on an essay for the Uighur Diaspora Video Project
The broader roots of the eruption of protest in
says Yitzhak Shichor.
The reports of violence and deaths in the city of
comparatively neglected region of
and (inevitably) disputed, though the background may include the assaults on Uighur migrant workers at a toy factory in
26 June (in which two are reported dead and dozens injured).
But if the details of the immediate incident await to be confirmed, there is less doubt over the larger context of Uighur experience - both under
Chinese rule and in the exile which over many years many Uighurs have been driven towards or chosen.
Uighurs are a Turkic-Muslim ethnic group which has been living in
are now roughly equal.
Uighurs, claiming Xinjiang as their historical homeland, have repeatedly tried to gain independence and set up their own state - but just as repeatedly failed.
The world of exile
For many years
century, and have since been intensively Russified. Altogether, the Uighur diaspora may number 550,000-650,000.
Uighurs migrated from
Bughra, former leaders of the (second)
These former leaders first settled in
Uighur diaspora communities have formed their own associations (occasionally more than one) in every area they have settled. These have the aims of preserving Uighur collective identity (i.e. culture and language), and sustaining and promoting shared national aspirations - ultimately,
Most such attempts have failed to achieve the unity they sought. A movement that has a chance to survive is the World Uighur Congress, inaugurated in April 2004 in
The well of resistance
This policy appears to be more attractive to foreign governments and NGOs, which are broadly reluctant to irritate or alienate the Chinese government. Some of these governments are also facing separatist claims. In fact, it has been under Chinese threats and pressure that
western Europe and north America, far from
Some of the Uighur websites have been systematically compromised and paralysed by
A minority of Uighur diaspora organisations and leaders are more militant and consider the use of force against China as the most efficient means to change its policy (see James A Millward, Violent Separatism in Xinjiang: A Critical Assessment [East-West Center, Washington, 2004]). The majority of Uighurs, however, prefer the use of peaceful means.
It is too early to establish the precise circumstances of the turmoil in
over several generations.
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs