Uyghur Diaspora: Stranded For A Chance to Breath Free

It was late afternoon , me and my mother were preparing for dinner. It was a special day for us, my father’s birthday and we were preparing one of his favorite dishes. A sudden knock on our door turned our happiness into an urgent need to move out again.

Being a Uyghur, I have realized that we don’t have a home. No matter how hard we work, no matter if we live an honest life, it doesn’t matter if we live in a house but we can’t call any place our home. For Uyghurs, living in a house is same as living on streets. Where anyone can come and pick us up just to abandon us once again.

Though, we have our own country East Turkestan which has been under Chinese occupation since 1949 and a false name Xinjiang has been plastered on it. In order to continue its occupation, Beijing started its strike hard campaigns which destroys our mosques, culture, killing our people and is backing the silent genocide of our community. We people are forced to flea our own homes, our own land.

That day my father entered our house in UAE, telling us that a Uyghur man has been detained by the police. He was tensed and started calling other members of our community. After a week of careful discussions , it was decided that we must leave this place. Hearing this, all the memories of my last journey clouded my mind. Once again furniture was sold off, essentials were packed, friends were waved bye and duas were made to get another chance at life.

While families were singled out, my mother again handed me a mysterious bottle and told me to drink it if the circumstances demanded. This time our path was more dangerous because our guides were no other than the Human Traffickers. People who smuggle human beings and primarily sex slaves into other countries. Our fears were on its heights when we saw a family losing their daughter.

There was a family traveling with us, they didn’t had enough money and in order to get away they were forced to trade one of their three daughters. She was just 16 years old and in her hand I saw that same mysterious bottle , identical to mine. Her mother’s helpless eyes and the silence throughout the journey, still gives me sleepless nights.

It took us 15 days to finally reach our destination. In those 15 days we have been herded like sheep, slept in stables , felt threatened , afraid and begged for our lives. Shivers are still running down my spine while writing this down. Still writing this is important because millions of Uyghur refugees have left their land in search of a safe place. Many of them are now at a risk of getting departed to China. If sent back, these people will be locked up in prison and subjected to torture. Many of them could become fresh victims of organ harvesting by Chinese authorities. Being a Uyghur I must raise our voice while I still can.

We Uyghurs only want to live a free, healthy and respectful lives but is China not only denying it but also making us prisoners in our own land. The world should not watch the silent butchering of Uyghurs and stop this genocide immediately. Humanity needs to be saved right away. Otherwise the world will be left at the mercy of cruels.

Uyghur Muslims: Victims of the World’s Largest Ethnic Cleansing

Uyghur Muslims: Victims of the World’s Largest Ethnic Cleansing.


 (Pic via Radio Free Asia)

China is carrying out a systematic campaign to ethnically cleanse up to 15 million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, or rather what was East Turkistan until China began occupying and colonizing the region in 1949.

