If it wasn’t for the border crossings, an eight hour drive from the Eastern border of Uzbekistan would take you into China. There you would be among the Uighurs, a people culturally and linguistically extremely close to the Uzbeks. Like the Tibetans, the Uighurs are culturally, religiously and ethnically oppressed by the highly racist Chnese state. But the Uighurs are Muslims and they do not get the press coverage of the Tibetans, even though their oppression has been still more systematic and brutal. Over a million Uighurs have been displaced by the Chinese state in the last three years alone. Thousands are murdered – either executed or disappeared – every year.
The Uighurs are one of a swathe of Muslim peoples across Central Asia, who fell into the thrall of foreign Empires between the middles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are at least eighteen of these identifiable and mostly Turkic ethnicities, running from the Chechens in the West to the Uighurs in the East. About half the groups who fell under Russian, then Soviet, rule are now in “independent” republics named after Turkic ethnicities. But their political, cultural and religous freedom is still generally repressed as a consequence of continued domination by Soviet apparatchik elites who cling to power through ruthlessness. Meanwhile both Russia and China keep down the Turkic ethnicities within their borders through fierce and relentless brutality.
The War on Terror has enabled Russia, China, Karimov and other Central Asian leaders to characterise any manifestation of a desire for freedom in the region as Islamic terrorism and extremism. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, combining China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan*, is a dictators’ club. Despite having several theoretical fields of activity, the main practical focus is entirely on security and, in the words of their declaration, combating “terrorism, separatism and extremism”. That is code for repressing any moves to freedom in Central Asia. Co-operation extends to false flag operations and fake intelligence. The Uzbek government response to the Andijan massacre was an example of this, with the Russian government providing “Evidence” to back the Uzbek government’s story that the massacred demonstrators were terrorists organised by Chechens and funded by the USA (sic).
One good thing about the Olympics going to Beijing is that the western media has run a few articles on the plight of the Uighurs, of whose existence I suspect few western reporters knew a couple of weeks ago. It is entirely predictable that the Chinese governemmt is responding by organising “terrorist incidents” to try to blacken the Uighurs as part of Al Qaida. Do not be taken in by this rubbish.
*The Tajiks are not Turkic but Persian