Members of the Islamic Party of Turkestan, a Uyghur organization fighting to create an Islamic Uighur state, were detained by the Taliban on the border with China. Analysts indicate that this step may signal Taliban cooperation with Beijing, Radio Free Europe reported.
The Uighurs are an ethnic minority from the Turkic group of peoples living in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. They have over 12 million people, most of whom are followers of the Sunni Muslim faction. The Beijing authorities have long feared the use of Afghan territory by Uyghur separatists to fight for independence in Xinjiang, which they themselves refer to as East Turkestan. The Islamic Party of Turkestan has been accused by China of terrorism and of fueling unrest in the country’s western province.
During their previous rule, leading up to NATO’s intervention in 2001, the Taliban allowed Uyghur groups to operate in areas under their control, but also relocated them from areas bordering China. It is not yet clear what will happen to the Uyghur fighters arrested on Tuesday.
According to experts in the region, the Taliban’s move is the first example since taking power in August to calm Beijing’s fears, RWE reported. “This is what China expects and what the Taliban must do to ensure deeper cooperation with Beijing,” said expert Bradley Jardine of the Kissinger Institute in an interview with RWE.
Camps for the Uighurs
Since taking Kabul on August 15, 2021, Beijing has been trying to deepen China’s relationship with the new Afghan authorities by pledging to provide economic and development support in return for helping to address challenges that threaten China’s security.
China, citing the terrorist threat posed by the Uighurs, opened special re-education camps designated by Human Rights Watch as “crimes against humanity.”
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / STRINGER