Victims of Latest Violence all Uyghurs

The victims of the latest bout of violence in Jiashi/Peyziwat County were all Uyghur police officers local to the area, according to the information-laden latest report from Radio Free Asia. Furthermore, the attack was linked to the previous checkpoint attack at Yamanya. This is definitely a milestone as its the only attack so far whose victims have been exclusively Uyghurs, albeit Uyghurs representing the state. According to the RFA article, the local police were tipped off fugitives with suspected links to the Yamanya attack hiding in a nearby cornfield. The police were attacked as they searched the field and the local police chief was one of the two fatalities. In the aftermath, one of the suspects, 22-year old Anargul managed to escape but her 50-year old mother Amangul as well as her 8-year old son were apprehended along with two sons of the local community leader Abdul Shukur, whose recidence is near the field where the fugitives were hiding. For a more on the event, in a surprising level of detail, go read the RFA article, whose tactic of directly contacting locals involved with the incident is producing far more than the state news apparati, which are normal the source of incident information but for now, as far as I can tell, are remaining silent on the incident.

There are, however, a few details about the latest incident which has caught my attention. First of all is the surprising and most obvious detail of violence by Uyghurs against Uyghurs. This situation is gaining new dimensions… or perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the conflict has always been far more nuanced than the “simmering Uyghurs” summary that is most often put forward by Western media outlets touching base with the region. The fact of the matter is, the Uyghurs’ involvement in Han develoment/colonization on one hand and East Turkestan freedom fighting/terrorism on the other hand is far from black and white. In an area is remote as this one we can expect both a strong anti-Han sentiment, as rural areas tend to be predominantly Uyghur and mostly more traditional, and a local party/government structure that is mostly Uyghur, since, well, there are less Han around to run things. So we see loyal Uyghur police officers falling in the line of duty, and who I believe inevitably will be put forward by the CCP as model minorities and to further reinforce the “extremists on the fringes” model of Uyghur discontent. But we also see this interest quote from the RFA article:

“After the Yamanya incident, we organized large public gatherings and asked people to help us find the suspects. We also said we would offer a 50,000-yuan reward to anyone who helped. But still nobody has come forward,” Omerjan said.

The Uyghur authorities in the region, representing the government and the party, was asking for help to resolve the Yamanya incident. But nobody stepped forward – this is a big deal. The silence is a form of support for what happened. And the support for the recent violence goes beyond tacit agreement – individuals of all stripes, from the young, female Anargul, to the presumably older community leader and cleric Shukur (who was apprehended earlier) are actively pitching in, in either the violence itself, which seems to be the case with Anargul, or sheltering and aiding the vigilantes like Shukur. Inadvertently, and thanks to the efforts of the RFA, the attacks are giving us a tiny, fleeting opportunity to see how Uyghurs can and do get directly or peripherally involved with this new type of violent, proactive resistance that has come out in recent weeks.

But again, its never that simple, and the agreement and support of action against the government is obviously not total as the reason the police were searching the field was they were tipped off, and although I’m certain there may well be Han families in the area, statistically and realistically speaking it was probably a Uyghur who called in. And this introduces the contrasting realization that some Uyghurs are willing to fight in the other direction – for what reasons, we cannot know now, but it could either be out of patriotism towards the CCP, or the more sinister (and in my opinion more likely) possibility that in Xinjiang a system of incentives and punishments is creating an “informant” environment among the Uyghurs.

And finally, although there is undeniably a trend of rising violence that cannot be ignored, the most recent violence in some ways adds more conviction to my belief that the spree of attacks are situational and comparatively crude rather than an indicator of suddenly cascading discontent and of increasing sophistication/international involvement. I mentioned in my thoughts on the Yamanya attack that it can be legitimately suspected that the attackers were pressured, in that situation and in that moment, to attack the inspectors because of something they were hiding, either on their person or in their thoughts. Similarly, this latest violence wasn’t a sophisticated, Al-Qaeda style attack that was planned and sends a deep ideological message of intimidation, rather, this was the inevitable result of fugitives doing what they do when they get cornered – they attack, and its both savage and uncoordinated. It seems that Anargul’s middle-aged mother and young son were hiding in the fields that day as well.

As usual, Xinjiang watchers must continue to play “wait and see,” forced to deal with only ephemeral glimpses into the reality in the area – but I definitely feel that in this situation we’ve been given a window much bigger than the glimpses we’re usually handed.

