Ms. Rebiya Kadeer (Rabiye Qadir), the leader of Uighur National Movement and the Spiritual Mother of Uyghur people, as the president of the WUC.
East Turkestan covers 1.65 million square kilometers. According to official records, the original territory of East Turkestan was 1.82 million square kilometers. The neighbouring Chinese annexed part of the territory as a result of the communist invasion of 1949.East Turkestan borders with Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the west, and Tibet to the south.
Forbidden traditions: Pursuant to Article 4 of the Chinese Constitution, Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities should theoretically enjoy the right to “use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs”. This provision is reiterated in the famed – and yet-to-be-applied – 1984 Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law (Art. 10). Yet Uyghurs are not allowed to celebrate their Newruz (Uyghur new year) and traditional Meshreps (cultural festivals) have been outlawed in 1994.
Endangered language: Uyghur language (a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek) is taught as a second language in primary and secondary schools but scarcely used as Uyghurs are forced to use Chinese. According to the Human Rights Council resolution 60/251 from the UN General Assemble of June 2006, 70% of schools in East Turkestan are taught in Chinese.
Uyghur was also used as a language of instruction at Xinjiang University until 2002 when the government decided that the majority of courses should be in Chinese. The destruction of thousands of Uyghur books by Chinese authorities is another illustration of an intention to undermine Uyghur culture (Uyghur Language and Culture under Threat in Xinjiang, Michael Dillon, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst, 14 August 2002). Moreover, the aforementioned restrictions upon religious practice also have a direct impact on the transmission of the Uyghur cultural heritage.
Religion under control: In China, Imams, Lamas and Catholic clerics are ‘approved’ by Chinese authorities. A majority of Uyghurs are Muslims. Despite the provisions of article 36 of the Chinese constitution granting freedom of religion to all Chinese citizens, religious manifestations are strictly controlled. In his report after a visit to China in 1994, the United Nations Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion underlined the fact that the right to manifest one’s beliefs was not guaranteed there. Since 1994, despite numerous requests, the new Rapporteur has not been granted a visa to China.
University students are openly forbidden to fast during the month of Ramadan or to show any pious behaviour (Human Rights Watch report on Xinjiang, Oct. 2001). The content of the Friday sermon is kept under strict scrutiny by Chinese authorities who validate all quotes and interpretations of the Quran in advance. The authorities decide upon the legitimacy of religious groups, taking into account various criteria, among which: July 2005, the Xinjiang’s Yili Autonomous Prefecture decided to ban the Sala Sufi branch of Islam and detained and fined 179 followers (Human Rights Watch, China: A Year After New Regulations, Religious Rights Still Restricted, 01 March 2006).
Hajj ban: Until this summer, Chinese Muslims over 40 were eligible to apply for passports to go on the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five fundamental duties for all Muslims) but in June 2007, all passports were confiscated and Xinjiang authorities announced that only a small delegation of selected Muslims would be allowed to go to Mecca (Human Rights Watch, China: A Year After New Regulations, Religious Rights Still Restricted, 01 March 2006).
Pursuant to the 2004 Regulations on Religious Affairs, overseas pilgrimages to Mecca require a state authorization (Art. 43) and must be organized by the state-monitored national religious body of Islam (Art. 11).
Marked as ‘Terrorists’: The terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the "War on Terror" allowed the Chinese Government to start a heavy crackdown on the Uygur religion and basic freedoms under the guise that the Uygur harbour terrorist organizations. In the 2004 Amnesty International Report this is confirmed. The PRC’s change in public rhetoric about East Turkestan after 9/11 and detail the crackdowns that have led to arbitrary arrests, torture, and executions, as the PRC government has used ‘anti-terrorism’ policies to suppress all forms of Uyghur protest, no matter how peaceful.
A section of the report illuminates how authorities have targeted Uyghur intellectuals as part of their strategy to silence dissent. The cases of Uyhjur-Canadian Huseyin Celil and the attacks on the prominent Uyghur leader and human rights activis Rebiya Kadeer’s family illustrate how the PRC’d intimidation tactics extend beyond its own borders.
