March 25, 2008

East Turkestan

 

 

To download the profile for East Turkestan, click on the image above

STATISTICS
(2000 Population Census)

Status: Autonomous region
Population: 19,250,000
Capital City: Urumqi
Area: 1.6 million km²
Language:  Uyghur. The official language is Chinese.
Religion: Islam
Ethnic Groups: Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Tatar, Salar, Tajik, Mongol, Hui, Manchu, Xibe, Dagur, Russian, Chinese

 

UNPO REPRESENTATION: World Uyghur Congress

East Turkestan is represented at the UNPO by the World Uyghur Congress (WUC).  They were a founding member of UNPO in 1991.


OVERVIEW

East Turkestan is a large, sparsely populated area, covering 1. 6 million km². It accounts for more than one sixth of China's total territory and a quarter of its boundary length. Located in Central Asia, it is bordered by Russia in the north, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the west, Afghanistan to the southwest, Pakistan, India and Tibet to the south, China to the east and Mongolia to the northeast.

The name “Turkestan” is Iranian in origin, meaning “land of the Turkic peoples” and dates back to the 5th century. The western part of Turkestan was gradually conquered by the Tsarist Russia in 1865, after which it became known as Western Turkestan. After the formation of the Soviet Union in 1924, the Western Turkestan was divided into five republics: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.  The eastern part of Turkestan had been invaded by the Manchu rulers of China in 1876, and was named East Turkestan. It is the cradle of Uyghur history, culture and civilization.

The number of people living in East Turkestan is a matter of considerable debate. No satisfactory census of population has ever been made. According to the latest Chinese census the present population of East Turkestan is slightly over 19 million.  Of that they state Uyghurs make up 9 million, Chinese 7 million, Kazaks 1.5 million, Kyrgyz 170 thousand, Hui 800 thousand, Mongols 170 thousand, Manchu 22 thousand, Xibe 40 thousand, Tajik 40 thousand, Uzbek 15 thousand , Tibetans 6 thousand, Tatars 5 thousand, Dagur 7 thousand, Russians 10 thousand, other smaller groups 10 thousand. Uyghurs, however, dispute these figures claiming the Uyghur population to be around 20 million.


POLITICAL SITUATION

Although East Turkestan is called “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” there is no self-rule or self government for the Uyghurs. More than 90 percent of all important political, administrative and economic bodies in East Turkestan are occupied by Chinese employees. For instance, the Regional Party Standing Committee, which is the ruling body of the Regional Party Committee, has 15 members. Only three of them are Uyghurs and ten are Chinese. The same over representation of Chinese is in evidence in the Regional Communist Party Central Committee and the Peoples Regional Government. Several seemingly important positions have been given to Uyghurs, but their authority is consistently undermined. Chinese “Divide and Rule” policies have divided the indigenous peoples of East Turkestan, such as the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tatars into separate “provinces”, “counties, and “townships. 


UNPO PERSPECTIVE

The UNPO condemns the longstanding oppression of the Uyghur population in East Turkestan. UNPO deplores the non-adherence of the Chinese authorities to the safeguards of freedoms including those of expression, demonstration, assembly, religion and person contained within the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. UNPO also deplores the population transfer policies of the People’s Republic of China which is intended to dilute the culture of the Uyghur population and fragment their unity.


UNPO MEMBER PERSPECTIVE

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is the major international body that represents Uyghurs living at home and abroad.  It is officially registered under the law of the Federal Republic of Germany. The permanent General Secretariat of the WUC is in Munich, Germany and the current President is Ms. Rebiya Kadeer.
The stated objectives of the World Uyghur Congress are to promote democracy, human rights and freedom for the Uyghur people using peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means such as collaborative dialogue to determine their political future.

The WUC promotes the adherence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and promotes democratic pluralism. Above all, freedom of religion, freedom of media and expression and freedom of person are viewed as absolute and non-negotiable rights owed to every citizen, regardless of ethnicity.


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

EARLY HISTORY

From ancient times East Turkestan was the seat of various Turkic states founded in Central Asia, within the borders of various Turkic Dynasties such as the Hun (220 B.C.-386 A.D), Tabghach (386-534), Kok-Turk (552-744), Uyghur (744-840), Idi-kut Uyghur Kingdon (850-1250),  Karakhanid  (840-1124) and the  Uyghur-Mongol Confederation (1218-1759)

The Chinese, seizing opportunities created by the occasional weakening of such states launched six major invasions on East Turkestan between 104 B.C.  and 744 A.D.  But these invasions activated no permanent success, until the last invasion in 1876.  After this invasion, East Turkestan was given the name “Xinjiang”, meaning “New Dominion” and it was annexed into the territory of the Manchu empire on November 18, 1884. 

