Heightened political repression in Xinjiang has raised the question of the degree, and nature of support for the Uyghur cause in the wider “Islamic world.” Most discussion of Uyghur exile political activity in the Middle East begins with the 1949 Chinese revolution and the flight of leading Uyghur members of the Guomindang to India, and from there to refuge in Republican Turkey or the Hijaz. This paper examines a series of individuals from Xinjiang who were active in the region in the inter-war period, with an emphasis on Cairo as a hub of intellectual exchange. While in some respects these activities can be seen as laying the foundations for the emergence of fully-fledged nationalist agitation from the 1950s onwards, they also form part of an ongoing dialogue between pan-Islamic and pan-Asianist thinking, in which Xinijang Muslims saw opportunities for themselves in mediating, as opposed to interrupting, the growing ties between Republican China and the Middle East. Exploring the ways in which intellectuals and activists navigated this situation, the paper considers the relevance of their experience to the discussion of present-day Uyghur advocacy.
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