Saturday, July 11, 2009

Muslims decry violence against Uighurs

Siraj Wahab
ALKHOBAR: A large section of Muslims yesterday offered special prayers for the well-being of their co-religionists in Urumqi and Kashgar in China’s far-west Xinjiang province. They expressed shock at the violence that is being meted out to Uighurs by Han Chinese in a region that Muslims know as East Turkestan. They prayed for peace to prevail in the region and expressed complete solidarity with the besieged people.

“The images that are coming out of Urumqi are very painful. Club-wielding Han Chinese, who are being resettled in the region, are roaming the streets. I have seen television images of Uighur women cowering in fear at the impending attacks.

“We knew not everything was all right in the Muslim-dominated province of China, but we were oblivious to the scale of the anti-Muslim sentiment there,” said Amin Nasser Kashgari, who works as a subcontractor for a water utility firm in Dammam. Amin Kashgari’s forefathers belonged to Kashgar, which is close to Urumqi and which has also been the focus of the recent troubles.

“These are very dark days for the Uighur people. It is a repressive regime in China. Remember what they did to their own people at Tiananmen Square. Uighurs are not Chinese. They speak their own language. They have their own distinct culture. This is certainly not to the liking of the Han Chinese who are being resettled in the predominantly Muslim region... Violence has been simmering in the region for a long time,” he pointed out.

Saad Muhammad Al-Qahtani, who offered Friday prayers along with a large group of faithful at a prominent mosque in Alkhobar, said China enjoyed a good reputation among Saudis. “We all know they are a hard-working people, that they are in line to become the world’s next superpower. However, this repression against Muslims in China has unnerved me. What I see and hear is beyond words. Some people in our family circle have suggested that what is happening there is certainly no different than what is happening in Palestine. It is just that the media is not fully aware of what is happening in China,” he said.

“Witnesses quoted by Arabic television channels have confirmed that demonstrators were shot and beaten to death by Chinese police, and some were even crushed under armored vehicles,” claimed an agitated Al-Qahtani. Jameel Muhammad Hotani, a young science student at a local university, said chat rooms frequented by Arabs were vociferously discussing the Uighur issue. “There is a lack of awareness about the region. Whatever information is available is available through the Western news agencies. They are basically talking about only the current troubles. There is no mention of the roots of the problem,” he said. According to Saudis of East Turkestani origin, what is happening in East Turkestan is nothing less that what is happening in Palestine. “Just as Israel is busy usurping Arab land and ‘Judaizing’ Jerusalem, China is usurping East Turkestan. In the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s China brought in millions of Han Chinese to settle them on Uighur land. A lot of these Han Chinese were basically criminal elements and they have wreaked havoc in the region,” said Abdul Qader, Jameel Muhammad’s brother.

The Hotani brothers trace their ancestry to Hotan in East Turkestan. They said their father and grandfather were among the Uighur elite. They were part of the East Turkestani government. When China flooded East Turkestan with Han Chinese, most of the Uighurs who had the resources fled the region. “It was in mid-1940s that our parents landed in Saudi Arabia. They were among so many Uighurs who were offered Saudi hospitality,” said Qader. They urged China to heed international opinion and end all violence. “We call on the Chinese government to ensure the safety of everyone living in East Turkestan,” Qader added. The violence in East Turkestan prompted Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary-General professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu to issue two statements in the last three days. He expressed deep concern at the deteriorating situation in Uighur Autonomous Region of China and in particular the loss of life in great number among the civilians and the loss of property.

Ihsanoglu deplored the climate of fear that the Uighur people are obliged to live in. He called upon the Chinese government to provide protection for the civilian population and to allow them to return to their normal life.

“It is my belief that the chronic problem facing the Uighur people could not be solved through security measures alone.”

Source : Arab News

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