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ABOUT THE SERIES: China’s Uighurs on edge

January 10, 2018 GMT

Authorities imposed an intense security crackdown over Xinjiang after a bloody 2009 riot in the regional capital and sporadic deadly attacks in the several years that followed. Security measures have intensified over the past year under a new regional Communist Party chief who has mixed a heavy police presence with indoctrination camps, facial recognition scanners, DNA collection and spying among neighbors, raising concerns among human rights groups.

Droves of Uighurs have fled the security crackdown, typically traveling through Southeast Asia to Turkey in search of greater freedom. Along the way several thousand have been recruited by the Turkistan Islamic Party, a Uighur militant group that has links with al-Qaida and has been at the frontlines of key battles in Syria. Many Uighurs abroad are concerned about the pull of extremism on their community and have fought to steer Uighur arrivals away from Syria but are faced with myriad challenges.

In a series called “China’s Uighurs: On Edge,” the AP seeks to flesh out the profile of a people whose voices have largely been silenced or gone unheard under the blanket of security in the region. AP reports on what life is like in the digital police state that Xinjiang has become and documents the severe punishments meted out to even the mildest of critics. Rare and exclusive interviews with Uighurs who have trained and fought with Islamic militants in Syria expose the threat that China faces as the war winds down while Uighurs moderates in Turkey describe the uphill battle they are facing in trying to steer Uighurs away from extremism.