In 1911, the Nationalist Chinese, under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, overthrew the Manchu rule in China and established a republic. The Nationalists then claimed East Turkestan even though the link between the two nations had been merely a shared colonial presence of the Manchu.

Between 1863 and 1949 the Uyghurs staged 105 major uprisings against the Manchu and later the Nationalist Chinese to regain their lost independence. Three times, in 1863, 1933 and 1944, these uprisings were successful and an independent state of East Turkestan was established. The independent state which was founded under the leadership of Yaqub Begh in 1863 was acknowledged by Tsarist Russia, Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire. But these states were short lived.

In 1949, the Nationalist Chinese were defeated by the Chinese Communists, but the Chinese Communists continued the assimilationist policies towards the Uyghur people.

Under the pretext of “socio-economic reform” 96.9 percent of the more numerous Uyghur inhabited areas were driven into 30,000 separate communes, to weaken traditional family bonds. Under the pretext of “land reform”, private land, property and animals were confiscated. Most of the fertile land in the country was given to Chinese settlers. Under the pretext of “eliminating the “remnants of the past” millions of valuable books written in Uyghur language were destroyed. In the city of Urumqi alone, 370.000 books were burned.  Teaching Uyghur history, culture and civilization was banned and Uyghur children were transferred to Chinese language schools. Muslims were prohibited from fulfilling their religious duties under the pretext that “attendance of prayers hindered production”. More than 29.000 mosques were destroyed.

Between the years 1950 and 1972, 360 thousand Uyghurs were killed during protests and short-lived uprising. More than 200 thousand Uyghurs fled to neighbouring countries and more than 500 thousand were driven into the 19 hard-labour camps in East Turkestan.

RECENT HISTORY

As a result of political oppression, cultural assimilation, economic exploitation, ecological destruction and racial discrimination anti-Chinese demonstrations, uprisings and even bombings broke out in many party of East Turkestan in the 1980s.

In  1985 thousands of Uyghur students staged a peaceful demonstration in Urumqi, the capital of East Turkestan,  demanding self-rule, democratic election of their leaders to replace Chinese official assigned by Beijing, economic self-determination, increased opportunities for Uyghur education  at home and abroad, and an end to nuclear testing in East Turkestan.

In 1989, Uyghurs and Kazaks staged a demonstration in Urumqi following the publication of “Sexual Customs”, a book written by a Chinese author that defamed Islam.

In 1990 Uyghurs staged a demonstration over suspension of a Mosque in the township in Baren.

In 1995 riots broke out in the city of Hotan after Chinese authorities arrested an Imam.

In 1996, Uyghur farmers staged series of demonstrations in the cities of Kashgar, Yarkent, Kargalik and Hoten, southern East Turkestan, complaining about their miserable situation.

In 1997 series of protests launched in Ili, northwest of East Turkestan, demanding self-rule, equal opportunity and respect for human rights.

On June 6, 2001, more than 2,000 Chinese students attacked 100 Uyghur students at Changan University in Xian, and as a result several Uyghur students were severely injured. The Chinese students blocked the dormitory of Uyghur students and are said to have incited the Uyghurs by shouting slogans like “make Uyghurs slaves forever”, “take Uyghur women as prostitutes  for generations”, and “ Xinjiang pigs go home”.

After the terroristic attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, the Chinese authorities started to brand the Uyghurs as “terrorists”. Despite concerns expressed by the international community, the Chinese authorities are continuing to use the war against international terrorism as an excuse to launch massive crackdown on Uyghurs. In 2006, the Human Rights Watch reported that “China has opportunistically used the post-September 11 environment to [...] claim that individuals disseminating peaceful religious and cultural messages in Xinjiang are terrorists who have changed tactics.”

