In a blockbuster a few years ago, an extraordinary Peter Sellers played a triad of characters with a rare psychological connotation. The Doctor Strangelove, the man who learned not to worry and to love the bomb, is the perfect stereotype representative of the worst flaws.
Before arriving at the Chinese empire and the treatment it reserves for the people of its most distant geographically and culturally provinces, it is enough to scroll through the history of the last 130 years, to realize how, regardless of ethnicity and languages, what unites the race human, are the deviances, united in the crucible of a melting pot which has dangerous and repeated common ingredients.
Armenia is small, poor, militarily weak, yet in these days Azerbaijan, coincidentally supported by Turkey, managed to get her out of a limbo again in which she continues to coexist both with the memory of the massacre perpetrated by the Ottomans, and with the sufferings suffered as a result of the Stalinist decisions regarding Karabakh, or Artsakh in Armenian, as you prefer: the substance is not changes, what remains is an elementary survival instinct, which clashes with the Turkish project of regaining an increasingly marked influence of the areas that were Ottoman.
Imperialism? Yes, without a doubt: along with a political Islamic revival, Ankara-funded military and Koranic schools are flourishing in the so-called "Stan"; and there is no doubt that a panturco empire bordering China would become too great a risk for Beijing, which would be grappling with a Uyghur resurgence, with a Turkish-speaking but politically Chinese entity, which could decide that it has nothing to do with it. lose by rising up (worse than how you want to be?), and perhaps arousing indirect interest from Washington. In short, Armenia is the obstacle that prevents the territorial continuity of a region of at least 200 million inhabitants, and of which Turkey would be the heart, according to a configuration however dangerous for Iranian primacy, and with the confrontation in the Indian subcontinent between pro-Armenian India and pro-Azerbaijani Pakistan. It was during the Great War, in 1915, that the Armenian genocide by the nationalist government of the Young Turks, aided by German advisers, a prototype of massacre useful for what would be an aberrant future. Arrests, deportations and physical eliminations become a cliché for around 1.500.000 people.
In 1922, the fire in the Greek and Armenian districts of Smyrna, reconquered by the Kemalists, confirmed a certain way of understanding the world at the modest price of tens of thousands of victims, deportees and raped women. Official Turkish historiography denies the existence of intentional plans. Just to stay in the area, a little further east, one cannot fail to recall the anti-Kurdish campaign of Al Anfal led by Iraqi Ali Hassan al Majid the chemist, cousin of Saddam Hussein and with a predilection for the use of weapons of mass destruction. Of the victims, mostly males between 12 and 80 years, about 180.000, no trace.
Just to go back to Stalin, we must remember Holodomor1, or the name by which the starvation genocide of over 6 million Ukrainians was designated between 1932 and 1933. Accused of contesting the collective ownership system, the Ukrainians were requisitioned agricultural resources: at least a quarter of the rural population was so exterminated by hunger. The famine caused the annihilation of the peasants, and above all the extermination of the cultural, religious and intellectual elites considered enemies of socialism2. Ukraine became a kind of huge ghetto in which it was impossible to survive. Paolo Rumiz speaks of at least 25 thousand deaths a day.
But beware, there have been several precedents: the criminal administration and extermination by Leopold II of Belgium of about 10 million Congolese in the nineteenth century, and the extermination of the Herero and Nama in Namibia between 1904 and 1907 at the hands of the German colonizers, who introduced the camps of concentration; sustained by the conviction of having a right to the lands and (enormous) riches of Namibia, the Germans find the opportunity to implement the theory of lebensraum. General von Trotha, on an imperial mandate, lands in Africa, defeats Governor Leutwein, exterminates the Herero, first with weapons at Waterberg, then with abandonment in the desert, then in the concentration camp of the fortress of Vindhoek or at the port of Swakopmund in the Shark Island camp where the Nama also die.
A common element between the extermination camps in Germany and those in Namibia was the claim to derive scientific foundations for race theories. Only in 2015 did Berlin recognize its responsibilities, signing a reconciliation and funding agreement in 2021. Better late than never. Evil after all, as Hannah Arendt said when speaking of Adolf Eichmann, can be so banal as to make the Shoah a statistical fact, making it lose its human connotations.
Yet the massacres are there, they continue: Biafra, Darfur, Rwanda, Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge with its 2 million dead. Even the Italian historiography, still at work, is present with the events that preceded and accompanied the fallen of the Foibe, in an area that, further south, in Bosnia, many years later, contemplated ethnic cleansing and the massacres of Srebrenica, where still hovers, like a ghost, the precise responsibility for the escape of the Dutch contingent, placed there to protect the more than 8.000 killed by General Mladic's Serbian militias.
