uyghur people
China: The Best and the Worst Place to Be a Muslim Woman
The officially atheist state has emboldened Muslim women in central China while marginalizing them in the far west.

A woman’s solitary voice, earthy and low, rises above the seated worshipers. More than 100 women stand, bow, and touch their foreheads to the floor as a female imam leads evening prayers at a women-only mosque during the first week of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan in the northeastern Chinese city of Jinan. Reclining beggars line the gates, asking alms from the women who casually come and go. Though the women of Jinan have enjoyed a mosque of their own for much of their lives, such spaces are extraordinary in a global religion still largely dominated by men.

Meanwhile, in Urumqi, the capital of the autonomous Chinese region of Xinjiang that sits 2,000 miles west of Jinan, Muslim women live very different lives. One week before Ramadan began, I witnessed a police officer harass a veiled woman on the street. Along with her headscarf, she had donned a medical face mask, likely as a way of skirting the city-wide ban on face veils that local authorities have imposed. The policeman appeared to have assumed that she wore the creased white face mask for religious rather than health reasons, as Muslim women there sometimes do. In Urumqi, it is forbidden for students, teachers, and civil servants to participate in the Ramadan fast. And outside the main mosque in the city’s historic district of Erdaoqiao, there are no beggars, but rather four soldiers with automatic weapons standing inside a steel cage reinforced with spikes, as though under siege.

Such is the bifurcated state of religious freedom in China, where Muslim women either enjoy unprecedented space for religious expression or face more restrictions on their faith than they would almost anywhere else in the world — all depending on who, and where, they are. And behind both extremes lies the powerful hand of the Chinese state.

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The invention of trousers and its likely affiliation with horseback riding and mobility: A case study of late 2nd millennium BC finds from Turfan in eastern Central Asia:

These 3,000 year old trousers were worn by the West Eurasian nomadic people who migrated East to the Tarim Basin, in China’s Xinjiang region, 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Based on the construction of the trousers they were riding horses.

These Nomadic horse riders were the West Eurasian ancestors of the Uyghurs (pictured above). Within the last 2,000 years, East Eurasians also migrated into that area and mixed with them, resulting in the Uyghur people of today, who are a people of about 50-50 East-West Eurasian ancestry. See: Ancient Europeans of China.

Previously, the earliest known trousers were from the horse-riding Scythians, who too show genetic admxture between West and East Eurasians.

There is now much indication of fair-haired, fair-skinned bronze age peoples, from the Eurasian steppe encompassing Siberia and the Black Sea, spreading languages and civilizations as far East as India with domesticated horses and use of the wheel.

The “Indo-Europeanisation” of Europe entailed massive population turnover in northern Europe, less in southern Europe, none in Sardinians and among the Basques (two European outliers) who seemingly “missed out” on the Indo-European invasion. Further, the SNP of the KITLG gene that causes blondness today is quite rare in the Basques and Sardinians, but fairly common in northern Europe and the Uyghurs.

These features are less common in the Eastern spread of Indo-European groups (Persians, northern Indians). This later expansion of horse riders may have involved elite dominance, or perhaps several smaller waves of invasions that diluted away much of the original genetic signature, but not quite diluted to zero, as the European lactase-persistence allele that is predominant among Europeans is present [also here] in India today. This advantageous allele could be transmitted by the smallest bit of admixture. The version of the lactase allele most common amongst Europeans is estimated to have risen to significant frequencies about 7,500 years ago in the central Balkans and Central Europe.

The Kurgan hypothesis, as outlined in The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World posits that a nomadic society brought Indo-European languages to central and western Europe ~5,000 years ago, whilst their Eastern cousins became the Tocharians (the presumed West Eurasian ancestors of the Uyghurs) and Indo-Iranians, whilst their Southern cousins became the Hittites (and perhaps Armenians).

China Blames Terrorists for Deadly Train Station Knife Attack

China Blames Terrorists for Deadly Train Station Knife Attack

According to eyewitness accounts posted online and in state-run media, more than 10 assailants dressed in black and carrying long fruit knives randomly slashed and hacked travelers in the station.

The carnage began inside, near the train station’s ticket counters, and then spilled out onto the main square in front of the station. State media say four of the assailants were shot dead and one, a…

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Uyghur Shot Dead by Police in New Attack in Xinjiang

Uyghur Shot Dead by Police in New Attack in Xinjiang

Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang on Thursday shot dead one man after an attack on a police patrol left an officer seriously injured, according to official media.

An exile group said at least a dozen Uyghurs have been detained at random for questioning over the incident, which was apparently sparked by police insults on the ethnic minority group.

“Police shot dead one assailant and captured another,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a police statement.

“The attack occurred at about 1:20 p.m. in the city of Aksu when police checked a suspect…

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Six Killed, Two Injured in Fresh Xinjiang Clashes

Six Killed, Two Injured in Fresh Xinjiang Clashes

Police shot dead five ethnic minority Uyghurs and lost one of their own in fresh clashes in China’s restive northwestern Xinjiang region amid stepped up security checks in an anti-terror clampdown imposed after deadly attacks in the capital, according to police.

Four of the men were shot in Kashgar prefecture’s Konasheher (in Chinese, Shufu) county in a confrontation triggered when local officials lifted a woman’s veil during a house check in her village a week ago, police there said.