Chinese authorities claimed that hundreds of Uyghurs were residing in Afghanistan in the training camps linked to Al Qaeda. Twenty two Uyghurs were captured in Afghanistan and taken to the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After seven years of detention and interrogation, the Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo were declared not to be a threat to the United States or any other country. Five Uyghur detainees were resettled in Albania in 2006 and have never been involved in any criminal activity but Albania refused to take any more inmates for fear of total disintegration of economic ties with China. Bermuda accepted four detainees in June 2009, causing friction with the UK government since it is a British Overseas Territory. Palau is finalising the resettlement of all the remaining Uyghur detainees. They were not “linked to the Al Qaeda training camps” as the Chinese authorities have claimed, but they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The most recent racial killings took place on June 26, 2009, at a toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdon province of China. A massive Chinese mob attacked Uyghurs working in the toy factory. The official Chinese media reported that during the attack only two Uyghurs were killed. Jonathan Watts, a correspondent of the Guardian newspaper, reported about an interview with a Chinese man who was involved in Shaoguan racial killings and who stated that he personally “helped to kill seven or eight Uyghurs, battering them until they stopped screaming”. He also added that the death toll could be around 30.

Uyghur students organized a peaceful demonstration in Urumqi, the capital of East Turkestan on July 5, 2009, to express discontent with the Chinese authorities’ response to the beating and killing of Uyghur workers at the toy factory. The protesters intended to seek justice for the victims in Saoguan and to express sympathy with the families of those killed and injured.  Chinese security forces opened fire upon the demonstrators. The Chinese authorities claimed that 12 Uyghurs were killed during the clashes. But family members relayed information to their family members in the diaspora that the Chinese security forces together with the Chinese mobs killed more than 1,000 Uyghurs, arrested around 5000 and injured more than 3,000 in the days of unrest that followed.


CURRENT ISSUES

1. Population Policies
 
In order to completely assimilate East Turkestan into China, millions of Chinese are being settled in this country. Before 1949 there were only 300,000 Chinese in East Turkestan. According to the Chinese statistics now it is 7 million. Observers, however, believe that this figure is much higher.

Almost 250,000 Chinese are being settled in East Turkestan every year and contrary to “one child” policy in existence across mainland China, Chinese settlers in East Turkestan are allowed to have more children. At the same time, coercive birth control is being carried out among the Uyghur women to restrain the growth of Uyghur population.

2. Arrests

According to Amnesty International, in the year of 1997 alone, more than 100,000 Uyghurs were arrested throughout the country. It has also been reported that between January and June, 1998, hundreds of Uyghurs were detained under suspicion of planning “separatist” activities. According to Amnesty International, since September 11, 2001, the Chinese authorities have arrested more than 3,000 Uyghurs. Reuters quoting Xinjiang Daily reported on January 21, 2006 that in 2005 alone, 18,000 Uyghurs were arrested accused of being “separatists”, “religious extremists” and “terrorists”. According to unconfirmed reports however, the figures of arrested people in East Turkestan is much higher. According to one source, more than 5,000 Uyghurs have been arrested after the turmoil in Urumqi on July 5-6, 2009.

3. Torture
 
When in detention, Uyghurs are regularly subjected to torture. Dr. Manfred Novak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, stated that “torture in China is still wide-spread” and groups including Uyghurs and Tibetans “have been particularly targets of torture”. Dr. Novak made this revelation after visiting detention centres in East Turkestan, Tibet and Beijing. A U.N. statement later said that over the years Chinese authorities have used electric shock batons, whips, hoods or blindfolds, needles, and hot oil to torture prisoners amongst other forms such as sleep deprivation, water submersion and bodily mutilation. Sources have reported that since 2000, almost 190 Uyghurs have died as a result of torture in Chinese prisons in East Turkestan. The most prominent among them was Abdulmejit Abduhalil, the leader of the Ili demonstration on February 5, 1997. He was tortured to death on October 17, 2000.

4. Execution and Extra Judicial Killings

Amnesty International reports that the death penalty is extensively used in East Turkestan and the number of death sentences imposed in East Turkestan is significantly higher than in the rest of China. Amnesty International also believes that many of those executed have been victims of extra-judicial executions or deliberate killings. According to a CNN report on December 9, 1997, 1,000 Uyghurs have been executed in East Turkestan in 1997 alone. According to confirmed reports, between January and September 1998, 55 Uyghurs were executed. Amnesty International has reported that after September 11, 2001, more than 200 Uyghurs were executed on political grounds while 50 Uyghurs were sentenced to death for so-called “separatist” and “terrorist” activities. According to Reuters and AFP on August 17, 2004, four more Uyghurs were executed. These kinds of executions and deliberate killings are still continued in many parts of East Turkestan.