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Comments 13

  1. James wrote:

    Porfiry, I thought that was a really good rap on events in Paziwat. However,

    re: “This is definitely a milestone as its the only attack so far whose victims have been exclusively Uyghurs, albeit Uyghurs representing the state. ”

    I know you wont post this which little concerns me, you may even edit it if you have the ethical integrity, but Firstly let me know if Im wrong, wasn’t the Yaman Yar incident an attack by Uyghur against Uyghur only? I was led to believe so. Also if you dont mind some historical revisionism (and pleae dont launch into a tirade of self defense) – Some details of some former attacks: The chief of police and his English speaking policeman son in The Poskam County (Uyghur: پوسكام نىيىسى‎, Poskam Nahiyisi, Poskam Nah̡iyisi) were knifed to death in the late 1990s ( ca. 1996 out of memory possibly 97) by Uyghur dissidents in that area. Around the same time several top level Uyghur cadres were assasinated in Karghilik by Uyghur ( Wahabists: whatever that means); and how can you forget the May 1996 attack on the Imam Harun and his son (who died, in Kashgar, by a Hotanlik Wahabist). Consequently, how can you say what you say here in your post, not only is it ahistoric its ungrounded. You are probably right in saying Uyghur attacks aginat Uyghur are on the increase but these events are not new. I know you strive to have a first class blog on XJ situation but really your present editorial for accuracies state should be revised in some areas, for your readers information. You live in the Capital – I was recently there – I know- so before making such pronouncements you could get a good local informant. I know, who the fuck am I to suggest that? Granted. But your post is irritating in its ‘presentist’ presumption. Nor does it point to a much longer drawn out violent conflict against the state by Uyghur.

    p.s. I dont think your musings on the Yaman Yar indcident eg. the Uyghur involved had something to hide would be good enough reason for the attack. I understand that is possible, but they would of known who those guards were. a cowardly attack Id say. Anyway it is truly all simmering now.

    Posted 30 Aug 2008 at 1:15 pm
  2. kahraman wrote:

    According to new reports from Xinhua, six of the suspects were killed by police and three arrested:

    Posted 30 Aug 2008 at 1:23 pm
  3. Porfiriy wrote:

    Hi James, welcome back. What can I say other than duly noted? You’re right that one of our goals here is to make a “first class XJ blog” but I think it’s also out in the open that this is blog also is a learning experience for me. I put my thoughts out in the open so that people can point out errors and thus help me expand my knowledge on the region. Your mentions of the previous instances of violence between Uyghurs is indeed crucial to the discussion, and I’m glad to know about them now. On the other hand, you seemed to have noted and I reiterate that I’m speaking in terms of more recent time frames – its true that there was a lot of violence in the 90s but I’ve also read a lot about how violence significantly receded since the turn of the century – your examples are all mid-90s. So I don’t deny that there is a much more drawn out history to it all, but one can zoom out and look at the longer history, or one can zoom in and see two humps in the violence, one in the 90s and a newer one, worthy of being investigated in its on right, just recently.

    I also hope you’ll forgive that I wrote the article during a jetlagged hotel stay between international flights – actually contrary to what you think I’m not in Urumqi. If you are though, maybe you can do some sleuthing on our behalf!

    I don’t see a need to edit the post, and why do you link editing it to “ethical integrity?” I hold that it suffices to let people read what I wrote and what you wrote and make their own conclusions and leave the editing to the the Beijing Daily.

    Posted 30 Aug 2008 at 9:05 pm
  4. Okay wrote:

    Uyghurs against Uyghurs. I have no trouble with that and why bother when Uyghurs don’t understand what is living in China. The world will be more peaceful with less troublesome peoples. Go ahead and spin all the killing for your glorious deeds.

    Posted 31 Aug 2008 at 9:43 am
  5. James wrote:

    Thanks Porfiriy. Yes and I think this blog is exceptionally informative with excellent content.

    One reason perhaps for the hiatus of violence after the mid 90s was the severity of the crackdown which commenced with the Strike Hard. Thats not to say that other non-fatal Uyghur-Uyghur conflicts were not occurring say post 96.

    In Kashgar because of the the enormity of the greater oasis its hard to know; all events do not reach the ears of the west; maybe one day, records and files will be availble to the historian who cares to write the history of the last thirty years in the area. At any rate it would seem by post 9/11 the spirit of resistance had been knocked out to a degree – at least on the surface.