Environmental problems: The environmental problems were partly caused by the mass migrations of Chinese into East Turkestan. Since the population of East Turkestan had suddenly increased, the region began to face a serious water shortage. The solution that the Chinese government put into practice – the diversion of the main river system for the irrigation of the upstream areas of new settlers — turned into an ecological disaster in the whole territory, which resulted in the desertification of farms.
Despite the fierce protests of the Uyghur’s, the Chinese Communist leaders continue to order nuclear testing at Lop Nor in East Turkestan that has for three decades produced an ecological disaster endangering human life, polluting drinking water and food supplies and affecting millions of animals. According to a report released by the Registry of the Peoples Hospital of Urumchi in 1993, the rate of fatal cancer was at least 70 per day, out of an average 1,500 daily sick visits in this hospital.
East Turkestan is the homeland of the Turkic speaking Uyghurs and other Central Asian peoples such as the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tatars and Tajiks. According to latest Chinese census, the current population of East Turkestan is 18.62 million, including 7.49 million ethnic Chinese settled in East Turkestan after 1949 (the ethnic Chinese numbered 200,000 in 1949). The population of Muslims is slightly over 11 million, with 8.68 million of them being Uyghur.
However, the Uyghur sources put the population of Uyghurs around 15 to 20 million.
Uyghur is an ancient language with more than 15 million speakers by Uyghur estimates and more than 8.6 million speakers by Chinese estimates. Uyghur belongs to the Turkic branch of the Ural-Altaic family of languages. It is closely related to the languages of the Turkish, Azeri, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Tartar, Bashkurt, Chuvash, Yakutsk and other Turkic dialects.Uyghur has used several alphabets throughout its history, including forms of the Sogdian, Arabic, Latin, and Cyrillic script, with regional variations. Since 1985, the Arabic script was reinstated as the official script. There is, of course, a great difference between the old Uyghur and the present one
Contacts between Uyghurs and Muslims started at the beginning of 9th century and conversion to Islam soon followed. The city of Kashgar quickly became one of the major learning centers of Islam. Art, sciences, music and literature flourished as Islamic religious institutions nurtured the pursuit of an advanced culture. In this period, hundreds of world-renowned Uyghur scholars emerged.
The Manchu Invasion:
The independent Uyghur Kingdom in East Turkestan was invaded by the Manchu rulers of China in 1759 and East Turkestan was annexed to the Manchu Empire. The Uyghurs regularly revolted against the occupation but only achieved independence for 12 years (1864-1876). Chinese Nationalist Rule in East Turkestan:In 1911, the Nationalist Chinese overthrew Manchu rule and established a republic. The Uyghurs, who wanted to free themselves from foreign domination, staged several uprisings against the Nationalist Chinese rule during this period.
Twice, in 1933 and 1944, the Uyghurs were successful in setting up an independent East Turkestan Republic. But Nationalist forces each time managed to reestablish control Isa Yusuf Alptekin served in the government of the short-lived East Turkestan Republic in the 1940s and fled to Turkey when the Republic was crushed in a joint operation by Mao and Stalin. He kept the mindset of a diplomat and in a famous incident in 1981 played host to a delegation from the Chinese Embassy in Ankara. Isa Yusuf Alptekin died in 1995 at age 94.
In 1949, the Nationalist Chinese were defeated by the Communists. As a consequence, East Turkestan fell under Chinese Communist rule. Ever since then, the Uyghurs have been discriminated against by the Chinese Administration in all walks of life. The Uyghurs were denied representation in their own country. In the 1950s and 1960s, the central government encouraged significant numbers of ethnic Han Chinese to settle in Xinjiang to ‘dilute’ the Uyghur population and increase Beijing’s control. In the 1970s, freedoms were gradually re-introduced after the Cultural Revolution. Mosques were re-built and the Uyghurs were allowed greater freedom of movement.