5. Religion

The Chinese government is directing a crushing campaign of religious repression against the Uyghurs. According to a report released by Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China on April 11, 2005, “the world-wide campaign against terrorism has given Beijing the perfect excuse to crack down harder than ever in East Turkestan. Other Chinese enjoy a growing freedom of worship, but Uyghurs, like Tibetans find that their religion is being used as a tool of control.” Most recently the Chinese authorities have also tightened curbs on Uyghurs, banning any government official, state employees, Party members, children, and in some cases women from entering the mosques. At present, the number of mosques in East Turkestan is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Muslims. Building of new mosques has been prohibited. There are no private religious schools and private religious instruction is banned. There is a shortage of well educated clerics, Korans and Islamic publication.

6. Sinicization Policy

A fierce campaign is being conducted to weaken the Uyghur language and increase the level of Chinese spoken in the region. Prior to the Chinese occupation of East Turkestan, the literary language of the Uyghurs contained no Chinese loanwords. Now, a large number of Chinese words have been introduced into Uyghur vocabulary, and several thousand Uyghur words have been removed stating that they are “not favourable to the socialist construction”, or inhibit “national unity”. Uyghur language schools have been banned, or merged with Chinese language schools, and Chinese has been imposed as the language of instruction. Young Uyghur children are being sent to mainland China to learn Chinese. Throughout the country hundreds of thousands of books written in Uyghur language have been burned.

7. Economic Policy

The ever-increasing Chinese population in East Turkestan has brought about widespread unemployment amongst the Uyghur population. The Chinese have taken control of most political and economic platforms. As a result, there is very little unemployment among the Chinese, but Uyghurs unemployment is growing at an alarming state. Despite East Turkestan’s natural wealth, the Uyghur people live more or less at mere subsistence level with almost 80 percent living below the poverty threshold.

According to a report released by the “Xinjiang Provincial Government” on October 2004, the average income of the Chinese settler in East Turkestan is four times higher than that of a Uyghur. Almost 85 percent of the Uyghurs are farmers. According to the same official report, the average annual income of a Uyghur farmer is 820 Yuan (US$100) whereas a Chinese farmer in East Turkestan earns an annual income of 3.000 Yuan (US$ 400). Most private businesses are contracted to the Chinese. The rich resources of East Turkestan, including oil, gas, uranium, gold and silver reserves are transported to mainland China. The exploitation of these natural resources is strictly controlled by the Chinese Central Government. The Uyghurs have no control over these resources; they have no access to information on profits generated by these resources and have no chance to benefit from their own wealth.

8. Health Care and Nuclear Testing

Health care in East Turkestan for the Uyghurs is basic. In the majority of hospitals, there are no operating tables, gynaecological equipment or disinfectant. At best, some antibiotics or TB medication are available. Almost all the doctors working in hospitals in East Turkestan are Chinese and do not speak Uyghur so cannot communicate with the Uyghur patients who in turn, have difficulty explaining their problems. In recent years, cholera, leprosy, hepatitis, and HIV have become common medical problems.

The Chinese nuclear testing in East Turkestan over the past three decades continues to produce ecological disasters that pollute drinking water and food supplies, affect livestock and endanger human life. According to various sources in East Turkestan, babies with horrible deformities continue to be born. Tragically, the polluted districts bordering the nuclear test site still do not even receive elementary medical aid. After the nuclear tests in East Turkestan, no medical investigations have been carried out until now.

9. Media Freedom

International media outlets face huge obstacles to working in the region.  Information is strictly controlled by the State and so accurate statistics or reports are hard to come by. Chinese authorities are willing to issue incorrect or false information in order to block issues pertaining to East Turkestan from becoming known on an international scale as made evident in a secret document of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The document, entitled “Defending the Stability of Xinjiang, adopted on March 19, 1999, briefly states that, “…through disinformation, prevent by all means, the separatist forces from making the so-called East Turkestan problem international”.

10. Disinterest of the International Community

In contrast to other violations of human rights around the world, the international community has been relatively inactive in issues pertaining to East Turkestan.

During the latest Chinese massacre of Uyghurs on July 5-6, 2009, in Urumqi, the United States adopted a mild tone. President Barack Obama called on all parties in East Turkestan “to exercise restraint”. What reaction there has been came from some Islamic countries. The Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which represents 57 Islamic governments, condemned what it called the excessive use of force against Uyghur civilians. The country that has taken the strongest position is Turkey, who share historical, cultural linguistic ties with the Uyghurs. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan characterized the events as a “kind of genocide” and said that his country would bring the matter up in the United Nations Security Council.


