Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 9 News List

China’s Uighurs grapple
with pull of extremism

Scores of Uighurs from Xinjiang are arriving in Turkey in the hope of a freer life, and groups are happy to meet them — to lure them to Syria to fight for the global jihad movement. However, some are pushing back

By Gerry Shih  /  AP, KAYSERI, Turkey

A 53-year-old woman told a reporter that she was dying without healthcare, unable to pay US$650 a month to treat her lymph disease.

In the abandoned apartments occupied by Uighurs, where hallway windows were shattered long ago, but floors are swept clean, Fatima, 29, raises three children on flour, rice and vegetables. They have not had meat since May, when her husband was taken away by police. She says his arrest had nothing to do with militant groups, but like many cases here, the details are opaque.

In private moments, Fatima has wondered if the journey out of China was worth it. She explained to her 11-year-old daughter in seventh grade that because she was not officially a refugee, she did not receive certificates from school, despite outperforming all of her classmates.

When her daughter asked why they fled China to still live as second-class citizens in Turkey, she put on a brave face.

“Turkey will protect our freedom and our religion,” she said. “This life is better.”

The day jihadi recruiters whisked away 170 Uighurs arriving from Thailand, Qari protested to airport police. They shrugged and responded that the Uighurs were free to leave with friends and relatives of their choosing. Qari, after all, had no way to prove that he acted in their best interests.

As he rode back in his near-empty bus, past the dry, rocky hills, he wept.

“We Uighurs are worth nothing to the world,” he thought to himself. “In China, we die. In Syria, we still die. We live without a name and we die without a trace.”

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