It appears that the Chinese government is becoming increasingly wary of the rising voices of the Uyghur women and has intensified their efforts to curb this.
After the recent riots in China’s northwest province, women have increasingly taken a more predominant role in making the voice of the Uyghur heard and calling for their rights. Uyghur women protestors in Hong Kong have recently demanded the release of Uygur men detained during the recent riots that erupted in July 2009. It is believed that over 1400 Uyghur were detained during the riots. Resentment towards the Chinese government only increased as hundreds more men have been arrested in the months that followed for alleged separatist charges. With more men staying away from the eyes of the Chinese government in the fear of being detained, Uyghur women are taking increasingly more positions on the front line, particularly in the protests against the Chinese government. A recent photograph of an Uyghur woman standing at the front of a crowd of protestors, pointing her finger at the police and eventually forcing them back, has become a symbol of the Uyghur women’s fight against the Chinese government. The photos of Tursun Gul, a mother of two drew immediate comparisons with a similar photo of a man looking down at tanks during the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 1989.
Instead of addressing the real motives behind these protests, the Chinese government has taken more repressive measures to counter the rise of Uyghur women influence. A new training program for buwi – female clerics, has been introduced. As part of the program, women are required to pledge to refrain from wearing veils or Islamic dresses or delivering religious lessons. The Chinese government also banned all women from entering mosques and wearing traditional headscarves as well as government employees and CCP (Chinese Communist Party) members. Uyghur perceive these efforts as an attempt to sinicize them. I believe this can only backfire against the Chinese. The Uyghur will feel their identity is becoming increasingly threatened that can only strengthen their resolve to fight for their rights. Once the Chinese government decides to listen to the Uyghur and make them feel that they’re not second class citizens, and grant them some form of autonomy that recognizes their different ethnic background, we can then hope to witness an end to unrest in Xinjiang.