The men, armed with knives and sticks, killed a policeman, also a Uyghur, before they succumbed to gunshots in the June 4 clash while two village officials were injured,…

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` Chinese Authorities confirm that `Turkestan Islamic Movement ' were behind attack on Kunming Railway Station'

` Chinese Authorities confirm that `Turkestan Islamic Movement ‘ were behind attack on Kunming Railway Station’


says that the `Chinese authorities said Sunday that the

East Turkestan Islamic Movement

was behind a deadly attack on a train station in south-west

Yunnan Province

last night, local media reported.

At least 29 innocent people died, and more than 130 were injured in the attack on the Kunming Railway Station carried out by a group of more than 10 knife-wielding people, Xinhua news…

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Four Killed in New Violence, Nine Sentenced to Death in Xinjiang

Four Killed in New Violence, Nine Sentenced to Death in Xinjiang

Four people, including a police officer, have been killed and several others wounded in fresh violence in China’s troubled Xinjiang region, where nearly a dozen ethnic minority Uyghurs received the death penalty Thursday on terrorism-related charges, according to officials and residents.

The killings occurred in two incidents in Toksu (in Chinese, Xinhe) county in Xinjiang’s Aksu perfecture on May 29, a week after Chinese authorities launched a year-long campaign against terrorism following a deadly attack at a market place in the regional capital Urumqi which left 39 people dead.

In one incident, a police officer and two Uyghur men were killed during a raid on a hideout of…

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55 People Sentenced at Mass Trial in Xinjiang

55 People Sentenced at Mass Trial in Xinjiang

Chinese authorities used a public rally in the violence-hit region of Xinjiang to sentence 55 people on charges including terrorism.

The official Xinhua news agency said 7,000 locals and officials witnessed the mass sentencing Tuesday at a stadium in northern Xinjiang’s Yili prefecture.

At least three people were sentenced to death. Others were jailed for murder, separatism, and organizing or participating in terror groups.

At the event, police announced that another 65 people were arrested on similar charges.

Yili Deputy…

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A few stories from Xinjiang

We left Tibet on the Qinghai-Tibet Railroad, the tallest railroad in the world. We traveled north to the city of Xining and then took a bullet train to the city of Turpan in Xinjiang. Xinjiang is the far northwestern province in China and unlike any other province in the country. It’s home to the Uyghur people, a Muslim ethnic minority. But it’s also home to other ethnic minorities and has several autonomous regions within it including Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik regions. Unfortunately, the province is mainly known for the recent violence in the area perpetrated by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is characterized as a terrorist group by both the Chinese and U.S. governments and was founded by Uyghur militants who want independence for the region. The following are a few things that happened during our trip:

1. When we first stepped off the train in Xinjiang we were immediately struck by two things: the over 100 degree F temperature and the increased military and police presence. As we were walking out of the train station, police officers were standing around watching everyone as they exited. We noticed that all of the Uyghurs who were walking through were being stopped and having their IDs checked. As we got closer, I noticed that every cop was watching and talking about Ryan. By this point, with the exception of a few small trims, Ryan has been growing his beard for about a year. Throughout this trip, his beard has attracted quite a bit of attention although we didn’t fully understand why until later.

2. As we began out travels through Xinjiang, seeing groups of soldiers standing around holding assault rifles and sub-machine guns around APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) became a common occurence. Although, we were unable to get any photos of this because we were warned by several Chinese people that any attempts at taking photos of the soldiers would result in them smashing our camera. 

3. On our first day in Turpan, we were walking down one of the dusty streets admiring a beautiful Mosque when a van came to a screeching halt beside us. A blue-eyed Uyghur man leaned out of the driver’s seat, stuck his hand out enthusiastically and shook Ryan’s hand. He greeted us in Chinese and then complimented Ryan’s beard. He asked where we were going, welcomed us to Xinjiang, and then offered for us to go swimming with him later if we were free. 

4. While waiting at the train station in the city of Urumqi one afternoon, a boy of Han ethnicity struck up a conversation with us. He asked about Ryan’s beard including how old Ryan was and if it were legal for him to have a beard in America. He then explained that in Xinjiang it is illegal for Uyghur men under 40 years old to grow a beard. This helped explain some of the looks Ryan had been getting over the past few days. 

5. One day after a 10 hour bus ride from a Kazakh region back to the capital city of Urumqi, we made our way off of the bus and walked into the pouring rain. With our packs on our backs we stood in the rain trying to hail a cab for the next half an hour. Eventually a car pulled up, rolled down their window and a Uyghur man smiled and told us to get in. He drove us to our hotel and chatted with us during the ride there. Although he was modest about it, his English was pretty good. He explained that he had always wanted to travel to America, but as a Uyghur man he couldn’t get a passport. He also expressed frustration with the government’s ban on beards. “It may seem like a small thing, but it’s important to some people here." 

6. While traveling in the far western city of Kashgar, we were chatting with a Uyghur man about Uyghur culture. He has chosen not to wear a traditional Uyghur hat and explained that it’s because he’d been stopped by the police too many times. "I am a good Muslim in my heart. I don’t need to wear a hat if it will bring too much trouble,” he explained. He then began to tell us about several government campaigns to turn Uyghurs away from some of their traditional customs including abstaining from drinking. The majority of Uyghurs don’t drink alcohol, he explained. However, to fit in with Han business culture when needed, many Uyghur government employees will drink at business events. However, he explained that new shops had opened in small villages. For at least a year, the government was giving out beer for free in an attempt to persuade Muslim men to drink.