AJIT SINGH·MARCH 31, 2021
Cultivated by the US government as human rights activists, Uyghur American Association leaders partner with far-right lawmakers and operate a militia-style gun club that trains with ex-US special forces.
On March 21, US-government-funded Uyghur activists were caught on video disrupting a gathering against anti-Asian racism in Washington DC, barking insults at demonstrators including, “Wipe out China!” and “Fuck China!” The Uyghur caravan flew American and “East Turkestan” flags and drove vehicles adorned signs bearing slogans such as, “We Love USA,” “Boycott China,” and “CCP killed 80 million Chinese people.
Organized by the Uyghur American Association (UAA), the drive-by heckling of anti-racist demonstrators drew widespread condemnation on social media, including from other sections of the Uyghur separatist movement. Salih Hudayar, the self-proclaimed “Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile,” slammed “the UAA’s reckless drive-by” for causing “severe backlash against Uyghurs,” and insisted that Uyghur Americans were “not racist.”
The UAA has attempted to distance itself from accusations of extremism and racism, stating that its members’ actions were misrepresented. Despite refusing to rescind their call for China to be “wiped out,” the UAA declared that it “condemns any form of bigotry and stands with all victims of racism.
However, an investigation by The Grayzone into the Uyghur separatist movement in the Washington DC area has uncovered a jingoistic, gun-obsessed subculture driven by the kind of right-wing ideology that was on display during the March 21 car caravan through downtown.
Leading figures of the UAA operate a right-wing gun club known as Altay Defense. Proudly dressed in US military fatigues, Altay Defense drill in advanced combat techniques with former members of US special forces who also train private mercenaries and active duty US service members. Members of the militia-style gun club espouse pro-Trump politics and anti-immigrant resentment.
The UAA is the US-affiliate of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), an international network whose first president outlined an objective to precipitate the “fall of China” and establish an ethno-state in Xinjiang. The recipient of millions of dollars of funding the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government-sponsored entity, this network works closely with Washington and other Western governments to escalate hostilities with China.
Despite claiming to represent the interests of China’s Uyghur and Muslim minority populations, many of the UAA’s closest allies represent some of the anti-Muslim, far-right forces in Washington, from Republican Rep. Ted Yoho to the Family Research Council, as well as the FBI.
During the pandemic, the UAA and members of its affiliate organizations helped inflame anti-Asian resentment by spreading far-right propaganda referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus,” and claimed that China was waging a “virus war” against the world, “[p]urposefully, intentionally export[ing] the virus to cause the pandemic.”
Behind its carefully constructed image as a peaceful human rights movement, the UAA and its offshoots in the DC-based Uyghur separatist lobby are driven by far-right ideology and envision themselves as militant foot soldiers for empire.
“I belong to America!” Uyghur human rights leader teams up with far-right, Islamophobes in anti-China crusade
The UAA’s ultra-patriotic reverence of the US and fanatical anti-China politics have been on full display under the organization’s current president, Kuzzat Altay.
Altay frequently takes to social media to make his allegiance to Washington known.
“May GOD bless you American Veterans! May GOD bless America!” declared Altay on Veterans Day in 2019.
Shortly following the illegal US assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, Altay left no doubt as to where he stands: “Looks like the war just started […] I belong to America!”
Amid the US uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism sparked by the murder of George Floyd, Altay chided Black Lives Matter protesters, saying that he “support[ed] peaceful protestors […] but do[es] not support looters, rubbers [sic] and criminals”
“Your LOVE for #America should be greater than your HATE for #Trump,” Altay pronounced.
The degree of Altay’s infatuation with the US is only matched by the ferocity of his enmity towards China. “The most normal thing that I could ever imagine is anti-China activities every freaking day,” Altay stated on July 25, 2020. “You should help us to stop China. China is ALREADY the common enemy of humanity.”
Altay is a staunch supporter of Washington’s new Cold War agenda. Applauding the Trump administration’s trade and technology war, Altay declared “[a]ll counties [sic] should treat #Huawei as war criminals.”
Despite claiming to be the international representatives of Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim, Uyghur ethnic group, and struggling against religious persecution, Altay and his comrades have routinely teamed up with far-right, Islamophobic forces in the US to advance their separatist campaign.
The UAA has worked closely with Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, a homophobic, anti-abortion ultra-conservative who once told a Black constituent that he was not sure if the Civil Rights Act was constitutional. Yoho was one of only four lawmakers to vote against legislation making lynching a federal hate crime. In a high-profile dust-up on Capitol Hill, he reportedly called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “fucking bitch.” In 2019, Yoho was one of 24 members of Congress to vote against a resolution condemning bigotry because it included anti-Muslim discrimination.
In 2019, Altay spoke on a panel of US government-funded Chinese dissidents organized by the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to its extreme anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim ideology.
Retired US General and undersecretary for defense under former President George W. Bush, Jerry Boykin, serves as the FRC’s vice president. Boykin is a virulent Islamophobe who believes that the religion is evil and should be outlawed, and that there should be “no mosques in America.” During a sermon at an evangelical church during the US war on Iraq, Boykin boasted of taking on a Muslim warlord in Somalia: “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol,” he declared. Boykin’s anti-Muslim tirades grew so extreme that he was investigated by the US Department of Defense and drew a rebuke from Bush.
In recent years, Altay has organized several events for Uyghur Americans in collaboration with the FBI, the federal law enforcement agency notorious for its surveillance of Muslim Americans and ensnaring countless mentally troubled young Muslim American men in manufactured terror plots. In 2020, the UAA organized an “FBI Workshop for Uyghur Community” which aimed to teach Uyghur Americans about “the role of the FBI in protecting Uyghurs” and how “Uyghurs [can] communicate with the FBI”.
Throughout the pandemic, Altay and fellow leaders of the Uyghur separatist movement have incessantly spread right-wing conspiracy theories blaming China for Covid-19 and all related deaths. Such disinformation has played a key role in whipping up anti-Asian racism in the US and West.
Altay’s Twitter page is an endless stream of noxious, far-right coronavirus-related propaganda.
“I support @realDonaldTrump’s decision to call it ChineseVirus,” declared Altay on March 18, 2020, defending Trump against criticism from “[p]eople whining about racism.” Altay also routinely referred to Covid-19 as “Wuhan virus” and “CCP virus”, as have WUC leaders such as Dolkun Isa and Rushan Abbas.
Altay promoted Steve Bannon’s claims that the “CCP unleashed [Covid-19] on the world”, and would later echo this sentiment. “China [p]urposefully, intentionally exported the virus to cause the pandemic,” Altay declared on July 5, 2020. “No war has kileed [sic] more people than China’s Virus war.
Kuzzat Altay’s political activities are a reflection of the deeply rooted right-wing culture that pervades the Uyghur separatist movement.
Foot soldiers for empire: Uyghur human rights activists training with US military instructors for “mission readiness”
Leading members of UAA have founded Altay Defense, which arranges for constituents in the Uyghur separatist movement to receive arms training by former US special forces soldiers and instructors. The organization boasts that “[a]ll security training [is] provided by former special force officer!”