Dec 01, 2002

Commemoration of Uighur leader Isa Yusak Alptekin

Commemoration of Uighur leader Isa Yusak Alptekin

Uighurs around the world unite each year on December 17th to commemorate the death and celebrate the life of their leader, Isa Yusaf Alptekin.

Isa Alptekin was born in 1901 in the city of Yangihissar where he attended the madrasah. At the age of 20 he went to Western Turkestan in the employment of the Chinese Consul. His stay there coincided with a period of extreme Bolshevik oppression, which provoked a series of violent outbreaks of national resistance. These events had an important impact on Alptekin who soon found himself engaged in the movement for national liberation. He worked closely with other Eastern Turkestani’s living in Western Turkestan in an effort to prevent Soviet infiltration in Eastern Turkestan and to achieve full autonomy for his land, then under Chinese domination.

Uprisings in Eastern Turkestan against Chinese rule in 1933 created an opportunity for Soviet intervention, which supported Chinese warlords in suppressing the national movement. In the wake of this tragedy Alptekin went to Nanking, then the capitol of China where from 1932 until 1947 he was Eastern Turkestan’s representative to China’s parliament. There he sought the expulsion of Soviet forces from Eastern Turkestan and the consent of China’s central government to the full independence of his country.

Another Eastern Turkestan revolt in 1944 compelled the central government of China to concede the people of East Turkestan the right of administering their own internal affairs. Following the long exile, Isa Alptekin returned to Eastern Turkestan where in 1947 he was appointed Secretary General of the provincial government of Eastern Turkestan. When forces of the Peking regime overran Eastern Turkestan in 1949 Alptekin was forced to leave his country and sought asylum in India. He lived in Kashmir for five years until his departure in 1955 for Turkey.

During his stay in China, Alptekin published the magazines Altay and Tiyansham in the Uighur and Chinese languages. Between 1946 and 1949 he continued his work on behalf of the freedom of Eastern Turkistan in Unimchi with the publication of the magazine of the magazine Altay and the newspaper Erik.

Throughout his life, Isa Alptekin traveled widely, bringing the cause of his motherland to the attention of world opinion and pursuing the goal of a liberated Eastern Turkestan. He met with national and world leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, President Ismet Inoud of Turkey, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan people and many other heads of state and government, parliamentarians and political leaders.

Mr. Alptekin addressed many international conferences on the subject of Eastern Turkestan and worked toward securing the adoption of several resolutions favoring the cause of his country. These included the Afro-Asian Conference in New Delhi. In 1960 and Mogadishu, 1965; Mutamar Islam in Mecca, 1963; the World Congress of Islam in Karachi, 1964 and the Baghdad Conferences of Islamic Countries, 1961.

In Turkey Mr. Alptekin was an especially ardent exponent of the cause of East Turkestan. There he organized press conferences, published pamphlets, made public appeals and voiced statements aimed at increasing awareness of the situation in Eastern Turkestan. His eloquence and accomplished speaking brought invitations to address groups in universities, nationalist organizations, factories and student unions. In a typical year he would deliver upwards of twenty lectures.

At the time of his death, Mr. Alptekin was President of the Eastern Turkestan National Center. He was 94.