Saturday, July 25, 2009

Crash Tutorial on Xinjiang

A particularly high cost government (China) "response"/"crackdown" to rioting by an ethnic minority (the Uighurs, or Uyghurs) is properly big in the news presently.

It is often the case that once tragedy strikes, it becomes too late for us to brush up (or learn for the first time) background to help us understand events in areas outside our general knowledge, because writing becomes too heated, biased, and agenda laden.

These Ürümqi riots that broke out on 5 July 2009 have a great many important implications including historically, religiously, and world-power-relations-wise.

I have assembled one or two articles with good balance and sound information, to help Leaves readers think well in the midst of the flurry of articles that will properly dominate the news in coming days or perhaps longer.

Here is the first, post-raw-breaking-news article that now reports on stage two, the call for an investigation.

clipped from

Rights groups press for probe of Uighur deaths in China

WASHINGTON — Three weeks after ethnic violence rocked Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang province, official Chinese news sources are carrying upbeat headlines and photos of smiling Uighurs on the streets, assuring readers that things in western China have returned to normal. On Friday, however, Chinese officials pledged to crack down with an "iron fist" on Uighurs who challenge the authorities.

"We will keep to the policy of launching 'pre-emptive strikes' against and cracking down on enemies with an iron first to curb violent criminality," Nur Berkri, the chairman of the regional government, said Friday, according to Xinhua, the official news agency.

The Chinese government said that 197 people were killed and more than 1,600 injured; Kadeer thinks that the numbers are much higher.

blog it

Where is this?

Look here:
and here:

Next I would like to draw your attention to two articles that are quiet in tone, and very helpful to provide background and context to help understand the recent history pertinent to the outbreak of the riots that drew such intense government fire.

The first is from Ariana Eunjung Cha of the Washington Post Foreign Service
URUMQI, China -- When the local government began recruiting young Muslim Uighurs in this far western region for jobs at the Xuri Toy Factory in the country's booming coastal region, the response was mixed.

But others, like Safyden's 21-year-old sister, were wary. She was uneasy, relatives said, about being so far from her family and living in a Han Chinese-dominated environment so culturally, religiously and physically different from what she was accustomed to. It wasn't until a local official threatened to fine her family 2,000 yuan, or about $300, if she didn't go that she reluctantly packed her bags this spring for a job at the factory in Shaoguan, 2,000 miles away in the heart of China's southern manufacturing belt.

The origins of last week's ethnically charged riots in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang region, can be traced to a labor export program that led to the sudden integration of the Xuri Toy Factory and other companies in cities throughout China.

Uighur protesters who marched into Urumqi's main bazaar on July 5 were demanding a full investigation into a brawl at the toy factory between Han and Uighur workers that left two Uighurs dead. The protest, for reasons that still aren't clear, spun out of control. Through the night, Uighur demonstrators clashed with police and Han Chinese bystanders, leaving 184 people dead and more than 1,680 injured in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's modern history. Two Uighurs were shot dead by police Monday, and tensions remain palpable.

Both Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of the country's population and dominate China's politics and economy, and Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking minority living primarily in China's far west, say anger has been simmering for decades.

By moving Uighur workers to factories outside Xinjiang and placing Han-run factories in Xinjiang, Chinese officials say, authorities are trying to elevate the economic status of Uighurs, whose wages have lagged behind the national average. But some Han Chinese have come to resent these policies, which they call favoritism, and some Uighurs complain that the assimilation efforts go too far. Uighurs say that their language is being phased out of schools, that in some circumstances they cannot sport beards, wear head scarves or fast as dictated by Islamic tradition, and that they are discriminated against for private and government jobs.

The second is from The New Atlanticist Policy and Analysis Blog,by Griffin Huschke:
With recent violence in China’s western province of Xinjiang, Washington is increasingly ensnared in events dealing with the Uyghur community in China. However, many questions remain about the true goals of this Turkic ethnic group: are they terrorists bent on overturning law and order, or freedom fighters trying to throw off the yoke of a repressive government?

