Uyghur Figures – 07
Muhammad Amin Bughra
Muhammad Amin Bughra, was a prominent Uyghur scholar, historian, thinker, and renowned figure. Translated sources concur on his birth year and city, although there is some discrepancy regarding his exact birthplace. Most sources indicate that he was born in the year 1901 AD, corresponding to 1319 AH, in the town of Oy-Bagh, located in Karakash County within the prefecture of Hotan. Hotan is situated in the southern region of East Turkistan. Hailing from an esteemed scholarly lineage, it is also posited that he was born in the Dar al-Khalifa neighborhood in the city of Hotan.
Muhammad Amin Bughra grew up in a scholarly household, where his father, Farid al-Din, was a renowned scholar of his time. Under his father’s tutelage, numerous distinguished scholars received their education, both in Hotan and beyond. Muhammad Amin Bughra commenced his studies under his father’s guidance during his early years. However, his time with his father was cut short following his passing. Subsequently, his mother, Sakina Bano, undertook the responsibility of raising her six children, instilling in them an upbringing rooted in intellectual pursuits. Notably, she possessed a rare education among women of her time, contributing to an environment of scholarly nurture. This educational trajectory continued until the passing of his mother in 1913. Muhammad Amin Bughra’s renowned uncle, Muhammad Niyaz, distinguished for his expertise in medicine and science, assumed guardianship of him, ensuring his enrollment in religious schools.
At the age of twelve, foreign visitors flocked to Hotan, facilitated by his uncle’s strong connections with foreign nations. Attentively, he absorbed the statements of these foreign guests. His uncle, Muhammad Niyaz, held a prominent position as a scholar and physician, attracting a myriad of people from within and outside East Turksitan who sought his medical expertise. Visitors from Western Turkistan and the Indian subcontinent would frequently journey to avail themselves of his services.
Bughra delved into the realms of political and cultural knowledge under the tutelage of a scholar hailing from Turkiye. Following this, he embarked on a journey of voracious reading, perusing the volumes and books brought by visitors to East Turkistan.
At the tender age of fifteen, a profound melancholy and grief gripped his heart upon witnessing the plight of fellow Muslims. Bughra’s heart surged with indignation and abhorrence for the oppressors and tyrants. Consequently, fueled by this driving force, he commenced a deep study of both ancient and modern histories of the world.
His higher education continued in the domain of Islamic sciences, conducted in Arabic and Persian, at the Madrasa of Damolla Hezretim, one of the renowned schools in Hotan. By the time he reached the age of 22, he had outshone his peers, emerging as a distinguished scholar and a profound jurist well-versed in all aspects of Islamic knowledge. He assumed the role of an instructor at the same institution, a feat achieved at the youthful age of 21.
In the year 1929, he married Amina, the daughter of his maternal uncle. Muhammad Amin Bughra, renowned for his scholarly prowess and eloquence, soon became a household name due to his education and skills. He was bestowed with the honorary title of “Hazrat (His Excellency)” by the people, a testament to his intellectual eminence.
After 1925, Bughra embarked on an exploratory journey across East Turkistan, traversing numerous cities in this region. During this expedition, he had the privilege of meeting with scholars and intellectuals in every city he passed through, engaging in profound discussions regarding the destiny and freedom of the Muslim nation. Furthermore, he conducted a meticulous examination of the industrial capabilities and the mental state of the populace in these lands.
In the course of this journey, he met with the great scholar Thabit Damolla, and engaged in deep conversations. Muhammad Amin Bughra carried with him unwavering conviction in the duty of struggle in the path of Allah to liberate his people from the oppression of China. They both concurred that the Muslim community had no recourse but to initiate an armed uprising to rectify the conditions in East Turkistan, pledging to meet on the battlefield.
Thabit Damolla was determined to embark on a journey across the expanse of the Islamic lands, spanning westward to places such as Astana, the fertile land of Egypt, the Mesopotamian heartland, the Levant, Palestine, Hijaz, and venture through the vast subcontinent of India.
