Who are Uighurs?

Today, I’ve been learning about Uighurs (WEE-gurs).  In case you’ve missed the news, this has made headlines in the past few weeks because there are seventeen Uighurs being held at Guantanamo Bay.  So who or what in the world are these, people have been asking, and why should I care?  Well, Uighurs are a group of people who originally come from the Xinjiang region in western China.  The interesting fact about them is that the majority of them are Muslims.  That’s right, Chinese Muslims.  They are separatists  who have been fighting against Chinese control of that region.  As a result, China labeled them as terrorists and the group of seventeen in question was arrested in 2001 as part of America’s war on terrorism.  The U.S. government has ruled that they are not actually enemy combatants, but up until yesterday, was still holding all of them in custody.  On Thursday, four of them were released to the island of Bermuda.  The island nation of Palau has also expressed interest in receiving them.  China wanted them released back to its government, but American officials were afraid that they would be tortured or killed.  Little sympathy has been garnered for their plight internationally, mostly because of the label of terrorist that they have wrongly received from the Chinese government. 

Why should you care, you wonder?  Well, I think that its important that American people become more aware of international issues.  People all over the world follow American news, politics and pop culture.  But many Americans demonstrate an insular attitude towards the rest of the world and know very little about news from other countries unless its a famine somewhere in Africa or conflict in the Middle East.  But there is so much more to learn.  Broaden your horizons.  You would be surprised at what you learn.

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