General Mahmut Muhiti’s 1938 letter published in Yash Turkistan [Young Turkistan] Journal’s 112th Issue in 1939
General Mahmut Muhiti (1887-1944/1945) was an East Turkistan independence leader born to a wealthy Uyghur family from Turpan. Muhiti and his family played a vital role in the 1931 Qumul Rebellion, the East Turkistan national movement, and the establishment of the First East Turkistan Republic on November 12, 1933. He served as the Minister of Defense of the First East Turkistan Republic.
Following the overthrow of the First East Turkistan Republic in April 1934, fearing his popularity and his troops, Sheng Shicai (under Soviet pressure) briefly gave General Mahmut Muhiti the position of Military Commander of Southern “Xinjiang.” Within weeks, General Muhiti was dismissed from his position but could still retain command of the 6th Uyghur Division in Kashgar.
In 1935, he sought British and covert Japanese support to restore the independence of East Turkistan. In 1936 he began to openly oppose the Soviets and the Sheng Shicai regime by advocating for the re-establishment of an independent East Turkistan.
He received widespread support from the public, intellectuals, and wealthy businesspeople across East Turkistan, which led to further tensions. In March 1937, General Muhiti was invited to a meeting with Sheng and the Soviets to ‘negotiate’ the future of East Turkistan. Instead of attending the talks, Muhiti fled to British India on April 2, 1937, with a small group of his officers in hopes of getting British support.
While Muhiti was out of the country, his junior military officers in the 6th Uyghur Division rebelled against Sheng Shicai and declared an independent government (also known as the East Turkistan / Xinjiang Rebellion in 1937 (April 2, 1937 – October 15, 1937).
Muhiti’s letter sheds light on his experience in British India and how China used other Uyghurs to attempt to silence him and have him banished from India. A short message to East Turkistanis inside and outside the homeland follows.
He later traveled to Saudi Arabia for Hajj in Mecca before seeking asylum in Japan in 1939. In Tokyo, he set up the East Turkistan Independence Society, intending to restore East Turkistan’s independence and oppose both China and the Soviet Union. In 1940, he traveled to Souther Mongolia (“Inner” Mongolia) with the help of the Japanese and sought to establish a force to liberate East Turkistan.
There are two different conflicting narratives about his death: One Chinese source states he died in Japanese-controlled Beijing in 1944, allegedly from a brain hemorrhage several months before the establishment of the 2nd East Turkistan Republic on November 12, 1944. Uyghur sources state that he died from a heart attack in present-day Inner Mongolia in August 1945, shortly after hearing the news that Japan was surrendering.
“Dying is acceptable, but turning back is not an option”.
By General Mahmut Muhiti, East Turkistan National Independence Movement Leader.
As the vital western part of our sacred homeland, our beloved Turkistan faced captivity by the Russians. The Eastern part experienced hardships and oppression under the vile policies of the Chinese.
These devastating days that have been written in dark pages of glorious Turkic history never passed by peacefully, nor did it expect that fate would taunt it. Our desire to live as a free and independent nation and self-govern our glorious and renowned homeland is embedded in our blood.
Unfortunately, the enemy was strong, had all the modern necessities, and was well prepared. Because of captivity and the challenging position, we could not rise on all fronts in time. Despite our situation being like this, we, nevertheless, rose to fight a bloody struggle against oppression.
The revolts in the latter period of East Turkistan, compared to the previous uprisings [General Muhiti is probably referring to the resistance before 1931] not only had different goals and means to achieve these goals, but also the strength of the enemy and its forces acted on two fronts: The Chinese and the Communist Russians had become one united enemy.
Because of this, it is vital to examine the current revolution in East Turkistan from different viewpoints. In the present war, the Russians have taken the side of our Chinese enemy. Involving the Russians and the partnering of these two immemorial enemies of the Turkic peoples even in future battles is extraordinary, yet it signals a dangerous state of affairs.
Those that hadn’t examined the East Turkistan Revolution or seen our people’s desire and oppression, those who hadn’t gone through the atrocities and suffering as we did, or those that didn’t even want to know of these things, wrongly thought of our revolution as a ‘sudden, aimless war’ or ‘meaningless shedding of blood’. Many advised us to ask for ‘autonomy and equality under the law’ instead.
We, of course, knew the reality of the implementation of ‘autonomy and equality under the law’ in our homeland before we started this struggle.
In reality, the autonomy that the Chinese would give us and the Republican rights [human rights, political rights, equality] that had not brought any benefits to the Chinese people would again bring discrimination, oppression, and subjugation to our Turkistan.
We did not engage in this endeavor to beg and obtain something from someone, and we will not ask. If we could have achieved something by begging, we would not have needed to enter into a war.
However, we started a cause: A complete national liberation. We could not have achieved our national emancipation without bloodshed and sacrifice. Truly and purely, we shed blood, without thinking twice, we gave our lives for our beloved country, and on this path, we are ready to fight physically with the same level of determination!
