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This book analyses the Uyghur community, presenting a brief historical background of the Uyghurs and debating the challenges of emerging Uyghur nationalism in the early 20th century. It elaborates on key issues within the community, such as the identity and current state of religion and worship. It also offers a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of the Uyghur diaspora, addressing the issue of identity politics, the position of the Uyghurs in Central Asia, and the relations of the Uyghurs with Beijing, notably analyzing the 2009 Urumqi clashes and their long term impact on Turkish-Chinese relations. Re-examining Urghur identity through the lens of history, religion and politics, this is a key read for all scholars interested in China, Eurasia and questions of ethnicity and religion.



Introduction: The Land, the People, and the Politics in a Historical Context

The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region—or Eastern Turkistan, as the Uyghurs call it—is one of the ancient cradles of civilization. Remnants of this ancient civilization can be seen in archaeological findings and popular mummies. This introductory chapter provides a detailed geographical account and an analysis of the region within a geo-economic concept. The historic Silk Road had a great impact on the region, and vice versa. The historical context begins with the initial evidence of humans in the region, which date to more than four thousand years ago. The political struggle between Han and Xiongnu began in the second century BCE in the region. This struggle continued with different powers until modern times. The most famous struggle was “The Great Game” of the nineteenth century. This chapter describes these power struggles briefly and concludes with a glance to the developments of the region under the rule of the People’s Republic of China.
Konuralp Ercilasun

A View from the Nineteenth Century: Eastern Turkistanese-Chinese Cultural Relations in Chokan Valikhanov’s Works

Chokan Valikhanov (Shoqan Walikhanov) was well-educated, extremely knowledgeable, prominent, and distinguished Kazakh scholar, despite his very short life of 30 years. Valikhanov wrote valuable works on the social, political, ethnographic, and juridical issues of the Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs. Furthermore, Valikhanov fulfilled a difficult and dangerous duty to explore Kashgariya (Eastern Turkistan). During his trip, Valikhanov tried to observe and get to know the community. He collected significant sociocultural, geostrategic, and economic information that were based primarily on his personal observations and interviews with reliable sources. This chapter discusses Uyghur-Chinese interactions and cultural relations in the mid-nineteenth century based on Valikhanov’s travelogues. Valikhanov’s records contain data about the Eastern Turkistanese people and their lifestyles, including their physical appearance, apparel, food and beverage, trade, language, and the question of interrecognition and identification.
Güljanat Kurmangaliyeva Ercilasun

Factors and Challenges of Uyghur Nationalism in the Early Twentieth Century

The origin, formation, and strengthening of Uyghur modern identity and nationalism in the twentieth century have strong roots in the historical, political, social-economic, and cultural processes of the Uyghur homeland (or Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as known by China, who always had demographic dominance). In the formation and strengthening of Uyghur nationalism, interior and exterior factors (especially the Soviet Union) played a significant role in its political, ideological, and national strategy and its state interest provided a national delimitation policy in Central Asia. Uyghur nationalism in the twentieth century has characteristics of state and cultural nationalism, but it never took any ideological characteristics of chauvinism or racism. Uyghur nationalism always supported and called on the unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups, not only Turkic and non-Turkic, but also Muslim and non-Muslim, who were a major population of the province.
Nabijan Tursun

Religion and the Uyghurs: A Contemporary Overview

In 2010, there were approximately 9 million Uyghur Muslims. Islam has strengthened in Xinjiang since the 1980s, with devotion greater in the south than the north, and become interrelated with the growth of Uyghur ethnic consciousness. Chinese law declares religious freedom, but there are many restrictions, including bans on children under 18 entering mosques, and various religious clothing such as the burqah in public places in Ürümqi. Although Uyghur Muslims overwhelmingly abhor terrorism, authorities frequently blame the growth of separatist movements partly on Islam. Serious ethnic rioting in Ürümqi in July 2009 led on to worsening Uyghur-Han relations and terrorist incidents. Terrorism and strained ethnic relations appear to be long-term problems, but an independent Xinjiang is unlikely. Islam will survive indefinitely.
Colin Mackerras

Constructing the Uyghur Diaspora: Identity Politics and the Transnational Uyghur Community

This study analyzes how the Uyghur diasporic identity and activities evolved through various mobilizing discourses, practices, and frameworks effectuated by the elite. The activities of the Uyghur diaspora during three significant time periods were observed. The first period covers the mobilization practices of the diaspora leaders in Turkey from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The second period covers the diasporic mobilization efforts in the 1990s in Turkey and Europe, and the final period covers 2000 until now. Such an analysis allowed me to discern how mobilization practices and frameworks varied over time according to changing political opportunities in different host states. The chapter is based on fieldwork conducted in Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands, and France over a one-year period.
Işık Kuşçu Bonnenfant

Bordered Conscience: Uyghurs of Central Asia

This chapter seeks to demonstrate the importance of understanding the influence of local in Uyghur historical writing, a tradition strongly influenced by local history. The purpose is to look beyond the common perception of the Uyghurs as a minority nationality inhabiting the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. Today’s indigenous Uyghur histories of Xinjiang are seen as “local” from the Chinese perspective, which considers the Uyghurs and the province of Xinjiang to be part of the Chinese state. From the Uyghur nationalist perspective, the same history is national rather than local. The Uyghurs of Central Asia have regained attention in the context of growing interest in narratives about margins.
Suchandana Chatterjee

Dialogue of the Deaf: The Role of Uyghur Diaspora Organizations Versus Beijing

This chapter deals with the possibilities of a dialogue between Beijing and the Uyghurs, inside and outside China. During Mao’s time, such a dialogue was impossible because isolated China was immune to outside pressures and little was known about the Uyghurs. From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, when China was more dependent on the United States against the Soviet Union and more susceptible to external pressures, the dialogue opportunity was missed because the West was not interested and because the Uyghurs were not organized. Since then, the Uyghurs became organized and China has turned into a great power. While interdependent on the global community, China warned against any intervention in its internal affairs. Cautious not to upset China, the West has sidestepped the Uyghur issue.
Yitzhak Shichor

Urumqi Clashes: The Reactions and the Aftermath

This chapter analyzes the Urumqi incident and its impacts, beginning with the policies of the People’s Republic of China towards Uyghurs. It is advocated that the harsh state policies are one of the factors of the incident. The chapter also presents a detailed narrative of the Urumqi incident and a thorough analysis of the reactions. The incident caused a severe reaction from the state and a global response, including from states such as Turkey and United States, international organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and nongovernmental organizations such as the associations of the Uyghur diaspora communities. It is also stressed that several incidents have occurred since the Urumqi incident.
Erkin Emet

The Uyghur Factor in Turkish-Chinese Relations After the Urumqi Events

One of the most important issue that affect the bilateral relations between Turkey and China is the Uyghur problem. Any conflict that erupts in Eastern Turkestan will have an immediate effect on the bilateral relations and is followed by an effort to fix the damage. The Urumqi incident happened on July 5, 2009. Furthermore, the asylum demands of Uyghurs who escaped to Southeast Asia in 2014 also can be seen as an event cycle that led to problematic relations between the two countries. Turkey expects China to invest and transfer the technology it has; on the other hand, China is interested in the strategic position of Turkey. Both sides can compromise to reach their goals, but the Uyghur problem has a special place in the eyes of Turks and has not yet been solved.
Erkin Ekrem


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