was founded in 1991, and consists of 45 member and observer nations and peoples who represent over 100 million persons.
In her letter of recommendation Mrs. Maguire said, 'This organization offers an international forum, a place where the 'voice of the voiceless' can be heard and action, as well as support, can be undertaken by all those committed to nonviolently working for human rights, justice and peace for the world population. Should the Nobel Committee award this organization it would be giving a voice of millions of peoples who are marginalised and therefore unrepresented by their governments.'
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The German Weekly magazine Der Spiegel (3/7/1993) published a long article on Eastern Turkestan saying that in desperation the Turkic Muslims of Eastern Turkestan are staging bomb attacks on Chinese facilities, the Tibetans are organizing secret societies and the Chinese leaders fear a major uprising in the 'minority' regions.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Aligemeine Zeitung, in an article published on 17 September 1993 briefly says that the Uighurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz of Eastern Turkestan, faced with the danger of cultural genocide, are fighting against Chinese authorities for their survival.
The Kyrgyz newspaper Kyrgzstan Medeniyeti (Kyrgyz Civilization) published a lengthy article on October 22 about the situation of the Kyrgyz living in Eastern Turkestan. The article noted that China is trying to establish good relations with Kyrgyzstan and that Kyrgyzstan was also interested in developing good neighborly relations with China. These relationships ought not, however, be unconditional, the paper wrote. They should be conditioned by China's treatment of the Kyrgyz, Kazakh and the Uighurs living in Eastern Turkestan. The reality is that these peoples continue to be persecuted, and if China is truly interested in good relations with Kyrgyzstan the repressive policy towards these peoples should first be stopped.
The aim of the Eastern Turkestan Information Bulletin is to disseminate objective current information on the people, culture and civilization of Eastern Turkestan and to provide a forum for discussion on a wide range of topics and complex issues. ETIB is published bi-monthly by the Eastern Turkestani Union in Europe(ETUE), established January 11, 1991 in Munich, Germany. Neither ETIB nor ETUE claim or accept responsibility for views otherwise identified within our pages. We hope that those using information from our publication in published works will be courteous enough to cite its source. All inquiries and contributions should be addressed to Eastern Turkestan Information Bulletin, Asgar Can, Editor, St. Blasien Str. 2, D-80809 Munich, Germany.
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Last updated 06/29/99