However, Muhammad Amin Bughra returned to Karakash after his exploratory expedition, prepared and resolute for the impending battle and struggle. He established a secret organization, with its inaugural members being none other than Muhammad Amin Bughra himself, alongside Muhammad Niyaz Alam Ahun and Tursun Muhammad Ahun. The organization underwent progressive stages of member recruitment while adhering to a covert modus operandi. The organization meticulously crafted an operational plan, intricately aligned with the current revolutionary climate, the overarching situation in East Turkistan, all the while considering the adversary’s military disposition.
On the 13th of February 1933, under the leadership of Muhammad Amin Bughra, the revolutionaries launched a formidable assault on ِKarakash, ultimately liberating it from the grip of tyranny. In the span of approximately one month, they emancipated all the territories of Hotan from the clutches of their Chinese oppressors.
In the year 1933, the Islamic government was formally established in the land of Hotan, marking a historic milestone in their struggle for freedom and justice.
He was appointed by the government as the Commander-in-Chief of the army, bearing the honorific title of “His Excellency.” Despite the valiant advance of the Islamic government forces under the leadership of Muhammad Amin Bughra toward the gates of Kashgar, the complex circumstances prevailing at that time, coupled with the divisions within the forces of Turkistan and unfavorable external and internal factors, had a detrimental impact on the revolution in Hotan.
Although he had lost his own brothers, Amir Abdullah and Amir Nur Ahmad, along with thousands of Uyghur youths for this revolution, it ultimately ended in defeat. Following the failure of the Hotan revolution, on July 27, 1934, Muhammad Amin Bughra decided to seek refuge in India. He departed on the same day and arrived in Ladakh on August 12. He subsequently visited cities such as Kashmir, Bombay, Delhi, and others in India, but these places did not align with his aspirations. Consequently, he reached Kabul on September 2 with the permission of the Afghan government.
During his extended stay in Kabul, he formed a close relationship with Mamduh Shaukat Asandul Effendi, the Turkish Ambassador in Kabul, evolving into a familial friendship.
General Muhammad Reza Bekin emphasized this point in his article commemorating the 50th anniversary of Mamduh Shaukat Asandul Effendi’s passing: “Mamduh Shaukat was the Turkish Ambassador in Kabul at that time, and Muhammad Amin Bughra became a close friend and confidant for him, much like his old acquaintances. This friendship was not merely a superficial connection but a sincere bond that extended to encompass their entire families. Thus, he and his family not only learned the Turkish language from the Asandul family during their stay in Kabul but also absorbed Turkish culture and ideas.” During his residence in Kabul, he directly assisted nine young men from East Turkistan in pursuing studies in Turkiye, including General Muhammad Reza Bekin.
During his time in Kabul, he also established a close relationship with the Japanese Embassy. As documented in the archives of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the title ‘New Reform Plan in Xinjiang,’ Muhammad Amin Bughra maintained close contact with Mr. Kitada, the Japanese Consul-General, and other Japanese individuals in Kabul. He even sought military assistance from the Japanese government and promised to establish friendly relations between the East Turkistan government and the Japanese government if the Japanese army reached the borders of East Turkistan. Consequently, the Japanese Consul provided highly favorable comments about him in the documents he sent to Tokyo. Kitada described him as follows: ‘Muhammad Amin Bughra does not know European languages, but he is proficient in Persian and Turkish, possesses strong knowledge, formidable determination, and a deep love for his homeland.’ He also refuted Soviet propaganda claiming that Muhammad Amin Bughra was a puppet of the British government, stating, ‘He is a serious and trustworthy man who cares deeply for his country and his people.’ Muhammad Amin Bughra sent some Uyghur youths to the Japanese Embassy as his ‘sons’ to study the Japanese language, expressing his goodwill to the Japanese government.”