Moreover, China is sparing no effort to eradicate any memory or proof of Uyghur Muslim life. It is truly the stuff of dystopian nightmares, or a reenactment of the worst genocides carried out in the previous century. The handful of personal accounts that trickle out from behind China’s total control of the Internet and the media invoke memories of the Communist state’s darkest days — the period of the “Cultural revolution,” when religious people and sites were wiped from the country’s landscape.
For much of the 1970s and 80s, however, an increasingly open China softened its stance towards its religious and ethnic minorities, but this relative “openness” provided the space for minorities to express their economic, political, and religious grievances. When Uyghur Muslims renewed calls for a return to their independence, a status they enjoyed briefly as a sovereign state in the 1940, then known as the East Turkistan Republic, and as former neighboring Soviet states realized independence, China, fearing a growing separatist movement on its western frontier, began its crackdown on Xinjiang in the late 1990s.
China’s crackdown turned increasingly vicious when the United States declared its “War on Terrorism” in 2001, with China seizing the opportunity to erroneously portray Uyghur Muslims as one-part of the global Islamic insurgency, going so far to tie Uyghur nationalist dreams with the goals of the terror group al-Qaeda. In doing so, China gambled that it could pretty much do whatever it pleased to Uyghur Muslims, so long as it could dupe Western states into believing it, too, was at war with “radical Islam.” It’s the exact same kind of manipulative ploy successfully deployed by Israel, insofar as the manner the Jewish state mischievously conflates the Palestinian liberation struggle with “Islamic terrorism,” so it’s not like China needed to reinvent the proverbial wheel.
What began as a crackdown, however, has morphed into arguably the world’s largest state sponsored campaign of ethnic cleansing.
China has banned any form of expression of Islam in East Turkistan, forcing Uyghur Muslims to publicly denounce their faith and swear allegiance to the Communist state. Recently I posted on Twitter a video of Chinese authorities informing a group of Uyghur Muslims that it is now illegal for them to greet one another with the Islamic greeting, “Assalamu Alaykum.”
Islamic texts are also banned, including the Quran, as are beards that appear “abnormal,” i.e. too Muslim-y. Last year, China published a document titled, “Naming Rules for Ethnic Minorities,” which prohibits names associated with Islam, including Medina, Islam, Imam, Medina, Hajj, and others.
“In setting limits on the naming of Uyghurs, the Chinese government is in fact engaging in political persecution under another guise,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, told Radio Free Asia. “They are afraid that people with such names will become alienated from Chinese policies in the region.”
These are just a sample of a new tranche of restrictive and discriminatory measures that have come into force for those living in the region. Uyghur Muslims are now required by the government to have tracking devices installed on their cars and mobile phones.
But baby names, beards, and tracking devices are the least of problems faced by Uyghur Muslims in the face of brutal Chinese oppression, however. Torture, imprisonment, state sanctioned murder and forced disappearances have become the new reality in the Xinjiang area.
According to reports from human rights watchers, China has ordered its officials in Xinjiang to send almost half of its population to “re-education camps,” otherwise known as forced labor and indoctrination camps, the kind long associated with North Korea.
“We target people who are religious…for example, those who grow beards despite being young,” one Chinese government officer admitted in a report.
When I spoke to Abdugheni Thabit, a Uyghur Muslim journalist who now resides in The Netherlands, he told me that up to 1 million of his people are now in what he calls “prison camps.” Steven Zhang, a Hui Muslim who now lives in Houston, Texas, and who is suing the Chinese government for the murder of his Uyghur Muslim wife, described Thabit’s figure as “very conservative,” claiming, “Within the last 5 years at least 5 million Uyghurs were detained or secretly disappeared.”
Forced disappearances have become a notable and alarming trend in the past year or two. According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Chinese security forces have forcibly disappeared at least 26 journalists, writers, bloggers, and human rights activists alone.
“Victims are often violently abducted, denied their right to due legal process and contact with loved ones or lawyers, and are at high risk of torture while in custody,” observes The Uyghur American Association.
All of which is happening out of the gaze of the international community, thanks largely to China’s control of the Internet and social media. Thabit told me he hadn’t heard from his Uyghur Muslim family in East Turkistan since 2009 as China controls all form of communication coming out of the area. All he knows is they were still alive in 2014, the year his sister, who lives in Washington DC, visited. Again, parallels to North Korea come to mind.
The situation in Xinjiang has “further deteriorated,” according to a statement issued by the US Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) earlier this month.
“Civilians are detained without cause, ‘political education’ camps proliferate, and a vast surveillance apparatus invades every aspect of daily life. These rights violations are deeply troubling and risk serving as a catalyst for radicalization,” said CECC chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Adding to the woes of Uygur Muslims is the absence of a friend anywhere in the international system. Traditional allies Turkey and Pakistan have been brought into China’s sphere of economic influence, and wealthy Gulf Arab states are too preoccupied with Iran, Qatar, or both.
If history is a guide, and should the existential woes of the Uyghur Muslims continue to fall on the disinterested ears of the international community, then one can be sure that where Chinese “re-education” and “assimilation” programs fail, mass extermination will likely follow.

