ICC Note: Sadly, ISIS recruits come from a much wider demographic than may be first anticipated, as some of the largest groups of recruits come from nations like Russia and France. Given Beijing’s lack of serious involvement in the worldwide coalition against ISIS and in global counter-terrorism in general, China seems like an especially strange entry into this conversation until it is understood what it is that compelled so many Chinese to fight for the caliphate. Much of the incentive undoubtedly arises from the Communist Party’s prolific persecution of the Uighur people, an ethnically Turkish minority group in Xinjiang province who follow Islam. The CCP’s dubious “counter-terrorism” mantras and actions in Xinjiang have thoroughly ostracized the Uighur people from the rest of society, leading to a situation now in which Uighurs make up nearly all or all of ISIS’s recruits from China.
7/25/2016 Beijing, China (Wall Street Journal) –
Leaked Islamic State records provide the first solid evidence that more than 100 Chinese nationals have joined the jihadist movement in Syria, according to two recent studies, findings that come as Beijing is seeking closer cooperation from Western governments to counter terrorism.
The studies by two U.S. think tanks found that almost all Chinese fighters in the records said that they came from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, where some members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group have been resisting rule from Beijing for decades.
Some Chinese recruits didn’t specify their origin, but gave names, noms de guerre or other details suggesting they were Uighur.
The research from the New America think tank and the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point focused on recruits registered by Islamic State entering Syria from Turkey from mid-2013 to mid-2014. It corroborates Chinese officials’ assertions that there are about 300 Uighurs fighting with Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq. It’s unclear if more Chinese fighters joined the group outside the period covered by the leaked documents.
However, the findings cast doubt on China’s frequent assertion that many Uighur militants had trained and worked with al Qaeda and other foreign groups over the last nearly two decades. One of the studies found none with former jihadist experience and the other found four, with two listing experience in Pakistan, one in Afghanistan and one in Xinjiang, which Uighur separatists call East Turkestan.
China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.