Many Uighur Muslims complain of discrimination in jobs and education.
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies AKSU, China — Like the majority of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, Yusup is much more concerned about economic survival for himself, his wife and their 10-year-old son.
“It’s tough to be a Uighur,” the 36-year-old resident of Aksu, a small desert city in the mostly Muslim Xinjiang province, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, August 5.
“It’s not a matter of politics or religion. We just want to be able to get by.”
Yusup, dressed neatly in a golf shirt and eschewing the Muslim skullcap worn by most Uighur men, dabbles in produce trading, some cotton production, and occasionally drives a friend’s cab for extra money.
He makes only about 1,000 yuan (144 dollars) a month.
“East Turkestan will never happen,” said Yusup, referring to the Muslim homeland many Uighurs dream of.
“China won’t allow it.”
Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million in northwest Xinjiang region, have long chafed under Chinese control.
Sixteen policemen were killed in an attack on their barracks in Kashgar, a city in the Xinjiang.
Both attackers were arrested.
Dilxat Raxit, a Sweden-based spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, said anger was rising among the Uighurs about a pre-Olympic crackdown involving numerous arrests, but he could not confirm if Uighurs carried out the attack.
“The police and soldiers just arrest them without any rules,” he told AFP.
Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955, but continues to be the subject of security crackdowns.
Beijing views the region as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.
Many Uighurs complain of discrimination in jobs and education.
“If we go to a bank, the Chinese people working there will be very rude to you and act suspicious,” said a young Aksu woman, who asked not to be named.
The Olympic fever gripping much of China is largely absent in Xinjiang, where many blame the Beijing Games for fuelling skyrocketing inflation, despite the fact that prices worldwide are rising.
Vast segments of the population lead subsistence lives little changed from 100 years ago, growing fruit or raising sheep or cattle.
But for a few, things are improving.
“The economy is better today than ever,” said Abdulkerim, who runs a Xinjiang travel agency.
His income has tripled in five years thanks to a growing influx of Chinese tourists drawn to the region’s majestic mountains and colorful Islamic culture.
“I could not have done this 10 years ago.”
Xinjiang, a vast area that borders Central Asia, has about 8.3 million Uighurs, and many are unhappy with decades of repressive Communist Chinese rule.
Two short-lived East Turkestan republics emerged in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, at a time when central government control in China was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.
Some Uighurs quietly profess support for groups seeking an independent East Turkestan.
“Many people support those groups in their hearts. But what good will it do?” said the young Uighur woman.
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