The legendary ethnic Kazakh commander did what he could in a complicated geopolitical situation to protect the identity of the Turkic peoples.
by Abdurehim Gheni Uyghur
On April 29, 2023, Turkic peoples from East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) commemorated the date of April 29, 1951, when an honorable hero of their land, Osman Batur, was hanged by Chinese communists in Urumqi city at age 52. I remember the hero for his unyielding determination of driving out Chinese invaders from East Turkestan. He is not only living in our remembrances: his immortal courage, that he showed in his whole life, remains a source of inspiration. This year was the 72th anniversary of the execution of Osman Batur, who had spent his whole life fighting against Chinese invaders. I always cherish the memory of this national hero.
Osman Batur was born in Koktokay County in Altay in East Turkestan in 1899. He was a robust man, six feet tall. In April, 1940, all personal guns were confiscated in the area. Kazakh people complied with the orders of Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai. However, Sheng Shicai arrested and killed the Shiripkhan Tore, their regional leader, with the excuse that he had disobeyed orders. With fury, Osman Islam, later on nicknamed Osman Batur, started to fight against Chinese invaders and went on to become a national hero.
On 16 May, 1943, Stalin’s plot to terminate Sheng Shicai rule in East Turkestan became a Soviet national strategy. On 22 June, 1943, insurgents of Altay held a meeting at Burqin county and elected Osman Batur as their Khan.
With the direct help of Soviet Union and Mongolia, Osman Batur controlled the whole Altay prefecture by the end of 1945. In September, Batur’s men annihilated 3,000 Chinese soldiers at Sarsumbe. In the same year, what was called the East Turkestan Army joined forces with Osman Batur’s troops as the East Turkestan Liberation Army.
But, after compelling them to sign an unequal treaty under pressure from Stalin in 1946, the Soviet Union successfully turned East Turkestan Army and Osman Batur’s Army against each other.
After Stalin allied with Red China, he promised to help the Chinese Communist Party’s invasion of East Turkestan. The CCP Army, armed with sophisticated Soviet Union weaponries, invaded and occupied East Turkestan, although East Turkestan Army joined again with Osman Batur’s Army and fought against the Red Chinese. Resistance to invasion had been carried on in Koknur. However, not receiving any aid, some soldiers retreated to India through Tibet.
In March 1951, Osman Batur was captured and taken to Urumqi, handcuffed and imprisoned. He was interrogated with relentless torture and hanged under accusations of “anti-Communism” in Urumqi on April 29 of the same year.
This is a story full of profound, original, and changing insights, and deserves to be told and remembered. I believe it tells us that only an independent East Turkestan can really guarantee the freedom of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.
The spirit of national hero Osman Batur will live with people of East Turkestan forever.