Massacre in the City of Gulja, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. 5Th February, 1997.
14 years ago today the Chinese government committed one of the most horrific attacks on thousands of peaceful Uighur protestors, and has since tried its utmost to cover up the atrocity and escape any accountability. In one day alone, over a hundred innocent and peaceful demonstrators were killed. And over the subsequent days, the death toll escalated horrifically, with many thousands more Uighurs injured or imprisoned and intensely persecuted.
I have never seen such viciousness in my life...military dogs were attacking peaceful demonstrators. Chinese soldiers were bludgeoning the demonstrators……bodies, some alive, others dead, were being dragged across the ground and dumped all together into dozens of army trucks.
Rebiya Kadeer, Uighur human rights activist and former prisoner of conscience and now President of the World Uyghur Congress, described the scenes at the bloody Gulja massacre.
The peaceful protests were in response to the growing repressive state policies on Uighur culture and religion, in particular the prohibition of the traditional Uighur gathering known as ''meshrep''. These events of violent despotism were repeated again on a large scale in Urumqi, in July 2009. Over ten years following the Gulja Massacre, the Uighur community continued to be victims of systematic and extensive human rights violations, forcing them to continue fleeing the area. This includes arbitrary detention and imprisonment, and serious restrictions on religious freedom as well as cultural and social rights. Many Uighur political prisoners have been executed after unfair trials. The latest case of such an unjust trial is that of 19 year old student Pezilet Ekber, sentenced to death for participating in the Uighur demonstrations, described as ‘ethnic riots’ during the 2009 Urumqi unrest. As a result they live in stateless conditions, abused by the authorities and lacking any freedom of speech or peaceful protest.
China claims many of the Uighurs to be terrorists or criminals who pose a threat to the region's safety, and has previously insisted that Uighur refugees be extradited back.
In reality it is the Chinese authorities, who remain unaccountable for the massacre, that are the real terrorists and criminals, continuing to practice their ethnic cleansing. Let this be known.
In Munich, today the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) will convene to commemorate the massacre, which China refuses to recognise. Together with the East Turkestan Union in Europe, the WUC will stage a demonstration to ensure that the international community does not forget the events of 5th February, 1997.
The Munich Security Conference is also set to take place today, which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is set to attend. It is said that top priority of affairs is to discuss concern over the recent events in the Middle East, and in particular freedom of speech and the right to protest. In the last few weeks alone the international community has been witnessing some of the most popular waves of peaceful protest in Tunisia and Egypt be crushed by vicious security forces and pro-government provocateurs aiming to initiate violence amongst the crowds. Much like the Tunisians and Egyptians, the Uighurs too were suppressed, despite exercising their right to protest peacefully. However in their case, the events of 5th February were not televised internationally and exposed to the world.
It is just as important to remember those who have fallen as it is to support those who are trying to rise. The media may well forget them, but we cannot. They must stay forever in our hearts and minds, their stories shared, listened and understood, their causes championed.
Gulja Massacre 05/02/1997
Freedom for the Uighurs.