Monday, June 30, 2008

Guantanamo Uighurs

From an insightful editorial in the Wall Street Journal called Uighur Justice:

Like Tibetans, Uighurs have endured decades of discrimination and brutal oppression under Chinese rule. A religious and ethnic minority, they are routinely denied basic civil, religious and political rights. Uighurs are -- almost without exception -- the only ethnic group in China to be routinely executed for political offenses. Since 9/11, China has used the U.S.-led "war on terror" as an excuse to oppress Uighurs with impunity, persecuting many who have peacefully protested their treatment. China regularly dubs Uighur historians, poets and writers "intellectual terrorists" and sends them to jail. In 2005, a young intellectual, Nurmemet Yasin, was sentenced to a decade in prison for writing an allegory likening the Uighur predicament to that of a pigeon in a cage.

Until Communist China recognizes Uighurs' democratic freedoms, U.S. resettlement is a far better solution. Uighurs constitute perhaps the most pro-American and pro-Western Muslims in the world. In the early 20th century, the Uighurs' homeland of East Turkistan was the first secular and democratic republic in the Muslim world, outside of Turkey. The Uighurs want to re-establish this republic, complete with guarantees of religious freedom and peaceful enjoyment of their human rights. Many Uighurs fully agree when America professes the need to end tyranny in the world. They maintain that democracy and respect for human rights is the best defense against terrorism.

Tibet is the more popular cause among activists, but ethnic Uighurs in China have been persecuted just as badly, arguably worse, than their Tibetan neighbors. The U.S. has captured or been sold by bounty hunters quite a few Uighur prisoners in Afghanistan and now faces a dilemma concerning their future. So far, no Uighur has been ruled a threat to the United States. China wants them expedited, which the U.S. won't do, knowing that they face torture and execution, but they also are very reticent to repatriate them to the United States which would spark a serious row with the Chinese. The situation Uighurs in China face is starkly different to that of most Islamic militants and adds a difficult moral dilemma to America's 'War on Terror.' It will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially given the certainty of a new president in six months.

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