The quick answer is “neither.” Making any generalizations about a population is, of course, difficult: Uyghurs are geographically and culturally diverse. In order to understand the conflict that recently flared in Xinjiang, it is important to note not all Uyghurs see themselves as such. Data gathered by Professor Justin Rudelson show that many Turkmen identify with labels that correspond to their home town or religion as opposed to ‘Uighur.’ Rudelson showed that the concept of a Uyghur ethnicity is often a fuzzy, particularly in the lower and middle classes.

This lack of a Uyghur identity is due to hundreds of years of separation resulting from formidable natural barriers. While those of the same ethnicity had settled around the region, the vast desert and rugged mountains sometimes made travel outside Xinjiang more feasible than travel within the province. Thus, those in the oasis town of Ili have a much stronger historical and cultural connection with the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan than with their ethnic cousins in Kashgar, China.

How does this help us understand the recent strife in Xinjiang’s capital city of Urumqi? The localized identity, which has existed for thousands of years, may be beginning to shift. While it is too early to begin to discuss a true “pan-Uyghur” identity (as promoted by the World Uyghur Congress, for instance), ethnic Turkic peoples in the region are beginning to feel more isolated from their Han countrymen. In addition to Urumqi, ethnic strife in Shaoguan and other areas of China are making Uyghurs feel more vulnerable and cognizant of their “otherness.” Indeed, violence is becoming increasingly common place. Charles Hutzler in the AP:

Tens of thousands of what the government calls "sudden mass incidents" rock China every year, presumably soaring in number since Beijing stopped releasing the statistic publicly in 2005, when there were 87,000 of them. While loss of life is rarely on the scale of the Xinjiang riot, protesters often vent their rage on public property, burning government offices and cars.

This does not necessarily mean Uyhurs are feeling closer to other Uyghurs—large rifts still exist between Uyghurs. However, these riots indicate that the vast majority of peaceful Uyghurs are likely increasingly uneasy about coexistence with greater China.

At present, only localized and fragmented sentiments of “Uygur-ness” persist, and China still has an opportunity to integrate the Uyghurs into the wider economy and society. However, if Uyghur grievances in Urumqi and elsewhere are not taken seriously, the further growth of “us/them” sentiments may cause more violence in the near future.

I hope these maps and two articles give the kind of background that will allow Leaves readers to recognize the subtlety and complexity of the issues, and not fall prey to easy labels and superficial analyses

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

United Nations Speech Announcement

Counter-Terrorism and International Organizations

July 22, 2009 • 4:00 PM ~ 6:00 PM
Hardin Room • 777 UN Plaza, New York, NY

How the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee is working to bolster Member
States ability to prevent terrorist acts
Ahmed El-Dawla
Participating in his personal capacity, Judge on Leave

Can Religions Help Counter Terrorism?
Frank Kaufmann
Executive Director, Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP)

The entire announcement is here

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pick our heros with care

In our desperate need to find a champion for the oppressed in Iran, it is tempting quickly to side with any voice for imprisoned voters, especially one that seems to have a chance to make impact.

In such times of need, it is always wise to study a bit, and familiarize or re familiarize ourselves with leading figures in the news.
clipped from

Iranian Critic Quotes Khomeini Principles

To establish his own legitimacy, Mr. Rafsanjani evoked his long political history.

Still, it would be wrong to say that Mr. Rafsanjani has suddenly become a proponent of justice, human rights and freedom.

In the summer of 1999, after all, when the government crushed student demonstrations at Tehran University, he delivered a harsh sermon in the same place as he did on Friday. Back then, he blamed “enemies of the revolution” and “sources outside the country” for the unrest. He praised the use of force by the state.

During much of his earlier eight-year presidency, many Iranians were executed, including political dissidents, drug offenders, Communists, Kurds, Bahais, even clerics.

Now, in assailing the government’s handling of last month’s disputed presidential election, Mr. Rafsanjani, a 75-year-old cleric and former president, has cast himself in a new light: