The Uigurs living in the countries of Central Asia became a kind of bargaining chip in relations with the People's Republic of China. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the political activity of the Uigurs in the region has sharply increased. New newspapers, public organizations have appeared. The activity of national-cultural centers was intensified. Such activization of the Uyghur organizations in the region met the alertness of the official authorities of China, which exaggerates the issue of the so-called Uygur separatism and extremism, creating the image of the enemy in the person of the Uyghurs.
In Kyrgyzstan, the Uigurs play an active role in the public and political life of the country, balancing on supporting the development of Uygur culture and political identity, which is not always adequately perceived by the official authorities of not only China, but also Kyrgyzstan.
Perhaps the most scandalous case was the ban of the official authorities of Kyrgyzstan on holding a solemn meeting dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the Uygur national-cultural center "Ittipak" in Bishkek, in December 2004. Ex-State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov told the Ittipak leadership that the ban was related to the interview of the Ittipak President Rozmukhamet Abdulbakiyev to the Agym \ Current newspaper, in which the Uygur community leader in Kyrgyzstan said that in the future the Xinjiang Uygur district should become independent from China. According to Ibraimov, careless interview Abdulbakiyev complicated diplomatic relations between China and Kyrgyzstan.
According to official data, in Kyrgyzstan, the Uigurs compactly live in the Chui Valley, in the cities of Jalalabat and Osh, in the famous village of Kashgar-Kishlak, which is so named because of people from the ancient city of Kashgar. “Our ancestors come from Kashgar, which is now in China. Many local people are still called “Kashgarlyk”, which means “Kashgarets”, ”says Odilbek Khashimov, an ethnic Uyghur who lives in the village of Kashgar-Kishlak, near the city of Osh.
According to official data, 43,3 thousand Uigurs live in Kyrgyzstan, and according to unofficial data - about fifty thousand. In the Osh oblast, in the most densely populated region of the country, more than eleven thousand Uigurs live. Although, only in one Kashgar-Kishlak population as much as Uygurs according to statistics in the Osh region.
Such a small number of “official” Uigurs is explained by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Uigurs identify themselves as Uzbeks. And in official documents they are recorded as Uzbeks. This is due to mixed marriages, cultural assimilation with Uzbeks, as representatives of the people who are closest in mentality.
The president of the National Cultural Center of the Uighurs of the Osh region, Orinbayev Khamrozhon, says the same: “It’s difficult to determine the exact number of Uygurs in our region because there are families where the older brother is Uighur by passport, and the youngest is Uzbek. The absence of Uighur schools, compact living together with Uzbeks and Kyrgyz led to the fact that many have already forgotten their native language and already consider themselves Uzbeks by self-consciousness. ”
In order to somehow resolve this situation, the national-cultural center of the Uigurs tried to organize Sunday schools of the Uyghur language, but faced the problem of a shortage of textbooks and teachers who know the Uyghur language.
Although, since 1994, in Bishkek, the National State University has a faculty of Uyghur philology, where, in principle, such teachers are trained. But where are they? No one can answer this question. The Uigurs are a rather numerous ethnic group in Kyrgyzstan, despite scant official data. But, while there is no even a Sunday school to know and remember their native language. The situation with the development of the Uyghur language is relatively better in Kazakhstan, where there are about 70 Uygur schools.
It is noteworthy that, despite this situation of the Uyghur language in Kyrgyzstan, in the south of the country television series in the Uygur language, brought from East Turkestan, are very popular. Every Saturday, the local private TV channel OshTV shows films in Uygur. According to the editor-in-chief of this channel, Sobirjon Akhrorov, the display of Uygur films is in no way connected with the number of Uygur ethnic groups in the region. There is simply a demand for these films.
The reluctance to address the issues of cultural education of the Uigurs in the countries of Central Asia is due to the excessive politicization of the problem of the Uigur communities in the region. Uigur public organizations operating in Europe consider all lawsuits against Uigurs in Central Asia politicized and fabricated. In Kyrgyzstan, the authorities directly link the chain of terrorist acts of the country that took place in 2002-2003 with Uygur separatists.