China’s Uyghur Muslim Women: Military Pioneers

By Rashida Wallace

 It is widely known that China’s history regarding women’s rights is a bit controversial – such as women being forced to have an abortion based on the gender of their unborn child.

 Well now, the Republic of China’s military has taken quite a turn from its usual tradition, as Uyghur Muslim women are now being recruited for the nation’s navy. This mark’s the first time in the great nation’s history that the Chinese military will allow minorities to serve alongside members from the majority culture.

 So far, twenty Uyghur Muslim women have been recruited and are now on voyage missions with the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

 Uyghur women were first enlisted in 2011 for China’s navy. Aytulun Xukrat, a 19 year old who joined the navy along with her two sisters stated, “It is an honor that I am among the first 20 Uygur women to serve our country in the navy,” Xukrat works in the communications division of Jinggangshan, which is one of the navy’s most advanced landing aircraft.

According to Xukrat, her two sisters joined the navy after she was recruited in 2011. They are serving in the North and East Sea Fleets. Before being enlisted into the navy, Xukrat decided to end her studies at Xinjiang Normal University to fulfill her dream of working at sea.

Since the military began recruiting women, many females have been newly inspired to work towards becoming sailors.  According to the political commissar of Jinggangshan, Hu Zhihao, unfortunately, Uyghurs cannot perform their regular duties like everyone else due to language barriers. In response, an officer has been assigned to assist the Uyghur military women improve their Mandarin language.

But in addition to experiencing the pride of serving in their nation’s military, women like Aliya Arkin, a 20 year-old Aksu native, describes some of the social benefits she’s gained since enlisting.  “My comrades come from many places in our nation, and we have become friends. I will invite them to Xinjiang and to my beautiful hometown after I return home. And even if one day I retire from the navy, I will never forget my brothers and sisters in the PLA.” Arkin is a navigation radar operator in one of the ships.

Arkin was inspired to join the navy because she wanted to get out and see the ocean for herself and she was fond of the navy’s uniforms, “I wanted to see the ocean and liked the PLA navy’s uniforms very much, so I decided to join when I saw a notice on a local TV program that the navy was recruiting female sailors from the Uyghur ethnic group. She made the decision to join the navy after seeing a notice on television for female military personnel.

Aliya Arkin along with Aytulun Xukrat and three other military women were sent to the Jinggangshan where they spent six months out at sea together on their mission.

Another young woman, Nurbiya Ablim who is 19 years of age from Turpan, serves as a signals operator. Ablim stated, “At first I couldn’t endure the tough training. We would train for four hours under the scorching sun each day. But, now I am used to the life.” Ablim also stated, “A lot of my shipmates who come from other places are very curious about Xinjiang, so I have spent hours telling them about my life there and stories about my hometown.”

This is a small, yet significant step for China and the rights of the Chinese population that they deserve as an independent. If they now allow a minority to serve in their navy, it could be a small step towards ending the population control movement and forcing Chinese women to have abortions.

Photo comment:  Khotan (Hotan / Hetian) is an oasis city in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. Uyghur people at Melikawat Ruins.  Digital photo taken by Colegota and post-processed with the GIMP.

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