KEY QUESTIONS

1. What triggered the violence in Urumqi in June and July 2009?

Violence and deaths in the city of Urumqi was partly sparked by the deaths of two Uyghur migrant workers in clashes with Han Chinese at a factory in southern China in June 2009. On 5 July 2009, Uyghur students conducted a peaceful protest on the streets of Urumqi to request an inquiry into the killings. Protestors carried Chinese flags to firmly rebuff accusation of separatist intention. However, police fired indiscriminately on the protestors, which led to several days of violence and killings.

State-controlled media report that fewer that 200 people were killed, the majority of whom were of Chinese ethnicity, but internal sources state that up to 1000 may have been killed, the vast majority of whom are actually Uyghur. Several more thousands were injured or detained.

More fundamental reasons for the violence in East Turkestan include deep seated discrimination and marginalization. Being under strict control from the Chinese Government and having endured systematic attempts to dilute the culture and political and economic power of the Uyghurs has led to increasing tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese.

As has happened in the past, Chinese authorities blamed "foreign forces" for the June, July unrest in East Turkestan. This time they placed full blame on the president of the WUC, Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in exile in the US. "Rebiya had phone conversations with people in China on 5 July in order to incite," Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri said in a televised address. Later, Rebiya Kadeer told the BBC she was not responsible for any of the violence. "Last time during the Tibet riots, [the Chinese Government] blamed the Dalai Lama, and now with the Xinjiang riot, they are blaming me," she said.

2. What concerns do the Chinese have about the Uyghurs?

According to Beijing, Uyghur militants are waging a violent campaign to achieve the status of an independent state. With the help of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Government claims that the Uyghurs form a growing threat to China and its government by plotting bombings, sabotage and civic unrest.

During the past 60 years of Chinese Communist rule, the Chinese authorities have branded Uyghurs as “Agents of the American paper tigers”, “Puppets of the Soviet hegemonies”, “Pan-Turkists”, Pan-Islamists”, “Counter-revolutionaries”, “Splittists”, “Separatists”, “Islamic fundamentalists” depending on which slogan suited Beijing’s political agenda.

Since the 9/11 attacks in the United States of America, China has increasingly portrayed the Uyghurs as auxiliaries of Al Qaeda. The people of East Turkestan continue to be arrested, tortured and executed on political grounds. According to Amnesty International, more than 3,000 Uyghurs have been arrested by the Chinese authorities between 11 September 2001 and March 2006. Professor Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said in The New York Times of 8 July 2009 that Al Qaeda ideologues argue that the next enemy of the Muslims is the multi-headed dragon (China), which is an emerging superpower. The Chinese Government claims indeed that Uyghurs have received training, weapons, finance and ideology from Islamist militants in neighbouring Afghanistan. It states that they fight both in tribal Pakistan and in Afghanistan. However, very little public evidence has been produced in support of these claims.

Twenty two Uyghurs were captured by the US military after its invasion of Afghanistan. And although they were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for six years, they were never charged with any offence. Most have been resettled elsewhere with the remaining detainees to be resettled in Palau.

Chinese authorities claimed that hundreds of Uyghurs were residing in Afghanistan in training camps linked to Al Qaeda. Twenty two Uyghurs were captured in Afghanistan in the years following the September 11 attacks and taken to the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After seven years of detention and interrogation, the Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo were declared not to be a threat to the United States or any other country. Five Uyghur detainees were resettled in Albania in 2006 and have never been involved in any criminal activity but Albania refused to take any more inmates for fear of total disintegration of economic ties with China. Bermuda accepted four detainees in June 2009, causing friction with the UK government since it is a British Overseas Territory. Palau is finalising the resettlement of all the remaining Uyghur detainees. Rather than be linked to terrorist groups, they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

3. What complaints have been made against the Chinese in Xinjiang?

The Uyghurs' religious, commercial and cultural activities have been gradually curtailed by the Chinese state. Over the last 60 years, the ethnic Uyghur community has endured systematic attempts to dilute their centuries-old culture through population policies and cultural and linguistic clampdowns. The Chinese Government has encouraged the mass migration of Han Chinese to Xinjiang and religious freedom, despite its proclaimed protection in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China remains seriously curtailed.

 Chinese racial discrimination towards Uyghurs has escalated in recent years. The Chinese authorities continue to make territorial claims on East Turkestan but treat Uyghurs as foreigners. Despite their rich civilization, the Uyghurs are still treated as “barbarian”, “dirty”, “primitive” and “backward”. 

