The below statement is attributed to President Ghulam O. Yaghma
East Turkistan regained its independence eighty nine years ago today, on November 12, 1933, guided by the spirit of anti-colonialism, reform, modernization, and national awakening. Since November 12, 1933, the people of East Turkistan have celebrated this day as East Turkistan’s national independence day.
East Turkistan’s modern history has been mostly turbulent and tragic. East Turkistan is located on the eastern side of historic Greater Turkistan, which was divided by the Pamir Plateau after Russia’s conquest of Central Asia in the nineteenth century. The Czar Russians invaded and occupied western Turkistan, while the Manchu empire invaded and occupied East Turkistan. Since the initial Manchu and later Chinese invasions of East Turkistan, the people of East Turkistan have steadfastly refused to submit to foreign occupation and colonial rule. In the last 158 years, they have declared their independence three times.
Today, November 12, the East Turkistani people all over the world are commemorating the declaration of independence of the two modern East Turkistan Republics founded in the twentieth century. The history of modern East Turkistan Republics begins with Abdukadir Abdulwaris Damolla’s anti-colonial national awakening movement. Despite the fact that Abdukadir Abdulwaris Damolla was assassinated in 1924, his students carried his vision on. The national uprising began in Qumul in 1931, sparking an anti-colonial revolution that quickly spread throughout East Turkistan, escalating into a war of national liberation. It overthrew the colonial-occupation government structures and quickly spread into East Turkistan’s Kashgar and Khotan.
Inspired by the revolution and its victories, the people of Khotan rose up against Chinese colonial occupation, seizing political power over the entire Khotan region, and establishing a new independent government. A section of the newly formed Khotan army led by Amir Sahip Nurmuhammed set out for Kashgar. Mr. Sabit Abdulbaqi, also known as Sabit Damolla, was among them. He was a modernist visionary and the founding father of the first East Turkistan Republic.
Mr. Sabit Damolla arrived in Kashgar and met with the city’s influential figures, to whom he explained his vision of ending Chinese occupation and re-establishing an independent modern Turkic state. He founded the East Turkistan Independence Association with the help of patriotic entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and students from East Turkistan’s Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek peoples. Following that, he began laying the groundwork for the modern East Turkistan state. The situation in Kashgar at the time was quite complicated, with several independent factions coexisting delicately on the verge of civil war. With his knowledge, wisdom, visionary ideas, and exceptional oratory skills, he united the various Turkic peoples of East Turkistan, who had differing opinions and intentions when they declared independence on November 12, 1932 as a unitary, pluralistic, and modern state.
On November 12, 1933, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life, old and young, gathered along the banks of the Tumen River in Kashgar. Following the firing of the 36-gun salute, Memet Eli Tewfiq’s Salvation March was introduced as the new Republic’s national anthem and sung. It was followed by a speech by Prime Minister Sabit Damolla Abdulbaqi, who declared the East Turkistan Republic officially established. The East Turkic Republic was the first modern constitutional independent state in our history to permanently define our national flag, national emblem, and national anthem as symbols of that unforgettable day.
Despite a lack of adequate financial, human, and military resources, Prime Minister Sabit Damolla was able to unite the opposing sides, calm those who refused to reconcile, and persuade them to work together to run this modern state in a short period of time. As a result, the new Republic established a national postal service, printed and issued currency, issued passports, and formed a national army in a short period of time. All of this was nothing short of a miracle for a state that had only survived for five months. Establishing such a state without any foreign support or interference, and without becoming a satellite state of any foreign state, was an extraordinary political victory achieved by the East Turkistani people’s great sacrifices and the outstanding leadership of East Turkistan’s leaders guided by Abdukadir Damolla’s anti-colonial national awakening and the principles of statehood applied by Prime Minister Sabit Abdulbaqi, his cabinet, and our National Assembly (Parliament).
Although the first East Turkistan Republic was short-lived, being overthrown on April 16, 1934, as a result of Soviet and Chinese invasion, it left behind the most important evidence, symbols, and visions for our ongoing struggle to reclaim our national independence. It revitalized our efforts to reclaim our independence and sovereignty. It centered our lives on patriotism. As a result, in 1944, it inspired our people to rise once more. The determination to re-establish our sovereign state grew, and the second national liberation movement established a strong foothold in the northern part of East Turkistan.
In 1944, the armed national liberation movement ended Chinese occupation and colonial rule in East Turkistan’s three northwestern provinces. On November 7, 1944, the national liberation movement was successful in quickly liberating Ghulja. However, in honor of the first East Turkistan Republic and the spirit of its founding fathers and martyrs, the leaders of the second East Turkistan national liberation movement and the people of East Turkistan decided to wait until November 12, 1944, to re-declare East Turkistan’s independence. As a result, the Second East Turkistan Republic succeeded and continued the First East Turkistan Republic.
The second national liberation movement was more widespread and organized, mobilizing all of East Turkistan’s native nationalities. At its peak, the second East Turkistan Republic had a national military force of 60,000 military personnel trained in modern warfare and equipped with modern weapons. The various East Turkistan native nationalities banded together to fight their common enemy, the Chinese occupation forces, as evidenced by the presence of three Mongol battalions in the East Turkistan national army.
Unfortunately, following World War II, East Turkistan became a victim of the Great Powers redistributing national territories, political realms, and influences. As such, the former Soviet Union shamelessly sold East Turkistan to China. After the leadership of the East Turkistan Republic was assassinated in late 1949 in a tragic event described by historians as a “mysterious plane crash,” East Turkistan was invaded by the newly established People’s Republic of China, and our sovereign state was invaded and forcibly overthrown on December 22, 1949.
However, the national pride, excitement, and unwavering hope that the two modern East Turkistan Republics gave us remain in our hearts. Our martyrs’ blood is still coursing through our veins. Despite ongoing genocide and colonization, our people’s determination to re-establish our national sovereignty and independent state is stronger than ever. Every year on this day, the spirit of the martyrs inspires us to keep fighting for our country’s independence, never giving up or bowing to our adversaries.
For the past 73 years, China’s ongoing campaign of colonization, genocide, and occupation in East Turkistan has demonstrated that restoring East Turkistan’s independence and sovereignty is critical to ensuring democracy, human rights, freedom, and the survival of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan.
I’d like to wish all East Turkistanis, be they Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tatars, and Mongols, a Happy National Independence Day! May God Almighty grant us quick liberation so that we can celebrate our independence in our homeland together in the near future.
Long live Independent East Turkistan!