Olympics of Blood: East Turkistan

The Beijing Olympics in China this year brought the suffering of Tibet to the fore. There is another area in China which is suffering even more: Muslim East Turkistan (Xinjiang).

Here is a brief look at these forgotten Muslims:

East Turkistan is 1,6 million km² or one sixth of China. It lies next to Tibet. The Muslims who live there are mainly Uighurs (45% or about 10 million), a Turkic people who adopted Islam in the 900’s. Other Muslims are 13%. They used Arabic script until the Chinese forced them to use a Latin-based alphabet. They were allowed to return to the Arabic script in 1983.
Chinese Manchu rulers invaded Eastern Turkistan in 1759. This was violently opposed by the Muslims until the Manchus were expelled in 1862. The Manchus reoccupied the land in 1876.
Resistance to Chinese rule continued with 42 armed revolts between 1884 and 1949, resulting in the establishment of two states: The first, the Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkistan, was crushed in 1934. The second lasted from 1944-9. The Chinese renamed it Xinjiang.

A Human Rights Watch report tells of how Uighurs were forced to breed pigs and Musjids were shut down. Aggressive population transfer has seen the growth of the Chinese community from 6% in 1949 to 41% in 2003.

Han enterprises exercise a monopoly on most of the area's scarce resources. There has been sporadic opposition to Chinese rule. Muslims are regularly arrested and executed as ‘terrorists’. Peaceful protests are met with excessive force like in Ghulja in 1997, and Baren in 1990.

Measures used to stamp out Islam include using only state-approved Qur’aans, civil servants banned from wearing beards or scarves, banning of fasting in Ramadan, ban on Islamic schools and no under 18’s allowed in Musjids.

East Turkistan is home to the Lop Nur desert, the Chinese nuclear test grounds resulting in contamination of water sources and land leading to cancer and birth defects.

Muslim Uighurs continue to fight for liberation as Tibet does, yet they do not warrant world attention due to being Muslim. In fact the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a liberation group, is on a US and UN ‘terror’ list.

While we might freely celebrate Ramadaan, let us think of those who cannot worship Allah in peace.