East Turkistan: Uyghur composer died in exile

6 November 2006
From his exile in Sweden the Uyghur composer, musician and poet Kurash Sultan was like an ambassador to the Uyghurs – the indigenous people in East Turkistan in north-western China. He died 47 years old from a heart stroke on 29 October 2006By Freemuse

Kurash Sultan was invited to speak at the 3rd Freemuse World Conference in Istanbul on 25 November 2006. He was a famous Uyghur artist who sang and wrote countless songs and poems on the freedom of his homeland, East Turkistan / Xinjiang, where the Uyghurs are struggling to keep their language and their culture. For that same reason he has been imprisoned and tortured by the authorities, many of his songs were banned in East Turkistan / Xinjiang, and he had to escape the country. He was buried in Sweden on 1 November 2006.


Kurash Sultan’s coffin covered with the East Turkistan Flag

Kurash Sultan (also known as Kuresh Kusen, Kurash Kösan or Koresh Kosen) was born in 1959 in the capital city Urumchi of Xinjiang – a region which Uyghurs often refer to as East Turkistan. “Xinjiang” means “New Frontier” and is the Han Chinese name for the autonomous region.

In the 1980’s Kurash Sultan worked as a music teacher, and studied music conducting. In 1992-1995 he worked an editor of Xinjiang Art, a magazine published by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’s Writers Union. In 1987, he worked on getting a music ensemble together, and in the next five years they presented their music show more than 1,000 times all around East Turkistan / Xinjiang. More than five million people attended it.

Kurash Sultan was awarded 11 times, prizes which he received from all around China and East Turkistan / Xinjiang. His cassette tape ‘Hesret’ (“Affliction”) and ‘Echinish’ (“Sorrow”) was the most sold cassette in the market.

In 1993 the Xinjiang Autonomous Regions Party warned him that he would be arrested if he continued making music like this. In 1996 his art work ‘Erkek Su’ got him into trouble with the authorities, and he had flee to Turkey. In Turkey he published four albums, and in 1996 he travelled to Central Asia to give them some publicity. In central Asia he and a group of friends organised the Meshrep Event, which shocked the Chinese government. Under strong Chinese diplomatic pressure the Kyrgyz KGB arrested him in 1998.

After nine months in jail, in 1999, he received help from the UN to come Sweden and become a political refugee. Kurash was deputy chairman and chairman of World Uygur Youth Congress, and recently he was elected Chief Auditor of World Uygur Congress. He had just started working as a music scholar at the Culture Department of Eskilstuna Municipality in Sweden.

He attended more than 10 music festivals around Europe, and released the CD ‘Uyghur folk song’ in 2002 and ‘Tunes of Kuchar’ and ‘Wake Up Turkistan 5’ (Songs for Freedom) in 2004.

Watch an interview with Kurash Sultan which was recorded by Freemuse in August 2003:

Video interview with Kurash Sultan



CLick to watch video interview
Kurash Sultan (1959–2006)

Listen to Kurash Sultan’s song ‘I will not die until my country is free from Chinese occupation’, ‘Men Olmeymen’

Kurash Sultan’s official home page:

Kurash Sultan’s music archiveWikipedia – the free encyclopedia:
‘About the Uyghur people’
‘About East Turkistan”
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