In the year 1939, Isa Yusuf Alptekin led a delegation from the Nanjing government to visit Islamic countries, and they came to Kabul, where they met Muhammad Amin Bughra. After several days of discussions, they reached an agreement with the Nanjing government and decided to return to their homeland and engage in their endeavors. They wrote letters to Chiang Kai-shek and several other government officials in the Kuomintang through Isa Yusuf Alptekin.
Upon receiving the approval letter, Muhammad Amin Bughra gathered his children and other relatives and arrived in Peshawar on March 23, 1942. However, the representatives of the Kuomintang government in India feared that he might engage in hostile activities in India, so they requested that he proceed directly to Nanjing. When Muhammad Amin Bughra declined this request, the Kuomintang representative, with the support of the Indian government, threatened to force him to leave India.
Due to financial difficulties, Muhammad Amin Bughra was unable to travel to other places. Later on, Indian intelligence authorities arrested him in Peshawar. Bughra mentioned in his political memoirs: “On May 2, they arrested me and my cousin Abdul Karim, who was looking after my family in Rawalpindi, and put us in the same prison.” After their arrest, his wife Amina suffered both financially and emotionally. Nevertheless, she did not give up on him and did everything in her power to secure his release. She wrote diplomatic appeals to Isa Alptekin and Chiang Kai-shek, as well as to the British colonial government, urging them to release her husband. Eventually, Chiang Kai-shek issued direct orders to his Indian Consul-General, leading to his release under the assurance of the Kuomintang Consul-General to the Indian government.
Despite being released from prison, the Indian government insisted on him leaving India with his family. After a week, the Indian police handed him over to the Consulate-General of the Kuomintang in Calcutta. Consequently, he departed Calcutta with his family on April 4, 1943, and safely arrived in Chungqing, where he was warmly received by his Uyghur brothers, representatives of the Kuomintang army, various grassroots and political organizations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese Muslim Association, and around 40 to 50 other individuals.
During his stay there, Muhammad Amin Bughra, along with Masud Sabry, Isa Yusuf Alptekin, and Polat Qadiri, established the “East Turkistan Association” and utilized all available means and methods to educate the Chinese about the situation in East Turkistan. On October 13, 1944, his articles published in the government newspaper, “Daghong Bao,” titled “East Turkistan, Not Xinjiang,” and “The People of East Turkistan Are Turks,” caused a significant stir among Chinese intellectuals. His advocacy efforts led to growing concerns among some Chinese intellectuals regarding the East Turkistan issue.
He proposed to the Constitutional Committee regarding the East Turkistan issue, emphasizing the need to change the name from “Xinjiang” to “East Turkistan” and include the Turkistani people in the constitution under the name “Turks.”
In August 1945, a revolution erupted in Nilqa, quickly spreading to Ghulja. This critical situation forced the Kuomintang government to sit at the negotiation table, and it also gave Bughra the green light to fulfill his long-cherished dream of returning to his homeland.
He arrived in Urumchi by plane on October 17, 1945. In 1946, a peace treaty was signed in Urumchi between the Kuomintang and the newly established government of East Turkistan in Ghulja, establishing a regional coalition government. Muhammad Amin Bughra assumed the role of Minister of Reconstruction and Development in 1948. During this period, he also served as the editor-in-chief of the “Ark (Freedom)” newspaper, a member of the Uyghur Association’s board of directors, and an honorary professor at Urumchi University.
On January 14, 1947, participants in the Kuomintang’s National Congress, led by Ahmedjan Qasim, returned to Urumchi from Xinjiang. Upon their return, the situation in Urumchi was unstable, and the coalition government was in turmoil. In May 1947, the coalition government completely disintegrated when Masud Sabri took over as the head of the regional government, and representatives of the National Army returned to Ghulja.
On September 20, 1947, Muhammad Amin Bughra went to Nanjing to work with the government there. He stayed in Nanjing for six months before returning to Urumchi on March 22, 1948. On December 29, 1947, Bughra was appointed as a deputy to the head of the government. In Urumchi, since 1948, the activities of the nationalist revolutionaries, led by the three men (popularly known as Three Effendis) – Muhammad Amin Bughra, Masud Sabri, and Isa Yusuf Alptekin, became very active. They continued their efforts to promote national independence through means such as the Altai Group and the Ark newspaper.
On January 10, 1949, Burhan Shahidi succeeded Masud Sabri as the head of the regional government. During this time, the Chinese Red Army, receiving assistance from the Soviet Union, defeated Kuomintang and reached the western gate of the Chinese Great Wall. No one knew what changes this situation would bring. As the days passed, things looked bleak for the nationalist revolutionaries and they had to leave again.
Muhammad Amin Bughra said in the conclusion of his memoir, “My Political Life,” that on September 18, 1949, he left Urumchi with his family and followers. Isa Yusuf Alptekin also left with the others, arriving in Bugur in the evening of September 20. There were around 280 people in total. They reached Kashgar on September 28 without any incidents along the way.
On November 12, 1949, Muhammad Amin Bughra left for abroad once again. After arriving in India, he established diplomatic relations with various countries to arrange for the livelihood of his brothers who had left their homeland with him. He also met with the Prime Minister of India for this purpose and established relations with various other international organizations.
He arrived in Turkiye on December 22, 1951, and settled there. At the same time, around 1850 migrants waiting in India and Pakistan also came to Turkiye and settled there. In 1953, he initiated a Turkish newspaper called “Turkistan”, and began broadcasting news about East Turkistan to the Turkish people. In 1955, he became a citizen of the Republic of Turkiye and settled in Ankara.
After settling in Turkiye, Bughra continued his campaign for the independence of East Turkistan and met with non-governmental organizations in Turkiye, explaining the situation in East Turkistan to them.
In 1954, Bughra traveled to Taif, Saudi Arabia, to participate in an East Turkistan conference. As a result of the discussions at the conference, it was decided to establish relations with the Kuomintang government in Taiwan. According to this decision, Muhammad Amin Bughra and Isa Yusuf Alp Tekin met with the Kuomintang government. However, the discussion ended without positive results due to the Kuomintang government’s lack of support for the independence of East Turkistan.
In the same year, Bughra participated in the “Islamic Jerusalem Conference” held in Jordan to present the East Turkistan issue to Arab and Islamic countries. Afterward, he went to Cairo for diplomatic visits.
In 1958, Bughra participated in the “Muhammad Iqbal Memorial Conference” held in Karachi and delivered a lecture titled “Iqbal and East Turkistan.” Additionally, he gave speeches on the East Turkistan issue in various cities in Pakistan and conducted diplomatic visits.
In 1960, Bughra attended the “International Conference Against Colonialism pf Asian and African Peoples” in New Delhi and spoke about the diplomatic initiative for the independence of East Turkistan. In the same year, Bughra met with the Dalai Lama, who was residing in India, and discussed the issues of Tibet and East Turkistan.
Muhammad Amin Bughra never stopped his fight for his homeland, and he continued his struggle until his passing in Ankara on June 14, 1965.
Muhammad Amin Bughra gave a positive reception to the innovative ideas of scholars who emerged in East Turkistan over the years and were engaged in teaching in schools. He was also interested in the political and academic situation in Turkiye and Central Asia, as well as religious sciences. He wrote important works in the fields of history and literature. In particular, during the years he spent in Kabul, he conducted significant research on the history of East Turkistan and authored one of his greatest works, “The History of East Turkistan.”
His collection of poems titled “Al-Huzn al-Watan” (The National Sorrow), which includes some of his poems written in Turkish, Persian, and Arabic, bears witness to his scholarly abilities in the field of language and literature.
Written by: Abdushakur Mohammed and Noor Ahmed Qurban