On April 5, 2023 (Thursday), members of the Uyghur diaspora from East Turkistan, under the leadership of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, held peaceful demonstrations in various locations such as Istanbul, the Washington DC metropolitan area, Brussels in Belgium, and Bangladesh. These demonstrations were held to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Baren Uprising that occurred in 1990 in Xinjiang, it is also referred to as the Baren Massacre or the Baren Revolution.
Uyghur activists assembled outside the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul on April 5 to voice their opposition to the atrocities committed by China against the Uyghur community. They held protests despite the adverse weather conditions.
At approximately 11 am (local time), the protest commenced with the recitation of Quranic verses. Roughly 120 Uyghur individuals, both men and women, participated in the protest, which was addressed by Abdullahad Udun, a local Uyghur leader, as well as Omer Qarim, an activist and General Secretary of East Turkestan Human Right Watch (ETHR). During the protest, the demonstrators chanted slogans condemning the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party, while also displaying banners that highlighted the atrocities being committed by China.
Abdullahad Udun, in a press statement, strongly condemned the brutalities committed by China, which have resulted in the deaths of numerous innocent Uyghurs. Udun highlighted that China has been perpetrating genocide in East Turkistan, which is referred to as Xinjiang in China. He emphasised that the world has been watching as mere spectators. Udun called upon Turkey and the Islamic world to take immediate and effective measures to prevent the forced genocide of the Uyghurs, which is being carried out by China in East Turkistan.
During the protest, Omer Qarim, who represents the East Turkestan Scholars Union, called on the Islamic world to take a firm stand against the enslavement of Uyghurs in East Turkistan. It is worth noting that Turkey is home to one of the largest Uyghur diaspora communities in exile. The Uyghur community in Istanbul has been actively protesting against the atrocities being committed by China, and they have been seeking information about the whereabouts of their missing family members.
Meanwhile, across various regions of Bangladesh, demonstrations and gatherings were organised to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Baren Revolution in East Turkistan, also known as Xinjiang in China.
In Dhaka, a conference was held by the Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan (BKA) with its leader, Shaheed Zaidin Yusuf, presiding over the event. At the gathering, participants expressed their condemnation of China's unlawful annexation of East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and the mistreatment of innocent Uyghur Muslims.
Following the conference, a protest was organised to bring attention to the issue of resettling Han Chinese in East Turkistan, which has the effect of diminishing the Uyghur population. The protestors strongly urged the Chinese government to cease such actions. The Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan (BKA) expressed their solidarity with the people of East Turkistan in their quest for freedom from China's illegal occupation, and appealed to the international community to support the cause of Uyghur Muslims.
The Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan (BKA) expressed their backing for the people of East Turkistan in their pursuit of freedom from China's unlawful annexation and called on the international community to step up and assist the cause of the Uyghur Muslims.
The Bangladesh Mohajir Welfare and Development Committee (BMWDC) arranged protest demonstrations and formed human chains in the vicinity of Dhaka University. Approximately 200 protestors distributed leaflets detailing the injustices inflicted upon the Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese government. The members of the BMWDC also handed over a memorandum to the Chinese embassy.
The Belgium Uyghur Association, under the leadership of one Ekrum Tursun, honoured the Baren revolution and protested against the Chinese government's atrocities in Xinjiang province by organising a candlelight vigil at the Atomium in Brussels. The participants in the vigil exhibited posters that illustrated the events of the Baren revolution.
Prior to the candlelight vigil, the Belgium Uyghur Association arranged a gathering in support of the imprisoned Uyghur activist, Ilham Tohti's daughter, Jewher Tohti, on March 30th. The event also featured Europe-based fashion designer Louise Xin, who has been drawing attention to the Chinese government's use of forced labour through her fashion shows. The attendees engaged in a discussion of the Baren revolution during the gathering.
Members of the community gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC for a peaceful protest. According to Uyghur activist Ilshat H Kokbore, the protest was aimed at promoting "the fearless spirit of the warriors in Baren Township who dedicated their lives to freedom and dignity".
今天，为纪念巴仁乡维吾尔勇士在33年前的抗争，弘扬巴仁乡勇士为自由、尊严而献身大无畏精神；我们来到中国驻华盛顿大使馆前抗议示威，祈祷、开斋。— Ilshat H. Kokbore 伊利夏提 (@HKokbore) April 6, 2023
During the spring of 1990, Baren Township, located near Kashgar in Chinese-occupied East Turkistan, experienced an unprecedented period of Chinese oppression. As part of its long-standing efforts to colonise, assimilate, and control the population, the Chinese government was reportedly compelling Uyghur and other Turkic women to undergo forced abortions.
After enduring 41 years of Chinese colonisation and occupation, the villagers of Baren reached a breaking point. They had recently witnessed 250 local women being forcibly separated from their newborns, and they could no longer tolerate the ongoing oppression. In response, they launched peaceful protests, but these were met with no response from the Chinese authorities. Consequently, they resorted to taking up arms in self-defence against the Chinese invaders.
The Uyghur separatists, who were demanding greater autonomy and independence for Xinjiang, took over the town and attacked local government buildings, police stations, and other symbols of Chinese authority.
The Chinese occupation forces reacted by deploying an overwhelming number of People's Liberation Army soldiers to Baren Township, which resulted in a large-scale massacre of innocent civilians, including women and children. Various sources estimate that the death toll ranged from hundreds to thousands of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples who were indiscriminately killed by heavy weaponry and airstrikes.
The Baren Uprising was one of the most significant incidents of Uyghur unrest in China in the 1990s. It highlighted the longstanding tensions between the Uyghur population and the Chinese government over issues such as autonomy, cultural rights, and economic development.It also demonstrated the Chinese government's willingness to use force to suppress Uyghur dissent and maintain its control over Xinjiang.
The impact of the Baren Uprising is still felt in Xinjiang today. The incident highlighted the deep-rooted tensions between the Uyghur population and the Chinese government over issues such as autonomy, cultural rights, and economic development. The Chinese government has long been accused of discriminating against the Uyghur population and suppressing their cultural and religious identity.
In recent years, the Chinese government has intensified its crackdown on the Uyghurs, detaining an estimated one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in internment camps. Reports of forced labour, forced sterilisation, and other abuses have sparked international condemnation and calls for action.
The Baren Uprising is thus seen as a precursor to the ongoing human rights crisis in Xinjiang. It underscores the need for greater recognition of the Uyghur people's rights and autonomy, as well as the importance of international attention and action to address human rights abuses.