Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Doubts about Uighur terrorism

My first reaction on hearing of the alleged bombing in Xinjiang was to wonder whether it had really happened. It was so convenient for the Chinese authorities that they should be seen as the victims of terrorism while the eyes of the world are on them.

Craig Murray shares these doubts - "It is entirely predictable that the Chinese government is responding by organising 'terrorist incidents' to try to blacken the Uighurs as part of Al Qaida. Do not be taken in by this rubbish" - and also explains the geopolitical background to the situation in Xinjiang :

The Uighurs are one of a swathe of Muslim peoples across Central Asia, who fell into the thrall of foreign Empires between the middles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are at least eighteen of these identifiable and mostly Turkic ethnicities, running from the Chechens in the West to the Uighurs in the East.

About half the groups who fell under Russian, then Soviet, rule are now in "independent" republics named after Turkic ethnicities. But their political, cultural and religous freedom is still generally repressed as a consequence of continued domination by Soviet apparatchik elites who cling to power through ruthlessness. Meanwhile both Russia and China keep down the Turkic ethnicities within their borders through fierce and relentless brutality.

Writing on Comment is Free, Jason Burke is less dismissive but still has his doubts:

The East Turkestan Liberation Organisation appears to be a new name – and an odd one given its 1960s nationalist, third-world sound. Claims of responsibility, videos full of boastful rhetoric and the occasional attack do not reveal much of the reality of what is going on in Xinjiang.

Nor, sadly, do the claims of government officials.

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