Dear Editor,

I am an Uighur (by the way, pronounced OOY GOOR) living in U.S. I would like to share the following information with the Bermudian people to give them a short background on Uighurs and their Chinese connection. I hope this will help them understand their new neighbours. As an Uighur, I am extremely grateful to the hospitalility of the Bermudian people.

Uighur is the endogenous ethnic group of the Xinjiang province in Western China, which we Uighurs call East Turkistan, a huge landmass three times the size of California.

The Uighurs were formed by the mixture of several ancient ethnic groups. Befitting to the geographical location of our homeland at the cross-section of the West and the East, our bloodline is a mixture of the Caucasian Tocharians and Sakas who were the original inhabitants of southern East Turkistan and the Mongoloid Turkic tribes including the Uighurs from the northen East Turkistan.

Our history in the region traces back to more than 4000 years. The first Chinese ever to set foot in the region was an explorer named Zhang Qian who visited the region in 138 BC. He described the Tocharian and Saka inhabitants of southern East Turkistan as having green eyes and brown hair, still not an uncommon trait among today's inhabitants.

The Turkic Uighur tribes moved from the northern East Turkistan to the Southern East Turkistan around 840 AD after the Uighur Empire in Northern was defeated by another Turkic tribe. Since the Turkic Uighurs had a long relationship with their Tocharian and Saka neighbors in the south, they were quickly melted together to form a new people, the modern Uighurs.

According to Chinese historical documents, the Chinese first stationed troops in Southern East Turkistan in the 6th Century to protect the safety of the legendary Silk Road. But, they retreated to China beyond the Great Wall at the end of 6th Century after the Chinese Tang Dynasty became weak. They were absent from the region for 1300 years until the Manchus, another normadic ethnic group from the north that conquered China in 17th Century and ruled China for 300 years, brought them back in 1876. The Manchus completed the occupation of East Turkistan in 1884 and officially annexed it to their China-centered empire as a province under the current name of 'Xinjiang', which means "new dominion, new territory, new border."

Uighurs want to be free

The Chinese overthrew the Manchu rule in 1911 and inherited our land from them. However, Uighurs wanted to be free from foreign domination as well and fought against the new masters, the Chinese. They twice succeeded gaining independence, first in 1933 and second time in 1944. The communist China invaded East Turkistan again in 1949.

  Most Chinese people living in East Turkistan today are migrants and came after 1949. The Chinese population in East Turkistan in 1949 was less than 5 per cent. They were mainly soldiers, government officials and their families and some merchants.

There was not a single village or city back then that was built or populated by the Chinese. But, today the Chinese population is more than 50 per cent and dominates the political, economical and social life of our homeland.

  China brazenly lies that East Turkistan (Xinjiang) has been a part of China since ancient times. For evidence, they cite the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian's visit and short troop stationing in the 6th Century. But, not a single Chinese who that lives in East Turkistan believes this claim, because they all still freshly remember where they came from. If East Turkistan had been a part of China, one would expect some Chinese settlements there before 1949 and some cultural similarities between the Chinese and local people.

But Uighurs and Chinese are as different as two people can be. We have different language and writing system, different customs, different food, different music and dancing, different farming tools, different clothes, different literature and folklores, different history, different religion, different physical appearance, and different anything that makes a people unique.

If we had a shared history and lived in the same country 'since the ancient times', how come a typical Uyghur in China eats less Chinese food than a typical American? The truth is China occupied our land just as they occupied Tibet and is trying to destroy our people and erase the history of our land to cover-up its robbery.

  China used to call the movement associated with this desire separatism before 9/11, but now they call it "terrorism".

A terrorist movement targeting civilians does not exist in East Turkistan, but a desire for freedom from the oppressive colonial rule does exist.

To find out why these four men do not want to go back to China, you may watch a seven minute documentary by PBS Frontline at the following link

Turdi Ghoha