In memory of beheaded, great Uyghur Poet – Abduhalik Uyghur

by Anne Kader


Abdurehim Gheni Uyghur

Today, March 13th marks the 89th anniversary of Abduhalik Uyghur, a well-known Uyghur poet who was tragically beheaded by the Sheng Shicai government in 1933. The poet devoted his life to the freedom of the Uyghur people.
Abduhalik Uyghur was born on February 9, 1901, in Turfan, then the capital of the Idikut Uyghur dynasty which ruled the region from 848 to 1369 AD. Abduhalik Uyghur was from a well-educated family, he was literate by the age of 5, and at 12, he began attending a religious school, where he learned Arabic and Persian and was exposed to classical poets as well. In 1916, he accompanied his grandfather, Mijid Haji, to Russia for business and took the opportunity to learn Russian. Upon his return to Turfan, he attended a Chinese school to learn the language and gained certain knowledge of Chinese classical and modern literature. He read Sun Yet-sen’s works and was enlightened about democracy. It was at that point in his life that he determined to fight against ignorance and to make efforts to reform the Uyghur society through science-based knowledge.
In 1923, Abduhalik Uyghur traveled to the Soviet Union for the second time along with the famous Uyghur reform pioneer Mehsud Muhiti. For three years, he studied and researched in the field of science. During this period, he had the chance to read the works of Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Maxim Gorky. The political situation following the Russian October Revolution affected him tremendously. Upon returning from Russia in 1926, he started initiating the educational reform known as “New Education”. He established a publishing house, distributed newspapers, and journals. His activities faced restrictions immediately by the nominal governor of the region, Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai. However, he never stopped. With the collaboration of his friends and fellow reformists, he established an Uyghur education fund which enabled him to open a New School in the town of Yingi Sheher the following year. Soon after that, one in the town of Kuwuk and one in Turfan a year later.
During these years, Abduhalik Uyghur wrote revolutionary poems that awakened the Uyghur people in the region and at the same time raised concerns among the Chinese warlords. The colonial government banned his poetry and people were forbidden to read them. In November 1932, Abduhalik Uyghur wrote the most revolutionary poems “Oygan” and “Achill” in Uyghur language on white cloth and hung them on the streets, urging the people to oppose the brutality of the Chinese colonial invaders.
Early in December 1932, Uyghur farmers in Turfan and Kumul started armed uprisings against Chinese invaders, calling to end the years of Chinese brutal oppression in the Uyghur homeland.
The ruthless killer Sheng Shicai went to Kumul to silence the Uyghur uprising but failed in the armed confrontations. On his retreat to Urumqi, he arrested Abduhalik Uyghur and his friends with the aid of a traitor named Rozi Mullah. On March 13, 1933, patriotic poet Abduhalik Uyghur, at the young age of 32, was brutally beheaded by Sheng Shicai the warlord along with 17 others on the streets of Turfan. Right before his death, even when the sword was at his neck, Abduhalik Uyghur stood high and shouted the anti-Chinese slogans in Chinese and Russian “Freedom !!!”, “Independence !!!”.
To this day, the poet’s blood-soaked, soul-provoking poem “Oygan (Awakening)” and the poem dedicated to liberation “Gul Achil (Bloom My Flower)” remain as the pride, national conscience, and inspirational support for the Uyghur people.

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