Kazakh Uighurs Feel Threat from China

July 9, 2007

Author: Natalia Antelava

Source: BBC News


On a rainy afternoon, in a village near the Kazakh-Chinese border, an engagement party brought two families together.

Women in colourful traditional dresses brought out dishes of meat and rice.

As the feast went on, guests toasted the new family and the future, but the songs they sang were about the past, and the land their ancestors had lost to China.

Uighurs, who are ethnically Turkic Muslims, share a history in which victims outnumber heroes, and stories of persecution overshadow tales of greatness.

For centuries, Uighurs fought the Chinese over the land they call Eastern Turkistan. But on the map it is called Xinjiang, and it lies in the north of China.

Over the past 200 years, millions of Uighurs fled wars and persecution and settled in Central Asia, but they never gave up the dream of their own land.

And that is a problem for Beijing. As some Uighurs continue to call for greater autonomy from China, Beijing says that their separatism is breeding terrorism.