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Turkistan Islamic Party head decries Chinese occupation

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Abdul Haq al-Turkistani’s message is addressed to the leader of the Taliban, the head of al Qaeda and a number of al Qaeda ideologues.

Abdul Haq al-Turkistani, the emir of the al Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), has released a new message decrying the Chinese occupation of the territory commonly known as Xinjiang. Al-Turkistani’s message is addressed to head of the Taliban, the leader of al Qaeda, as well as several high-profile al Qaeda ideologues. He calls on them to offer additional ideological support for the Uighur cause.

“Too few know” about the “media blackout, the muffling of mouths, [and] the shameless policy of China,” under which “the Islamic rituals are all being trampled under the feet,” al-Turkistani complains.

The TIP emir likens Uighurs to “orphans,” saying the “criminal Chinese state” has occupied East Turkistan and renamed it “Xinjiang,” which “is a new land.” This “simple policy” has been so successful that even though they “are neighbors to the Muslims of Pakistan and Afghanistan,” “very few know that there is a land called East Turkistan.” And it is “atypical” for Muslims to even know about the Uighurs, with “even the intellectuals” calling “our country Xinjiang” and referring “to us as Chinese.”

Al-Turkistani laments this fact, saying the Uighurs have their own history, identity, and culture, so it is “heartbreak[ing]” that they are called Chinese. “The land of Turkistan has been under Communist occupation for a whole century,” Turkistani says, with the “western part” being “occupied by the infidel Russians” and eastern Turkistan “occupied by the infidel Chinese.” According to al-Turkistani, the result is Uighurs are losing their Islamic identity.

“Muslims today do not know our geographic position,” he says. “We hate the criminal Chinese state and we do not love our affiliation to it and we never want to be affiliated to it.” He complains further that Muslims in Afghanistan are not called “American Muslims” even though the U.S. has supposedly occupied that country. Nor are Muslims living in Palestine called “Israeli Muslims.” So he wonders why his people should be called Chinese Muslims, when they are not really Chinese.

Al-Turkistani says the “important part” is that they all belong to the “Ummah of Muhammad” and “cannot give up on the great governance of Allah,” or His “sovereignty.” Indeed, the “disgraceful” Chinese have no “sovereignty over us.”

The TIP head says that the Uighurs are being “imprisoned and killed… conquered, and humiliated by the despicable Chinese.” As a result, “East Turkistan has almost become nonexistent,” similar to “Andalus,” which was once under the control of Muslims.

Addressed to Taliban leader, al Qaeda figures

Abdul Haq al-Turkistani calls “upon you all to articulate in your duas, your speeches, and your messages what has happened in Turkistan,” citing the “injustice and persecution done by Communist China.” It is a somewhat curious appeal as the persons he addresses are all in the TIP’s camp – that is, they are already supportive of his cause. Therefore, one could interpret al-Turkistani’s message as an appeal for additional rhetorical support, as he thinks the current offerings of his closest allies are insufficient.

Throughout al-Turkistani’s message, images of the following figures all appear: Haibatullah Akhunzada (the Taliban’s top leader), Ayman al-Zawahiri (the head of al Qaeda), Abu Qatadah al-Filistini, Hani al-Sibai, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Abdullah al-Muhaysini, Eyad Qunaibi, Abdul Razzaq al-Mahdi, Tariq Abdul Haleem, Sheikh Abu-al Fath al-Farghali and Sami al-Uraydi.

It is unsurprising that al-Turkistani considers Akhunzada and Zawahiri to be among the most important “scholars” of the ummah. The TIP has been loyal to the Taliban-Al Qaeda axis for years.

Abdul Haq al-Turkistani is a US and UN-designated terrorist and was a member of al Qaeda’s elite shura council as of 2005, according to the US Treasury Department. He has numerous other ties to al Qaeda.

Al-Turkistani’s predecessor as the head of the TIP (also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, or ETIM) was another al Qaeda-linked jihadist known as Hassan Mahsum, who was killed in northern Pakistan in 2003. In an episode of his Islamic Spring series, Ayman al-Zawahiri praised Mahsum for pledging his loyalty to the Taliban.

In more recent times, Abdul Haq al-Turkistani has been openly loyal to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In a previous message, released in 2016, al-Turkistani critiqued those who joined the Islamic State’s “illegitimate” caliphate. Al-Turkistani made his own loyalty to the Taliban and al Qaeda readily apparent. The images accompanying his 2016 message included a number of al Qaeda personalities, including Zawahiri.

Several of the other individuals shown throughout al-Turkistani’s latest message, which was released today, are well known pro-al Qaeda ideologues — at a minimum.

In addition, Abu-al Fath al-Farghali (an Egyptian) is a senior religious cleric in Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group in Syria that is closely allied with the TIP’s arm inside the country. Sami al-Uraydi, who helps lead Tanzim Hurras al-Din (the “Guardians of Religion Organization”) is actually HTS’s biggest critic.

As FDD’s Long War Journal has previously assessed, the TIP’s role in Syria is important for understanding intra-jihadi relationships and rivalries. The TIP has been one of HTS’s closest battlefield partners in Syria and has risen to HTS’s defense when the group has been criticized by other al Qaeda actors.

Yet, there is no indication that the TIP’s branch in Syria has renounced its loyalty to Abdul Haq al-Turkistani, who is a clearly a Taliban-al Qaeda man.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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