Sultan Kudarat, A Mindanao Hero, Mindanao’s Most Powerful Ruler

Sultan Kudarat, A Mindanao Hero, Mindanao’s Most Powerful Ruler

(Sultan Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat)  

Nine years after the coming of the Spanish colonizer and Captain General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to the Philippines, precisely, in the year 1580, Sultan Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat was born. This great Muslim leader ruled over his Sultanate of Maguindanao (now Mindanao) in a span of 52 years (1619-1671). His career as a ruler was considered one of the most colorful in Philippine history. He was married to one of the daughters of Sultan Mawallil Wasit of the Sulu Archipelago, who ruled over his sultanate during the early part of the 17th century. Sultan Kudarat was the contemporary of both Raha Bongsu and the latter’s son Sultan Salah Ud-Din Bakhtiar. Sultan Kudarat died at the ripe age of 91 years.

Sultan Kudarat’s domain was situated in the mainland of Mindanao covering what are now known as the three Cotabato provinces, the provinces of Bukidnon and the two Lanaos. Sultan Kudarat had also some ties with the Sulu Sultanate, he being the son-in-law of Sultan Mawallil Wasit. His prestige and influence was not only confined within his own domain. He was also widely known and respected in the ancient Sulu Sultanate as far as Sabah. He was mainly influential in creating a pervading consciousness of the Islam religion among the Muslim inhabitants of the different sultanates reaching as far as the Moluccas. Sultan Kudarat was also titled Nasir Uddin and in the 1650’s he was recognized as the most powerful Muslim ruler in the Philippines.

When Sultan Kudarat’s father, Sultan Buisan, died in 1602, he ascended to the power as Ruler of the Maguindanao Sultanate. During the reign of his father, Mindanao experienced the first attack of the Spaniards. Sultan Kudarat himself had armed encounters with the Spanish conquistadors who wanted to wrest from him the possession of his sultanate. He successfully repulsed them.

In the early part of the year 1637, Hurtado de Corcuera, Captain and Governor General of the Philippines, led personally the combined Spanish Indio forces and attacked the Muslim citadel at Lamitan near Lake Lanao. Sultan Kudarat with 2,000 native warriors met the enemy in what was considered as the bloodiest and one of the biggest battles of his career. The Muslim leader and his warriors including women and children, fought great vigor and bravery, many of them heroically dying in the struggle. Kudarat sustained a bullet wound in one arm, fought his way through the Spanish lines and escaped. His wife, clasping her baby at her breast, also ran through the Spanish lines, jumped over a cliff and eluded capture.

Sultan Kudarat rallied the other Muslim leaders to maintain their hold on the Islam Faith and to defend their respective enclaves from foreign incursions. When some of the Maranao chieftains collaborated with the Spaniards in the construction of a walled fort in the midst of the Muslim settlements, he convened them at a place and lectured to them emphasizing that they should realize the serious consequences of their collaboration with the Spaniards.

It was known that Sultan Kudarat, in his lectures to his countrymen, had the power to penetrate their innermost feelings. He said:

“What have you done? Do you realize what subjection would reduce you to? A toilsome slavery under the Spaniards! Turn your eyes to the subject nations and look at the misery to which such glorious nations had been reduced. Look at the Tagalogs and the Visayans! Do you think that the Spaniards would consider you of better stuff? Have you not seen how the Spaniards have trampled them under their feet? Do you not see how they are obliged to work at the oars and at the factories everyday with all their might and rigors? Can you tolerate anyone with a little Spanish blood to beat you up and grasp the fruits of your labor? Allow yourselves today and tomorrow you will be at the oars. I, at least, will be a pilot, the biggest favor they will allow in a ship. Do not let their sweet words deceive you. Their promises facilitate their deceits, which, little by little, will enable them to control everything. Reflect on how they dishonored even the minor promises they made to the heads of other nations until they had become masters of them all. See now what is being done to these heads and how they are being led by a rod!”

It took about three hundred years to pass before due recognition and honors were given to this very great and most valiant Muslim leader – Sultan Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat. To honor and glorify him, President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared him a national hero to be enshrined in the National Hall of Fame side by side with the other great national heroes for all generations to emulate.

Philippine history : reassessed, Abeto, Isidro Escare, University of Michigan Digital Library

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