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East Turkestan is an extensive and highly populated area that covers 1.6 million square kilometers. It covers more than a total of one sixth of the Chinese territory. It is located in Central Asia and borders with Russia to the north, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the west, Afghanistan to the southwest, Pakistan, India and Tibet to the south, China to the east and Mongolia to the northeast.
The name Turkestan originates from Iran and means “the land of the Turkish people” and dates back to the V century. The eastern part of Turkestan was gradually conquered by the Russian Tsar in 1865, after which it became Eastern Turkistan. After the formation of the Soviet Union, in 1924, Eastern Turkistan was divided into five republics: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The western part of Turkestan has been invaded by the Manchu, who were governors of China in 1876 and, subsequently, this area was named east Turkestan. It is the cradle of the Uyghur history, culture and civilization.
The total number of people living in East Turkestan is a subject that gives rise to much debate. There is no convincing census of the population and, according to the last Chinese census the inhabitants of East Turkestan exceed 19 million people. Of these, there are 9 million Uyghur, the Chinese, 7 million, the Kazakhs 1.5 million; in the list of ethnic groups, we find the Kyrgyz, Hui, Mongols, Manchu, Uzbeks, Tartars and Tibetans.
The Chinese have tried to completely assimilate East Turkestan and, to achieve this objective millions of Chinese have forced to move towards this zone.
Although East Turkestan is called a “region that is autonomous from Xinjiang Uyghur”, the reality is that the Uyghur have no self-government. More than 90% of the main economic, political and administrative positions are held by Chinese employees.
The Chinese policy of “Divide and conquer” has divided the indigenous people of East Turkestan (like the Uyghur, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tartars) into separate “provinces”, “counties”, and “towns”.
The Unrepresented United Nations Organisation (UUN) condemns the widespread oppression suffered by the Uyghur people in East Turkestan. The Unrepresented United Nations Organisation (UUN) deplores the scarce involvement of the Chinese authorities in safeguarding this people’s freedoms including the freedoms of expression, of demonstration, of assembly and of religion, which appear included in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
After the attacks against the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, the Chinese began calling the Uyghur “terrorists”. Despite the concern expressed by the international community, the Chinese have continued using the international war against terrorism as an excuse to repress the Uyghur people even more.
According to the Chinese, hundreds of Uyghur reside in Afghanistan, in the concentration camps linked to Al Qaeda. Twenty-two Uyghur were captured in Afghanistan and ended up in the dismal North American prison, located on the Naval Base of Guantanamo, in Cuba. After 7 years in prison, the Uyghur were found innocent since they didn’t constitute a risk to the United States, nor for any other country.
East Turkestan Facts:
Status: Autonomous Region
Area: 1.6 million km2
Language: Uyghur, even though the official language is Chinese