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Muslim states 'silent' on Uighurs
Prominent activist criticises Muslim countries for not supporting Uighurs.
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2009 07:10 GMT

Kadeer said that silence from Muslim countries contrasted with support from the West [AFP]

A leading Uighur rights activist has criticised Muslim-majority countries for not speaking out against decades of alleged repression and persecution from the Chinese government.

Speaking in Washington on Monday, Rebiya Kadeer, a businesswoman who was jailed for years in China before being released into exile in the US, hit out at what she said was decades of "brutal suppression" of Muslims in China's western Xinjiang region.

Speaking after a day of unrest in Xinjiang left at least 150 people dead, Kadeer pointed to the lack of response from Muslim countries to the violence and the situation faced by the Uighurs.

"Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and a number of other Muslim countries as well as the central Asian states like Kazakhstan Kurdistan and Uzbekistan - they all deported Uighurs who had fled Chinese persecution for peacefully opposing Chinese rule, for writing something, for speaking something," she said.

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"Those sent back to China were either killed or sentenced to life in jail."

She said the lack of action from Muslim countries contrasted with support given by other governments.

"Our only friend is in the West - Western democracies are supporting us and we are very grateful," Kadeeer, who heads the World Uighur Congress, told reporters.

"We certainly hope that more Muslim countries will raise our situation."

'Propaganda'

"So far the Islamic world is silent about the Uighurs' suffering because the Chinese authorities have been very successful in its propaganda to the Muslim world"

Rebiya Kadeer

Kadeer attributed the lack of action from Muslim countries to what she said was the success of Chinese "propaganda" to the Muslim world.

"So far the Islamic world is silent about the Uighurs' suffering because the Chinese authorities have been very successful in its propaganda to the Muslim world."

That propaganda, she said, sent a message to the Muslim world "that the Uighurs are extremely pro-west Muslims - that they are modern Muslims, not genuine Muslims."

At the same time, she said, to Western countries the Chinese government "labelled Uighur leaders as Muslims terrorists with links to al-Qaeda - so the propaganda has been pretty effective on both sides."

Thelim Kine, an Asia researcher from New York-based Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera that Beijing's accusations of Uighur links to "terrorist" groups had intensified since the 9/11 attacks in the US.

"Because they are Muslim they have been accused of carrying out what the government calls 'terrorist activities', as well as being linked to various organisations like al-Qaeda," he said.

'Mastermind'

China's government has blamed Uighur exiles for stoking the recent unrest, singling out Kadeer for "masterminding" the riots – claims she rejected as "completely false".

While she admitted that some Uighurs had been carried out attacks during Sunday's unrest, she said the violence was a symptom of Uighur frustration and resentment at China's repressive policies.

Her group, she said, has repeatedly called for only peaceful protests and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

As protests continue in Xinjiang and police arrest hundreds after the riots, Kadeer called for an international investigation into the unrest.

"We hope that the United Nations, the United States and the European Union will send teams to investigate what really took place in Xinjiang," she said.

"We hope the White House will issue a stronger statement urging the Chinese government to show restraint, and also to tell the truth of the nature of the events and what happened, and to tell the Chinese government to redress Uighur grievances."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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