Thursday, December 07, 2006

Uighur: The Other Tibet

This article is from In These Times. It is an interview with a woman who has led the push for an end to Chinese occupation of Uighur lands and subjugation of the Uighur people. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year.

Rebiya Kadeer: The Uighur Dalai Lama

Falsely imprisoned, this human rights activist is fighting the Chinese government’s right to rule her people.

By Jehangir Pocha

Rebiya Kadeer, exiled Uighur leader and candidate for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Rebiya Kadeer has been likened to the Dalai Lama, and the comparison grew more apt when the Uighur (pronounced wee-gur) human rights activist became a close contender for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, an award conferred on the Dalai Lama in 1989.

Yet in the United States, Kadeer and her cause remain relatively unknown. Like the Dalai Lama, Kadeer is challenging the Chinese government’s moral and legal right to rule her people—the Uighurs, an ethnically Turkic-Persian people in western China, whose homeland, Xinjiang, was annexed by China in 1949. The backlash against this annexation exploded in the mid-’90s, when Uighur separatists carried our widespread protests. Some Uighur extremists, who were supported by Islamic extremists in Pakistan, even bombed Chinese targets.

China reacted harshly, jailing thousands of Uighurs and using paramilitary forces to disband protestors. In 1999, when Kadeer, then a wealthy businesswoman and member of China’s parliament, began speaking out on behalf of her people, she was jailed.

In 2005, the Chinese freed Kadeer, largely because of pressure from the United States. Since then Kadeer has lived in Washington D.C., where she has spearheaded a peaceful campaign against China’s rule in Xinjiang. Yet hundreds of Uighur activists remain in jail and serious human rights violations are being committed in the province, according to Amnesty International.

Read the interview.

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