In the 1990s, after the independence of the Turkic Republics of the former Soviet Union, the Turkic peoples of Xinjiang, particularly the Uyghur’s, grew increasingly discontented with Chinese rule, the economic disparity between themselves and the Han-Chinese and the marginalization of Uyghur culture. CultureAt the end of the 19th and the first few decades of the 20th century, scientific and archaeological expeditions to the region along the Silk Road in East Turkestan led to the discovery of numerous Uyghur cave temples, monastery ruins, wall paintings, statues, frescoes, valuable manuscripts, documents and books.
The manuscripts, documents and books discovered in East Turkestan proved that the Uyghur’s had a very high degree of civilization. The first Uyghur literary works were mostly translations of Buddhist and Manicheist religious books.
Prior to Islam, like most of the Turkic peoples in Central Asia, the Uyghur’s believed in religions like Shamanism, Buddhism and Manicheism. The Uyghur’s embraced Islam in 934, during the reign of Satuk Bughra Khan. He was the first Turkic ruler who embraced Islam in Central Asia. At this time, instead of temples, mosques were built. Almost 300 mosques were built only in the city of Kashgar. Most famous among them are the Azna Mosque, built in the 12th century, Idgah Mosque built in the 15h century, and Appak Khoja Mosque, built in the 18th century. In the city of Kashgar alone, there were 18 big Madrasas (mosque schools), and up to two-thousand students enrolled in these schools in any given year, these schools were one of the important facilities not only for teaching the Uyghur children reading, writing, and subjects Islamic in nature, but also such familiar subjects as mantik (logic), arithmatik (arithmetic), hendese (geometry), hai'a (ethics), astronomiye (astronomy), tibb (medicine), and falaha (agriculture). The Mesudi Library built in the 15th century, had a collection of almost 200,000 books.
East Turkestan is represented in the UNPO by the World Uyghur Congress (WUC).
Introducing the World Uyghur Congress
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is an international organization that represents the collective interest of the Uyghur people both in East Turkestan and abroad. WUC was established on April 16, 2004 in Munich, Germany, after the East Turkestan National Congress and the World Uyghur Youth Congress merged into one united organization. The main objective of WUC is to promote the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkestan.
At the second General Assembly of the WUC, which was held in Munich from November 24 to 27, 2006, delegates elected Ms. Rebiya Kadeer (Rabiye Qadir), the leader of Uighur National Movement and the Spiritual Mother of Uyghur people, as the president of the WUC.
Before Rebiya Kadeer (Rabiye Qadir) was elected as the president of WUC, she founded the “Uighur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation” and headed “The Uighur American Association” based on Washington DC. She was also the winner of Rafto Prize and the nominee for 2005-2006-2007 Nobile Peace Prize. For 5 years she spent her life in a notorious Chinese prison. After her release, she has been exerting all her energy to fight for freedom, democracy and human rights for Uyghur people. For her great work she is entitled as “The Leader and The Spiritual Mother of Uighur’s”.
At the first General Assembly of WUC in 2004 Mr. Erkin Aliptekin was elected as a president. He had lead WUC to its second General Assembly in 2006. Mr. Alptekin is a former general secretary of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) based in The Hague, the Netherlands. He has remarkable experience in working with international organizations and governments in lobbying for the Uyghur people’s right to self-determination.
He is also a close friend of the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. WUC is a democratic organization. All of WUC leadership was democratically elected by the participants from all over the world in the General Assembly. They all serve a three-year term. WUC has close contacts and working relations with most Uyghur organizations in the world that peacefully promote the human rights, religious freedom, and democracy for the Uyghur people in East Turkestan.
The main objective of the World Uyghur Congress is to promote democracy, human rights and freedom for the Uyghur people and use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine their political future. By representing as the sole legitimate organization of the Uyghur people both in East Turkestan and abroad, WUC endeavors to set out a course for the peaceful settlement of the East Turkestan
Question through dialogue and negotiation.
The WUC declares a nonviolent and peaceful opposition movement against Chinese occupation of East Turkestan and an unconditional adherence to the international accepted human rights standard as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and adherence to the principals of democratic pluralism and rejection of totalitarianism, religious intolerance, and terrorism as an instrument of policy.
'Beautiful Turkestan' see: