Lies and false hopes entrap Xinjiangers

Updated: 2015-06-18 07:42

By Cui Jia and He Na(China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Mardan Maolahong, a former member of an overseas terrorist cell, lost his lower right leg during combat.

Before he joined a terrorist cell, Mardan was an ambitious businessman in Xinjiang. "I was interested in the fashion industry and wanted to set up my own brand featuring traditional Uygur designs. I hoped that one day I would even export them to Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan," he said during an interview with Xinjiang TV, filmed at a detention center in the region.

However, just as he was starting his business, an uncle called from overseas and asked Mardan to join him, saying he knew a good place to study religion and the tuition was free.

As a talented linguist, Mardan was excited by the idea of learning a new language, which could prove useful when conducting business, and was also eager to learn more about Islam, so he quickly joined his uncle, with whom he had always been close.

Mardan didn't name the country he went to, but said that when he arrived at the "school", which was really a terrorist training camp, he was immediately alarmed.

"The living conditions there were even worse than in the average village in Xinjiang. We went to markets where everyone was armed, and I didn't feel safe at all. Sometimes people even started fighting among themselves at the market," he said.

The strong disparity between what he had imagined and reality made Mardan want to leave, but his uncle and other members of the cell forced him to stay. He eventually joined the group after being brainwashed for more than 10 days.

During the time he spent with the cell, Mardan's lower right leg had to be amputated, and his uncle was killed by the local army.

He was also forced to marry the widow of a cell member who had been killed in combat. Mardan said he always wanted to marry for love, but that became impossible when he joined the cell.

After the amputation, Mardan was given a highly classified job as a member of the cell's publicity department, tasked with helping to make recruitment videos.

According to the Xinjiang police, almost all the violent attacks in the region have been carried out by people who have watched violent, terrorist videos, many of which were produced by the cell to which Mardan belonged.

"I shot a lot of video footage, but those in charge never showed us the full, edited versions because assistants don't have clearance for the videos," Mardan said.

Fact vs fiction

The videos always showed well-equipped cell members, but the reality was very different. "That footage was staged. We bought camouflage uniforms at the local markets and asked cell members to wear them solely for the purposes of the video," he said.

According to Mardan, the cell rarely carried out its activities during daylight hours for fear of being targeted by anti-terrorist units, and the "achievements" featured in the videos were greatly exaggerated. Some of the footage was simply downloaded from sites on the Internet.

"For example, the videos claimed we took over a prison or liberated some place, but nothing like that actually happened. We only said those things to lure other people from Xinjiang to join us," he said.

"Many people joined us between 2012 and 2013 because they watched the videos," he said. "After a while, though, most of them regretted their actions because the reality was so different from what they'd seen in the videos."

Last year, Mardan escaped from the cell. He didn't provide details in the interview, but said he is truly repentant.

"I didn't know the difference between right and wrong until it was too late. I wasted the best years of my life in a terrorist cell when I could have been doing something truly meaningful," he said.

Contact the writers at and

Previous Page 1 2 3 Next Page