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Who Are the Uighurs?


The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, Muslim minority with separatist ambitions.

An older Uighur man in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province (East Turkestan), China

moniquz on Flickr.com

The Uighurs are a Turkic Central Asian people, now living primarily in the western Chinese province of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (which many Uighurs prefer to call East Turkestan).

Smaller populations of Uighurs also live in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan.

Between the 8th and 12th centuries, the Muslim Uighurs controlled much of Inner and Outer Mongolia, as well as what is now Xinjiang. When the Abassid Arabs attacked Tang China at the Battle of Talas River in 751 A.D., Uighur troops joined the Arab army.

Chinese Uighurs have been fighting in a low-level separatist struggle since the 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, and subsequent Han Chinese assertion of control in Xinjiang. The central government of China has designated several Uighur separatist groups as "terrorist organizations."

Pronunciation: "WEE-ghur" or "OOEE-ghur"
Alternate Spellings: Uigur, Uyghur, Uygur

"The Uighur Empire at its height stretched from Manchuria in the east to the Caspian Sea in the west."

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