    That said, on the other hand it seems that an increase in Uyghur violence may occur in the midst of severe crackdown as in 96 and 97. Perhaps the same reaction occurred during the Olympic summer ‘heat’ in Xinjiang recently (but of course the Olympic timing was understanably a separate and special case). Im musing I know.

    Being on the road to Peziwat, the Yaman Yar incident as yu suggest may have had other than a big picture organized resistance motive. To muse further, the drowsing guards at the checkpoint may have had the job of reporting on suspected dissident types and their movements to and from Kashgar, and for that reason they were taken out so to speak. Its an awful scene to consider. Such a sleepy laid back area in reality, yes, and poor; also an area quite devastated from the earthquakes of the last decade or so.

    All said, even if crackdown momentarily quashes resistance and attacks against state representataives (Uyghur and Han alike), the Uyghur anti-Han sentiment which the CCP has never been able to root out since 1950 seems perrenial with the potential to always arise, especially as Han influence in its many forms increases. What do desperate impoverished youth have to lose anyway, especially in the face of perceived inequality?

    Just a footnote before I finish this screed. Im not sure if the victims of a storming of a police station in Kuqa ca. 96 (please forgive all of these circas – I dont have hard copy with me or any computer files at present) were all Uyghur? There was also a big incident in nearby Xayar at that time, in which not a few Uyghurs were killed buy others; but I think in both instances Han police were also killed.

    Appreciate feedback, hope yu get over your jet lag and enjoy the golden nanjiang autumn.

    Posted 31 Aug 2008 at 1:07 pm
  6. demin wrote:

    Seems you (or RFA) already have a picture of what’s going on, and just looking for stuff to fill it in. The mysterious “big deal” or “significant thing” is political resistence..Surprise!! Just need some nuances. That’s it. But that’s how things work: to make what you produce shining! Everything has a “big deal” behind it, just have to “wait and see”, or more exactly “wait and expect”.You people just cannot see more blood. What missed out is that sometimes violence is just violence. “Refusal to step out to help authority identify attackers” could be just because of fear of violent revenge. “Uyghurs calling in” could be just out of fear of spreading violence too. Patriotism could not be lead to the loyalty to CCP. The division or schism could be (at least partly) social in its nature, rather than ethnic hatred. The difference between colonism and domestic social problem is: in the framework of the former there are two peoples who enjoys vastly different and unequal “rights” and intentionally implemented domination of one over another, whereas for the latter it could be just a social/historical problem (unfortunately) outlined by ethnic borders.
    I could see that the spirit of your articles and that of RFA are typically somewhat excited by this violence. And you are trying to decorate violence as something with a sacred cause. And that’s something very ugly.

    Posted 02 Sep 2008 at 7:01 am
  7. Porfiriy wrote:

    Demin, I, and what I wrote, basically agrees with most of what you said. Furthermore, I’m not trying to decorate violence as something with a sacred cause, either the Uyghurs committing them are by putting them in a religious/ethnic framework, or the State is, by falsely claiming the attacks come out of a religious/separatist motivation.

    One thing I have emphasized over and over again in my writings and has sort of become a theme here is that looking at Xinjiang inevitably operates in the second degree: it is reporting on reporting. As the way things are the bulk of what we can do is analyze what is being said about the unrest from disparate sources like the RFA or Xinhua rather than the incidents themselves. I’m not elevating the violence to a sacred cause, but it cannot be denied that there is an agent involved that is reporting a “sacred” motivation and that in and of itself is significant. The violence could indeed just be violence. I couldn’t agree more. But more powerful and significant than that potential reality is the fact that millions of people, both inside and outside China, are not being told that the violence is just violence. They are being told by Xinhua that this is jihadist extermism or by RFA that this is a backlash against ethnic oppression.

    Posted 02 Sep 2008 at 7:56 am
  8. wgj wrote:

    Trying to provide commentary on the media is fine by itself, but it doesn’t explain why you’d write this:

    “[I]t could either be out of patriotism towards the CCP, or the more sinister (and in my opinion more likely) possibility that in Xinjiang a system of incentives and punishments is creating an “informant” environment among the Uyghurs.”

    That has nothing to do with the media, you’re clearly voicing about your own opinion (as is evident by the words “in my opinion”). Slightly paraphrased: There must be *either* brainwashing *or* coercion going on, since you can’t think of any other reason why people would fight violence. That’s not just cynical, it’s inhumane.