During the days when we started our national liberation movement, some advised us to ask for autonomy. They even praised the Chinese and told us not to engage in a conflict with them. Instead, they proclaimed that uniting with them would be beneficial. We never wanted these types of people among us, nor did we expect them to join us, especially from amongst the people of East Turkistan.
However, with a thousand regrets, we were sadly disappointed to see this pitiful type of person. We saw a journal titled “The Voice of Chinese Turkistan [Chin Turkistan Awazi]” written by Isa begs ogli Yusuf, who claimed to be East Turkistani [he later changed his name to Isa Yusuf Alptekin]. When we read it and saw the offensive words and ideas that were against and incompatible with our goal and our cause, and even praise for the Chinese, we were shocked.
However, reading that he demonized the Bolsheviks, describing them far from humanity, we tried to understand and thought maybe his praise of the Chinese was just an expression to get sympathy from them. However, after a short while, he published a journal titled ‘War News’ and exposed his treachery to the public.
It was clear that this China-lover [Xittay Peres / a pro-Chinese person] had taken the title of a Bek [governor] and began to use it just because his father had been an administrator under the Chinese regime. He was working together not just with the Chinese and his leader Chiang Kai-shek but also with the Russian Bolsheviks.
Just as we were thinking about the serious threat that this shameless ‘Chinese patriot’ posed to our national cause (around November 3, 1938), he arrived in India with a suspicious person who shared a similar background. Seeking to propagandize his activities such as ‘Chinese patriotism’ in the press and by traveling from city to city, this Isa, who arrived from China to India, also visited me and told me to return to China, stating that I would receive titles and positions of office.
My response to this outrageous proposal against the struggle and the national path that I had undertaken in my beloved homeland to fulfill the desires and wishes of my fellow countrymen was clear as ever.
Disrespecting the blessed blood of the children of our precious homeland did not cross my mind. Just like that, I know that those on this path are serving the cause with the same sincerity and desires, and I hope that it will remain this way.
My exit from our homeland to the foreign lands does not mean me fleeing from the struggle. Similarly, I will not return to China and obtain titles and offices. My friends with whom I have stood side by side in this struggle understand that I have never sold my national pride for office or power. Even when I held power, I stayed true to my national thought principles. My responsibility towards my homeland and nation and the oath I took for this struggle is adamant and everlasting.
It should be clear to Isa and those despicable people like him that this revolution will not stop until it has achieved its desired outcome. Its heroic men are already rooted in this ideology. They will never stop fighting until they have reached their objectives. They will not turn back on the path they have taken.
Isa truly understood he came to the wrong address. Now he was starting to try and test other options. He joined forces with his masters at the Chinese Embassy in Bombay [Mumbai] and resorted to threats and reported us to the British – Indian government by slandering us and having us imprisoned.
As we did not fear death and tried to stay humble and patient in a difficult situation, we assumed the so-called ‘Gentleman Britannia’ had received our letters and would respect the sincerity of freedom fighters like us. However, they only listened to reasoning and excuses based on reports of our slanderers. They locked us up for twenty-eight days and released us on the condition that we leave India.
Had those that locked us up been the Chinese or Russian governments that we were against, we would not have been too surprised. When we applied for political asylum, all we had asked was to be treated well as guests. That is all we asked. We had no idea whether the British-Indian government did this because they were doing a favor to the Russians or if this was a gesture to flatter the Chinese.
We pitied those that we thought were neutral when we saw that they suddenly had to take a side. These incidents do not scare us, and we will not give up on their struggle. The blood that flows through our veins is our conscience, feelings, and determination. Our friends and enemies should know very clearly, that we are going forward with a clearly defined goal and fixed aspiration.
Thus, we must understand all those who oppose our innate aspiration as enemies. I want to say it clearly: Those who are friends with the enemies cannot be our friends. We are not the occupiers – on the contrary – we are members of a great nation struggling against invaders to maintain our national existence. We wish that those that interfere with our struggle against the invaders of our homeland, and those who are trying to stop us, were not from nations with a conscience.
This struggle is an example of our faith. Cowardice is a foreign concept to us. The path of our endeavor is clear, and our aspiration is evident. Giving up our national aspiration is the same as joining forces with the enemy!
My final words to my fellow countrymen inside and outside our homeland and to my brothers and sisters on this path of aspiring for independence:
To rise up and struggle for our sacred endeavor by never getting tired, never giving up, without losing hope by joining shoulder to shoulder in a more effective way to obtain the independence of our homeland and nation, without preconditions.
East Turkistan is the homeland of the Turkic peoples. For a country to live up to its name, the obligation of taking part in the struggle lies on all of our shoulders.
Source: Yash Turkistan Journal, 1939 – Issue No. 112