Who are the Uyghurs?

To grasp the story of Huseyin Celil, we must understand who the Uyghur people are. 

Who Are The Uyghurs?

The Uyghurs are a minority group composed mostly of Muslims who live in Xinjiang, a north-western area of China. Their population is approximately 11-12 million, making up less than half of the population of Xinjiang. They speak their own language which is part of the Turkic group of languages.

Many Uyghur people refer to their homeland as East Turkestan (or East Turkistan). They gained independence twice during the 1930s and 1940s.  In 1949, China annexed it to its current name ‘Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).’ In Mandarin, ‘Xinjiang’ translates to ‘new territory’ or ‘new frontier’. The Uyghur have diasporas to a smaller scale in Kazakhstan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere. In Canada, there are about 2,000 Uyghurs.

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