    Posted 02 Sep 2008 at 11:05 am
  9. Porfiriy wrote:

    Ah, I see your point. Well, you’re right about that. Again, this is no adequate excuse but like I said to James, I wrote the post in the middle of the night at the butt end of 8 godawful hours between two legs of an international aviation bonanza. I’ll admit to just vomiting out my thoughts as after those 8 hours the next opportunity to sit down and write something would come after the news has lost its newness (which it has by this point). And like I said to James, that’s what comments section is for. Thanks for pitching in and taking part in the dynamic discussion aspect that’s part of the reason we made the blog in the first place.

    But calling my blog writing “inhumane” does make me snicker a little. Take it easy! Its a blog.

    Posted 02 Sep 2008 at 2:04 pm
  10. wgj wrote:

    I’d like to emphasize that the “inhumane” characterization is neither directed at your person nor this blog as a whole, but specifically the nature of those line of comments I quoted.

    Posted 02 Sep 2008 at 4:07 pm
  11. james wrote:

    These posts bring up a complex of issues Id like to briefly respond to:

    @ demin,

    not sure about Porfiriy, the RFA, or people in general wanting to see more blood. The thought of a cold Uyghur blade entering someone’s rib cage is not my idea of excitment or entertainment. How do yu feel about this personally, how does such a thought make yu feel?

    As Porfiriy also commented, what yu do say about social issues I believe is correct: social disparity is a driving force of dissastisfaction among Uyghur youth and has been for some time. Many of those who go over to the chinese modernist ideal, become minkao han, or associate themselves with the trappings of success, which are the justification for this modernization/colonization drive, also reject Islam to a degree if not outright: the non modernist are labelled hurapiy (superstitious), or kollak (backward/ignorant). Of coure the defining factor here is the baility of differiung individuals to partake in thge centrsal economic drive. A possibility not available to all Uyghur youth for various reasons ( Im being brief). I think a point here also worth remembering though is that many of the anti-statist islamic reformist groups also promote modernization within an islamic framework and shun islamic folk practices as superstitious. The traditional Uyghur is hemmed in on many sides. Yu are also right in pointing out the colonial, unequal rights/benefits, ethnic and social /historical dimensions of the problem however how yu draw the conclusion that incidents of violence excites people who want to just see more blood is perplexing?

    @ Okay,

    how yu can say the Uyghur o not know what it is like to live in China baffles the intelligence of any sensioble person. They know well and they know the hard end of the stick yu perhaps have never seen or felt. Please, why make such comments that display both prejudice and an ignorance of another people’s reality?


    “Slightly paraphrased: There must be *either* brainwashing *or* coercion going on, since you can’t think of any other reason why people would fight violence. That’s not just cynical, it’s inhumane.”

    This statement of yours was unclear, as to ‘who’ is brainwashing who? Could you explain your meaning here please wgj?

    *re: your comment on Porfiriy’s statement that the informant society, is being currently produced by the state, and your contention that this is simply Porfiriy’s own opinion, are both quite ill-informed statements.

    The CCP has thrived on Uyghur informants since its armies entered Xinjiang after the mysterious political deaths of Ahmet Jan Kasim and other leaders of the northern East Turkestan Republic. The ‘jahsus’ is almost a given aspect of Uyghur society. They, the ‘informers,’ are all around, and in cases possibly within the same family networks. Informant networks just like the old neighbourhood granny watches of inner China have long had their mirror in Uyghur society. This is nothing new. When one thinks about the consequences of resisting the state or of pressure brought upon individuals and families to comply to be informants on threat of punishment – a well tried tactic of CCP organs in Xinjiang – surely incentive is in fact there to sell your soul so to speak. I suppose after a good ffity years of suppression, imprisonment and execution in the XUAR, for those who do resist, reason enough could be seen for the potential ‘jahsus’ to manifest or the traditionally ‘paid’ jahsus to increase. It is right to say FEAR is a big factor here. Of this it is clear to the uyghur. Of course this is a situation common to many colonized groups throughout history.

    (note for intertextualities sake the ‘present’ “opposite end of China” post on the carpet search for terorists in Xinjiang)
    .to get a feeling for a claimate of fear).

    For more past examples of Uyghur pitted against Uyghur imagine the class struggle sessions when the landlords were finally brought before the ‘people’ between 1950-55; and the Cultural Revolution period when Uyghur betrayed Uyghur. Here it is the extreme ideologies of the CCP which pitted Uyghur against Uyghur.

