Associzaione Uyghur ricorda il massacro di Ghulja

L’Associazione americana Uyghur ha commemorato ieri 5 Febbraio, il dodicesimo anniversario del massacro di Ghulja a seguito di un anno in cui le violazioni dei diritti umani in Est Turkestan (Regione autonoma dello Xinjiang Uyghur) sono state frequenti nonostante le promesse che le Olimpiadi avrebbero portato maggiori libertà alla Regione.

Segue il comunicato in inglese

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) commemorates the twelfth anniversary of the Ghulja Massacre today, following a year in which human rights abuses spiked in East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or XUAR), despite promises that the Olympics would bring greater freedoms to the region. As recently as December 2008, two Uyghur students who tried to organize a demonstration were detained, and their whereabouts are, as of yet, unclear. The Chinese government acknowledged a massive rise in state security arrests in East Turkestan in the past year, while it continued to blur distinctions between peaceful dissent, alleged threats to state security and alleged acts of terrorism. Twelve years on, the human rights situation for Uyghurs has not only lacked improvement, it has taken a decided turn for the worse.

Chinese government officials showed Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer footage of the crushing of the Ghulja demonstrations when she traveled to the region in February 1997 to investigate what had happened. Ms. Kadeer reports seeing military dogs attacking peaceful demonstrators and soldiers bludgeoning the demonstrators. She also saw bodies, both alive and dead, being piled into dozens of army trucks after being dragged across the ground. Ms. Kadeer believes the prefectural police chief showed her the footage in order to intimidate her and stop her investigative efforts.

Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Uyghurs were killed or imprisoned, or disappeared, after taking place in a peaceful demonstration on February 5, 1997 in the city of Ghulja in the northwest part of East Turkestan. Between ten and fifteen thousand demonstrators took part in a non-violent march to protest in support of equal treatment, religious freedom, and an end to racial discrimination in response to ever more repressive policies and practices against the majority Uyghur community in Ghulja. Most of the demonstrators were young men, although women and children were also present among the crowds, and reports indicate that they were among the injured and killed.

“The Chinese government has never provided a true account of the massacre that took place in Ghulja in 1997,” said Ms. Kadeer. Without such an account, it will be impossible to build the harmonious society that the Chinese government touts so frequently. There must be a full and fair accounting of the young men, women and children who were killed and injured, both on February 5 and in the subsequent crackdown. In addition, those who remain in detention today because of their peaceful involvement in the Ghulja demonstrations should be released immediately.”

Prior to the demonstrations in Ghulja, Chinese government authorities had banned one of the few remaining forums for community gathering among Uyghurs, traditional Uyghur gatherings known as meshrep. In Ghulja, meshrep had been used to successfully address problems such as alcohol and drug abuse among Uyghur youth, in part through the organization of a youth soccer league aimed at unemployed Uyghur youth. However, just before the soccer tournament was due to begin, Chinese government authorities parked tanks on the soccer fields in Ghulja, claiming the space was needed for military exercises, and broadcast regular radio programs saying that the games would have been “illegal gatherings” had they taken place. Chinese government authorities also stated that meshrep were being used for “separatist activities directed against the Chinese state.” The sports facilities in majority Uyghur neighborhoods were subsequently destroyed.

Chinese government authorities sent fully-armed paramilitary police to confront the thousands of unarmed demonstrators on the streets, and used batons, tear gas and high-pressure water sprayed from fire trucks to disperse the demonstrators. Eyewitness reports indicate that Chinese police fired into the crowd indiscriminately, killing as many as 30 Uyghur demonstrators and wounding more than 100 on the spot.

Chinese police then rounded up fleeing demonstrators, loaded them on to military trucks already stationed by the sides of the roads, and took them to different detention facilities in and around Ghulja. When all of the facilities in Ghulja were filled, police took several hundred demonstrators to a sports stadium and soaked them with cold water from a fire hose. Several people developed frostbite in the wintry conditions, and later had to have hands, feet or whole limbs amputated.

In the period immediately following February 5, 1997, thousands of Uyghurs were detained on suspicion of participating in the demonstration. In some cases, family members of those who had participated were also detained. Dozens and possibly hundreds of Uyghurs were executed, some in public, following summary trials. Many others were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including life, on charges of `hooliganism´. Other people simply disappeared, and are assumed to be either in prison or dead, their remains disposed of without their families being informed.

One young Uyghur man who was imprisoned after the Ghulja Massacre was Abduhelil Abdumijit, a father of three children who had an abiding faith in his religious beliefs. Abdumijit had taught traditional values and worked to lower the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse in his community. As a community leader committed to non-violent change, he helped to organize the demonstrations in Ghulja, and he was among those detained shortly after the Ghulja Massacre. Abdumijit was incarcerated for more than three years. He died in Chapchal prison on October 17, 2000 as a result of sustained beatings and torture.

According to an Amnesty International report issued in April 1999, China executed more than 200 Uyghurs in February 1997 for their participation in the demonstration. Some sources put this number at more than 400. Detainees suspected of organizing the demonstration were the victims of severe torture in prison, and many died as a result of the injuries sustained during torture.
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Uyghur American Association
1701 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 300
Washington, D.C.  20006
Tel: +1 (202) 349 1496
Fax: +1 (202) 349 1491

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