East Turkestan Islamic Movement
Group Financing Profile
Since the Taliban took power in August 2021, diplomatic allies of Afghanistan have been far and few between. Nonetheless, China remains one state willing to work with the Taliban government. One condition that Xi Jinping has for establishing diplomatic relations, however, is that the Taliban severs any connections it has to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). ETIM is an extremist group of Uyghurs that seeks to establish a sovereign nation (East Turkestan) in the Chinese Xinjiang province. The group’s activities were mostly restricted to conducting attacks on the Chinese state - that is until 2013, when it emerged as a player in the Syrian war. ETIM’s connection to the Taliban, along with other details of the organization’s financial profile, can be found below.
ETIM was founded in the 1940s by Abdul Hakeem Makhdoom, Abdul Azeez Makhdoom and Abdul Hameed. Around the 1980s, one of the group’s leaders adopted fundamentalist interpretations of Islam and began sharing extremist content. The radical Islamic views of ETIM, alongside the backdrop of the US-led global war on terror, enabled China’s claims that all Uyghur citizens are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. In reality, the vast majority of Uyghurs living in Xinjiang today do not follow the interpretations of Islam that Hakeem taught. Furthermore, most violent incidents between the Uyghurs and the Chinese state security forces have not been premeditated terrorist attacks, and are instead frequently initiated by the state. Members of ETIM have been largely pushed into hiding, with many located outside of the country.
ETIM fighters are based in North Waziristan in Pakistan, the Badakhshan province in Afghanistan, and the Chinese Xinjiang province. The group has also attempted to move fighters from Afghanistan to China. Under recent mounting pressure from Xi Jingping, several group bases have been relocated by the Taliban from Badakhshan to other regions, including the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Baghlan, and Takhar. The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) is attempting to capitalize on the opportunity by boosting recruitment of Uyghur militants. Whether backed by the Taliban or ISIL-KP, ETIM has demonstrated the capability to obtain significant financial resources.