We have run over the years and across boundless lands to get to Xinjiang, a province which, in addition to Hong Kong and Tibet, is characterized by a strong desire for impossible autonomy; predominantly desert but rich in energy resources, it is one of the poorest administrative entities in China, despite GDP growth rates. Uiguristan, or Eastern Turkestan, with a flag similar to the Turkish one from which it differs only for the blue color, will never exist.
China has tried to assimilate the Uighurs, as well as with the re-education camps, also with the purposes of the campaign Go West, sponsored by Xi Jinping, who plans to offer corporate incentives in order to create economic opportunities for the inhabitants. Xinjiang, one of the largest autonomous regions, means New Frontier: it is from here that the new Silk routes to Europe will have to pass; if the area is not safe, the project jumps, also due to the proximity to strongly radicalized Islamic countries - Afghanistan and Pakistan - from which to prevent jihadist returns3.
The anthropometric traits similar to those of the peoples of Central Asia, the cultural traditions, Sunni Islam and the Turkic language, make the Uyghur group the ethnic minority furthest away from the Han. With the fall of the Soviet Union (apparently) independent states are born: Uyghur secessionist feelings are rekindled, with the rediscovery of the panturco ideal just mentioned. The problem with separatism is that, after 11 September 2001, Beijing catalogs it as one of the terrorist elements to be fought; a definition also supported by the United Nations Security Council, which qualifies the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, identified as the author of the most violent protests4, as worthy of inclusion in the list of groups to be indexed. In China, the concept of terrorism, not surprisingly, sums up real terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. The Belt and Road Initiative has exacerbated the issue, as Xinjiang is crossed by three corridors5 infrastructural economics of the BIS.
China, between 1996 and 2012, increased its military presence in the region, accompanying it to a higher and more stabilizing model of development; since 2013 the strategy of re-education (detention) through work has been added.
While the Kazakhs provide the most convincing testimonies, in 2019 the ambassadors of 22 nations, except Italy, involved the United Nations Human Rights Council in the Uyghur question, urging the closure of the internment camps, countered by 37 other countries which, on the contrary, and by virtue of strong economic interests, supported the Chinese political position, supported ( nientedimenoche!) from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In fact, both an incisive anti-terrorism campaign and a sinization process that aims to eradicate Islamic customs are proceeding, supported by the use of innovative technologies, such as cameras enabled for facial recognition. After all, Xinjiang means realpolitik: Turkey, despite everything, can only support China, for Ankara the involvement in the BRI, together with the entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is well worth a mass. In fact, Erdogan alternates provocations and rapprochements to acquire a greater negotiating margin with Europe and the USA, however risking that Beijing will intervene in internal Kurdish events.
That even the United Nations has hesitation in attacking China on the human rights level seems evident: it is no coincidence that the harsh report on the Uyghurs was made public just 11 minutes before Bachelet's mandate expired. Hegemony, projections of power, economics and ideologies characterize much of the genocidal history of our times.
It is difficult to give an effectively rational picture of the ways in which the various governments have managed to give the worst of themselves in representation of their peoples: deviances have no color and in fact it is impossible to look for a crumb of normality in the Cambodian massacres or even in the current birth control and sexual orientation in Xinjiang. Unless, of course, this is it normality, and some Western decision makers, scandalized by the past, have missed an even worse present.
1 In Ukrainian: inflicting death through hunger
2 The Holodomor was recognized as a genocidal act by the Parliaments of 24 States; as of May 2022, Italy had not yet expressed its opinion on the matter.
3 The Turkestan Army, an organization affiliated with Al Qaeda and active in recent times in Syria, is made up of Uyghur fighters; according to some sources the Uyghurs would have exploited Turkish contacts, see the Eastern Turkey Association of Education and Solidarity.
4 On 5 July 2009 in Urumqi 200 people died in clashes between the Han and the Uyghurs. The riot was the most violent on record. Then followed some attacks here and in the rest of China, attributed to jihadist cells.
5 1) New Eurasian Land Bridge connects the coastal regions of eastern China to northern European markets; 2) China-Central Asia-Western Asia, from the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, reaches the port of Piraeus; 3) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connects southern Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea.
Photo: presidency of the republic of Turkey