    Further antecedents can be found in the compliance of the Qing and Republican. Periods when the Manchu centre ruled the Xinjiang vis a vis the ‘beg’ system of sinicized Turkic officials, who all had their own networks of native informants and advisors so to speak. Yakob Beg’s islamic sulatanate of twelve years’ duration was known for its secret police network which spread across Central Asia into Persia.

    As far as violence goes, one could say that historically the state is the main protaganist in these matters and continues to be so. In that ‘bigger’ picture sense Violence begets Violence and always has/does – eventually, it would seem. But, we all know what Mao said about violence don’t we? But again, are all the pigeons now coming home to roost

    Any way, on topic I believe, I came across this excerpt last night from the imprisoned Uyghur writer Nurmehamet Yasin’s ‘Wild Pigeon’ which voices a long held Uyghur belief that their present lot is partly due to the disloyalty of those who have all along aquiesced to the state and also betrayed their country men:

    “…I want to go on, to press the same message even more vividly. But suddenly I hear a piercing sound and feel a vicious pain in my legs. I try to fly, but my wings hang empty at my sides. All the other pigeons fly up and hover above me. “Look at you, stirring up trouble—now you will taste life inside a pigeon cage,” one of them shouts.“ Then let’s see if you carry on this way again!” Suddenly I understand. The old pigeon drew me in toward him to set me up so his host could catch me. Pain fills my heart. The humans weren’t any danger to me—it was my own kind who betrayed me in hope of their own gain. I cannot understand it, and I am grieved. Suddenly I am seized with the idea that I cannot give in—as long as I can still break off my legs, I can free myself. Using all of my strength, I fly one way and another in turn. Pain fills my heart. The humans weren’t any danger to me— it was my own kind who betrayed me in hope of their own gain…. “Don’t be silly, child, stand up! What is the matter with you?” The voice is my mother’s. She stares at me and I realize that I am unhurt. My mother says:” “You had a nightmare.” “I had a very terrible dream.” I embrace my mother closely, and tell her everything in my dream. “Child, in your dream you saw our destiny,” she replies. “Mankind is pressing in on us, little by little, taking up what once was entirely our space. They want to chase us from the land we have occupied for thousands of years and to steal our land from us. They want to change the character of our heritage—to rob us of our intelligence and our kinship with one another. Strip us of our memory and identity. Perhaps in the near future, they will build factories and high-rises here, and the smoke that comes from making products we don’t need will seep into the environment and poison our land and our water. Any rivers that remain won’t flow pure and sweet as they do now but will run black with filth from the factories. This invasion by mankind is terrible,” she says.“ Future generations will never see pure water and clean air—and they will think that this is as it has always been. They will fall into mankind’s trap. These humans are coming closer and closer to us now, and soon it will be too late to turn back. No one else can save us from this fate—we must save ourselves.”

    “Wild Pigeon” was translated from the Uyghur into English by Dolkun Kamberi,director of RFA’s Uyghur service, and edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.The full English trans-lation can be read at 2005/06/27/wild_pigeon/ and english/uyghur/2005/06/27/wild_pigeon2/.

    Posted 02 Sep 2008 at 7:22 pm
  12. Uyghur wrote:

    In the city of Atush (Artush, 阿图什), Uyghur restaurant owners were forced to sign a document that requires them to keep the restaurants open during the month of Ramadan. See the news (in Uyghur) from RFA website:

    Posted 03 Sep 2008 at 4:39 am
  13. Ralphie wrote:

    It is impossible to guess the real intent behind the person who called the police. As you said, it could be out of the loyalty toward the CCP or out of the incentive of reporting others.

    Under the rule of a totalitarian regime, reporting others is not only a good self surviving strategy but also a tool to get rid of those who you don’t like.

    For example, I interviewed a person locked up in the immigration detention center. The interviewee, a Chinese citizen, is in the US without documentation. He has been living in the US for over 10 years, and owned a successful Chinese restaurant. Two years ago, his neighbor, also a Chinese, opened another Chinese restaurant. Upon knowing his illegal status, the neighbor reported him to the USCIS, who detained him and put him in removal proceedings.

    I’m not saying that its only unique among people living in China. It’s just one of the possibilities that the reason of the call to the police could be triggered by something small, something that has nothing to do with “patriotism.”

    Posted 08 Sep 2008 at 7:13 am

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