mandag 22. februar 2021

Why Iran won’t cross China on the Uighurs

Iran has long championed the cause of repressed Muslims worldwide, an often vocal stance that has underpinned the Islamic Republic’s self-proclaimed leadership role in the Muslim world. But Iran has willfully ignored the ordeal of more than 1.5 million Uighur Muslims now confined by China in controversial “vocational training” camps, a silence that has spoken volumes about Beijing’s growing influence over Tehran.

Iran’s support for persecuted Shiite Muslim groups reaches far and wide, from repressed Shiites in Sunni-governed Bahrain, to the Houthis waging war in Yemen, to the pro-Iranian Islamic Movement in Nigeria which seeks to establish an Islamic state and whose rebel logo includes a portrait of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran’s Islamic republic.

To be sure, the Uighurs don’t readily fit in those same rebel molds. A Muslim ethnic group living primarily in the autonomous Chinese province of Xinjiang, Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, most Sunni community of nearly 12 million. They make up an estimated 42% of the population of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.