Millions of Chinese have settled in East Turkestan over the last 60 years, but Uyghurs must obtain special, rare permits to settle in China.  Chinese settlers in East Turkestan benefit from lucrative business and empoyment opportunities in East Turkestan, which are not available to uyghurs in China. 

In recent years, Chinese authorities have demolished hundreds of Uyghur enterprises in various parts of mainland China, harassed Uyghur entrepreneurs and deported them to East Turkestan.  Uyghurs are discriminated against even when travelling on business to China, and forbidden from staying in top class hotels. 

Uyghur students relocating to China’s inner provinces to study are subject to racial discrimination, both by Chinese students and authorities.   On June 6, 2001, more than 2,000 Chinese students attacked 100 Uyghur students at Changan University in Xian, and as a result  several Uyghur students were severely injured.  The Chinese students blocked the dormitory of Uyghur students shouting slogans like “make Uyghurs slaves forever”, “take Uyghur women as prostitutes  for generations”, and “ Xinjiang pigs go home”.

The crackdown on the Uyghurs intensified after the street protests in the 1990s and again in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. Over the past decade, many prominent Uyghurs including Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, WUC President, have been imprisoned or have sought asylum abroad after being accused of terrorism.

The most recent racial killings  took place on June 26, 2009, at a toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdon province of China.   A Chinese mob attacked Uyghurs working in the toy factory. The official Chinese media reported that during the attack only two Uyghurs were killed.  Jonathan Watts, a correspondent of the Guadian newspaper, interviewed a Chinese man involved in Shaoguan racial killings who stated that  he personally “helped to kill seven or eight Uyghurs, battering them until they stopped screaming”. He also  added that the death toll could be around 30. 


CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT

RELIGION

Prior to Islam, the Uyghurs believed in religions like Shamanism, Buddhism and Manichaeism. Buddhism entered East Turkestan at the beginning of our era. It quickly spread among the Uyghurs. The Uyghurs embraced Islam in 934, during the reign of Satuk Bughra Khan, the Karakhanid ruler. He was the first Turkic ruler to embrace Islam in Central Asia.

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

The main language spoken in East Turkestan is Uyghur. With some minor dialect differences the Uyghurs can communicate with the Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and the Tatars.

Over several centuries, Uyghurs have used three kinds of scripts. When they were confederated with the Kök-Türks in the 6th and 7th centuries, they used the Orkhun script. Later, the Uyghurs adopted their own script, used not only by Turkic peoples, but also by the Mongols and the Manchu in the early stage of rule in China. After embracing Islam in the 10 century, the Uyghurs gradually adopted the Arabic alphabet, but common usage of Arabic script came only in the 11th century. Uyghurs of East Turkestan are still using Arabic alphabet.

The first Uyghur literary works were mostly translations of Buddhist and Manicheist religious text books. Later, narrative, poetic and epic works of Uyghurs were also discovered, some of which were translated into German, English and Russian. After embracing Islam, hundreds of Uyghur scholars emerged and hundreds of books written. Some of these works include Uyghur scholar Yusuf Has Hajip’s work entitled Kutatku Bilik, Mahmt Kashgari’s Divan-I Lughatit- Türk and Ahmet Yüknekis’s Atabetül Hakayik .

NATURE AND ENVIRONMENT

East Turkestan is also home to powerful rivers, hot desert, steppe mountains and plateau. East Turkestan is home to three of the largest mountain ranges in Asia: the Altay, the Tengri Tagh (Celestial or Heavenly Mountain), and the Karanlik Tagh (Kunlun Mountain). Tengri Tagh , runs through the middle of the country and divides East Turkestan into two parts.

East Turkestan’s climate is continental. During the day it is very hot and during the night it is quite cool. The average temperature in summer is around 30 degrees Centigrade. In winter it is around minus 16 degrees Centigrade.

NATURAL MEDICINE

The Uyghurs had an extensive knowledge of medicine and medical practice. Sung Dynasty (906-960) sources indicate that Uyghur Physician, Nanto, travelled to China and brought with him many kinds of medicines not known to the Chinese. There are 103 different herbs for use in Uyghur medicine  recorded in a medical compendium completed by Li Shizhen (1518-1593), a Chinese medical authority. Tatar scholar Prof. Rashid Rahmeti Arat has written  two valuable books in German “Zur Heilkunde der Uyghuren” or Medical Practices of the Uyghurs in 1930 and 1932, relying on documents discovered in East Turkestan. Among the documents he studied he found a very important sketch of a man with an explanation of acupuncture. Relying on this document, some western scholars write that acupuncture was actually a Uyghur discovery.

 

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