The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)
Council on Foreign Relations
Author: Holly Fletcher
March 12, 2008
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is a militant Muslim separatist group in the Xinjiang province in northwest China. The U.S. State Department listed the ETIM as a terrorist organization in 2002 during a period of increased U.S.-Chinese cooperation on antiterrorism matters in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
What is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement?
A small, militant Muslim separatist group based in western Xinjiang province of China—a vast, thinly populated region that shares borders with several countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. The ETIM is one of the more extreme groups founded by Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking ethnic majority in Xinjiang, seeking an independent state called East Turkestan. Most Uighurs, according to the U.S. State Department, do not support the movement to establish an independent East Turkestan. China’s communist regime, which fears that China could splinter if regional separatist movements gain ground, has long called the ETIM a terrorist group; after September 11, China warned the Bush administration that the ETIM had ties to al-Qaeda. In August 2002, after months of pressure from Beijing, the Bush administration announced it would freeze the group’s U.S. assets. But experts say detailed, reliable information about the ETIM is hard to come by, and they disagree about the extent of the ETIM’s terrorist activities and its ties to global terrorism.
Who are the Uighurs?
The Uighurs (pronounced WEE-guhrs) are an ethnic minority group numbering about 8 million. Their ethnicity, language, and culture is more similar to the Turkic peoples of neighboring Central Asian republics. Although the ETIM seeks to establish an independent Islamic regime, the majority of Uighurs are Sunni and do not support an Islamic state.
Does the ETIM have ties to al-Qaeda?
U.S. and Chinese officials say it does, but some experts are less sure.
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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.
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