Duped by extremists

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-9 20:13:01

Uyghur youth explains how jihadists tricked him, threatened his life, and ruined his future

Armed police officers in Pingxiang, a border city in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, search for suspects from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region who attempted to cross the border illegally in January 2015. Photo: CFP

Tursun, a young Uyghur man with good grades, could have been spending his 23rd birthday celebrating his success at a top-tier university. Instead, he has spent it in jail, giving interviews to media outlets about how he got lured into helping a terrorist group overseas.

China recently repatriated a group of criminals who illegally went abroad after being deceived by religious extremists. On their return, they exposed the lies of terror groups and revealed their miserable overseas experiences to the media.

Tursun, in an interview published on the WeChat account Zuihouyigongli, which is run by the Cyberspace Administration of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said that he wanted to share his dark experiences to warn young men that getting fooled by extremists could only ruin their prospects for a good future.

Previous life

Tursun is from Luopu county in southwest Xinjiang. Several years ago, he was among the top six students in a local school, and got admitted into a senior high school in a city outside Xinjiang.

According to the Xinjiang education authority, China has established senior high school classes for Uyghur students in 12 cities outside the region, including Beijing and Shanghai, since 2000 to improve the basic education level of Xinjiang.

"My parents were so happy that they cried after hearing that I got admitted, and they said that they would support my studies even if it might cost all the family's savings," Tursun said.

He still cherished his life in senior high school. Four students shared one dorm, which was equipped with an air conditioner.

The only thought of Tursun at that time was going to college. He passed the College English Test 6, and was ranked top in his class.

"Our foreign language teacher Robert often encouraged me and read my essay in the class," Tursan said, proudly reciting a paragraph of his essay.

He planned to apply to Xinjiang Medical University and pursue further study abroad before coming back Xinjiang to practice medicine.

However, he scored poorly in the national college entrance examinations, the first time he wrote them.

Without telling his family, Tursun went back to Hotan to prepare for the next year's exams while working part time.

The next year, his scores exceeded the requirement set for first-tier universities. But tragically, he never enrolled.

Instead, he was duped by his roommate Mexmut, a construction worker who frequently brainwashed Tursun in the name of promoting religion, persuading him that he could help Tursun study in Egypt.

Living in the dark

Tursun agreed. But he did not study in Egypt. Mexmut forced him to join a terror group, telling him he should join the holy war in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Tursan tried to back out, but was threatened.

"Mexmut and some other people pointed at me with two swords and said that they could not let me go because I knew too much. They said they would kill me and throw my bodies to places none of my parents could find if I did not follow them," Tursun said.

Tursun had to lie to his parents, saying that he was admitted by a university outside Xinjiang. He gave Mexmut 30,000 yuan ($4,800), the money his parents gave him for university tuition. Mexmut helped Tursun sneaked out of China.

On the border between China and Vietnam, Tursun called the people who sent him out and said he wanted to return home, but was again told that he would die if he came back.

"We lived in fear on the road, and only ate fruit. The organizers only cared about their own safety."

Tursun and some 30 other people squeezed in a vehicle that was for a dozen passengers, and they did not open windows for fear of being spotted. 

Even after they arrived at their destination, they only went outside at night. During his days in the terror group, he was banned from listening to music and getting involved in a relationship.

After noticing Tursun's English skills, the group leader assigned him to organize a people smuggling business.

Tursun helped smuggle eight groups of people by contacting agents using a mobile phone and the Internet. An additional four groups were caught on their way out of the country.

Tursun met many people who were smuggled overseas like him. One man had agreed to join the holy war in Afghanistan. He left the group due to frequent abuse, and said that people fled from the Islamic State, Syria and Afghanistan every day. Others were killed handling explosives.

Tursan said he met a man who made fake videos for an overseas terror group. The man finally left the group, saying that he did not want Xinjiang Uyghur people to believe those videos.

Coming back

Tursun was arrested and repatriated to China in February. Previous media reports said that over 300 Chinese extremists are fighting with the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Xinjiang has been plagued by religious extremism for years, leading to several major terrorist attacks in the region and other places in China.

In November 2014, Shanghai police arrested nine Uyghur people who planned to sneak abroad by using fabricated Turkish passports, and 10 Turks who organized the plot and provided the fake passports.

Xinjiang launched a yearlong campaign in May 2014 to crack down on violence and terrorist activities, after a terror attack in Urumqi that killed 31 people on May 22, 2014.

Chinese police have arrested 352 people suspected of organizing and transporting people to other countries, and 852 people suspected of crossing borders from May 2014 to this January. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement was believed to be behind the crime, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The Xinjiang government is also working on winning the support of the Uyghur people on the campaign. It has hired ex-soldiers to maintain community stability and also held cultural activities including short sketch comedies and drawing competitions to help them understand extremism and separatism.

Tursun was plunged into deep regret and agony. "I never called my parents during the one-year period staying overseas, and I felt sorry."

He warned young people to be alert to three kinds of people: those claiming current Muslims are not typical Muslims, those showing illegal religious brochures, and those criticizing the present legal system.

"Don't be fooled by these extremists and end up like me," Tursun said, before being led back behind bars.

Posted in: Society

blog comments powered by Disqus