Thursday, February 11, 2010

East Turkestan: Non-violence vs. Armed Insurgency & Uyghurs as a Topic of Transnational Jihadi Artwork

"We're coming, O' Beloved East Turkestan"

Hizbul Islam Turkestani [Turkestan Islamic Party; HIT], a radical Uyghur religious-nationalist group which reportedly has established ties with non-Uyghur transnational jihadi-takfiri groups such as Al-Qa'ida Central (AQC) released a new, short video yesterday via its media outlet, Sawt al-Islam [Voice of Islam]. The video, entitled Harvest of the Military Operations of the Turkestan Islamic Party against the Communist Chinese (2009), features the group's military commander, Sayfullah [God's Sword] Mansur, also transliterated as "Saifullah Mansoor", who speaks in Uyghur, a Turkic language spoken by the native people, the Uyghurs, in East Turkestan (now Xinjiang Province in China).

Comparing the occupations in the Palestinian Territories and East Turkestan

The video was released simultaneously not only in Uyghur but also with Arabic and Chinese subtitles, with corresponding PDFs. More background on the HIT, an embedded copy of the video, and hyperlinks to the Arabic, Chinese, and Uyghur-language PDFs, as well as an English translation, are included below.



The Uyghurs, a Turkic people native to East Turkestan, a region conquered by the Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong (also spelled "Tse-Tung") in 1949. The so-called Chinese People's Liberation Army and occupied Tibet the next year. In both regions, they instituted a program of settling Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in historical China, in them. The Chinese government has also attempted to create a fictitious history "tying" the Han people to Tibet and East Turkestan in an attempt to legitimate their rule.

Cyber poster about the persecution of Turkic Uyghurs in East Turkestan at the hands of the Chinese government and Han Chinese settlers, featuring Abu Yahya al-Libi. He addressed the recent uptick in persecution of Uyghurs in an October 6 video release, "East Turkestan: The Forgotten Wound."

Despite their attempts, Chinese Communist imperialism has been rejected by the native populations and the large Uyghur and Tibetan diaspora communities. Both native populations face social, political, religious, and economic discrimination, as well as territorial dispossession, from the Chinese government. I have written previously about the Uyghur nationalist struggle and the division between peaceful cultural protest and militant transnational militancy, and reproduce some of my previous post below with regard to this division.

"Patience, Our People in Turkestan...The Brigades of Tawhid [Absolute Monotheism] are Coming...", with photographs of jihadis in Pakistan, Somalia, and the Caucasus.

Generally speaking, the Uyghur nationalist movement, also popularly called the Free East Turkestan movement in Europe and the United States, is primarily composed of nationalists who seek to preserve their people's culture and history, and regain independence. However, there is also a small minority of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples who support more radical responses to Chinese imperialism. Chief among these groups is the Hizbul Islam Turkestani (Islamic Party of Turkestan), which is also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The current incarnation of the ETIM has its roots in the emergence of Uyghur religio-political activism in the 1940s and 1950s.

"East Turkestan: Occupied Muslim Land", by "Supporters"

Analysts disagree as to whether the ETIM and the Hizb al-Islam are the same group. It is also debated whether the ETIM has ties to al-Qa'ida "Central" (AQC). The Chinese government, predictably, has made such claims, as has the U.S. Uyghur fighters have been captured in Afghanistan and are believed to have traveled to Chechnya and other locations in Central, Southwest, and South Asia to participate in ongoing conflicts there.

Unlike the vast majority of Uyghur nationalists, the ETIM seemingly adheres to an ideology closer to transnational jihadi groups such as AQC, though the ETIM's focus remains focused on East Turkestan and China. This is somewhat reminiscent of groups such as those operating in disputed Kashmir, many of whom adhere to ideologies of perpetual offensive militaristic jihad but remain focused, for the time being at least, on local or regional issues. The ETIM has bases of support not only in East Turkestan but also Afghanistan and Pakistan, where it has cultivated relations with local jihadi and Islamist groups.

Cyber poster asking, "Where are the Lions (to defend the oppressed Muslims in East Turkestan)?"

The divisions in the Uyghur nationalists-separatist movement, and particularly between nationalists and transnational jihadis, can, in some ways, be seen as similar to those that exist in other national liberation struggles, such as those in Chechnya and Palestine.

The Chechen nationalist struggle, for example, has steadily been taken over by more radical ideological elements, namely transnational jihadis of the AQC variety, mostly from abroad. Many of the most powerful resistance commanders in Chechnya during the late 1990s into the 2000s were foreigners, primarily Arabs and Turks. Nationalist resistance leaders such as Aslan Maskhadov were pushed aside by radical jihadis such as Khattab (killed 2002), Abu al-Walid al-Ghamdi (killed 2004), and Shamil Basayev (killed 2006). Basayev was originally a Chechen nationalist but eventually adopted the transnational jihadi ideology of his Arab allies Khattab and Abu al-Walid. For more on the Chechen conflict, see HERE.

Hasan Mahsum, "Abu Muhammad al-Turkestani," leader of a group of Uyghur jihadis in Waziristan, Pakistan who was killed by the Pakistani military in 2003.

In the occupied Palestinian Territories, religious-nationalist groups such as HAMAS are opposed by transnational jihadi-takfiri groups, albeit small ones, such as Jund Ansar Allah, Jaysh al-Ummah, Jaysh al-Islam, and the new Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'l Jihad fi Bayt al-Maqdis [Group of Absolute Monotheism and Struggle in Palestine].

"Forgotten community among the [Muslim] Nation, East Turkestan"
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ARABIC transcript.

UYGHUR transcript.

CHINESE transcript.

ENGLISH translation, produced by Dar al-Murabiteen [roughly, "abode of the Guardians"], a shadowy translation outlet of jihadi-takfiri publications.

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