Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dreaming of Uighuristan

By Rustam Qobil

BBC Uzbek - 16 April 2015

The Uighurs of north-western China have long fled to neighbouring countries of Central Asia to escape restrictions on their freedom at home. But now - as China's influence grows across the region - campaigning for Uighur independence has become impossible in Central Asia too.
The outside world knows a lot about the Tibetans' historic struggle for independence, but much less about the Uighurs' dream of a state in Xinjiang, to the north of Tibet - Uighuristan, as they call it, or just Watan, meaning "homeland".
The last attempt to create such a state was crushed by the Chinese in 1949, prompting more than 60,000 Uighurs to cross the Soviet border into Central Asia in the years that followed.
Now about 350,000 live in the region, mostly in Kazakhstan, and until recently they were free to voice support for Uighur self-rule in Xinjiang.
But things have been changing, as China has poured investment into Central Asia, building oil and gas pipelines, railways, roads and cross-border trading zones.