Uygur women are navy’s lat­est wave

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI in Dalian, Liaon­ing zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A young woman is rid­ing the wave of his­tory by be­com­ing the first woman from the Uygur eth­nic group to serve as a naval of­fi­cer.

“I am aware that there will be a lot of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and I must show that I de­serve the honor,” said Dil­i­hu­mar Abu­rat, 25, from Kashgar in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion.

Cheers rang out from the massed ranks of 1,000 cadets as she re­ceived the diploma that con­firmed her rank of lieu­tenant. She was pre­sented with the doc­u­ment on July 10 by Rear Ad­mi­ral Jiang Guop­ing, pres­i­dent of the Dalian Naval Academy of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army navy.

After­ward she re­turned to the CNS Liaon­ing, the coun­try’s first air­craft car­rier, where she has worked in the com­bat con­trol cen­ter for two years.

At the fam­ily home in Kashgar, more than 5,000 kilo­me­ters from Dalian, her fa­ther, Abu­rat Ab­duk­lim, was in­un­dated with calls and mes­sages af­ter her story was cov­ered widely on TV. Mil­i­tary ser­vice runs in the fam­ily. He him­self served for 25 years with the PLA ground force.

“Many of my vet­eran friends saw her re­ceiv­ing the diploma from the academy on TV and they called me to of­fer their con­grat­u­la­tions,” he said with pride. Calling from ocean

Train­ing was rig­or­ous and de­mand­ing.

“I trained at a naval base in Guang­dong province af­ter join­ing the navy in De­cem­ber 2011,” said Dil­i­hu­mar Abu­rat. “My train­ers were fe­male marines, so they were very strict.”

Her fa­ther was ini­tially re­luc­tant to en­dorse her choice of ca­reer af­ter she grad­u­ated from Xin­jiang Univer­sity with a de­gree in elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing.

“I knew I could find a good job with ex­cel­lent pay in lo­cal govern­ment or State-owned en­ter­prises, but I re­ally wanted to be like my dad,” she said. “You know, grow­ing up in a PLA camp has in­jected war­rior blood into my veins.”

Her re­solve was re­in­forced when she re­al­ized the navy was re­cruit­ing fe­male Uygur sailors in Xin­jiang. Af­ter pass­ing a suc­ces­sion of tests and in­ter­views she joined the com­bat sec­tion on the CNS Liaon­ing, which was com­mis­sioned in Septem­ber 2012.

Another 19 Uygur women also signed up, and 12 were se­lected to serve on the car­rier.

Dil­i­hu­mar

Abu­rat

was on duty when pi­lots in J-15 fight­ers con­ducted the first take­offs and land­ings on the car­rier in Novem­ber 2012.

“Of course every­one wanted to wit­ness the historic mo­ment for our navy. But I was on duty in the con­trol cen­ter, so I recorded the footage on a com­puter and would of­ten re­run it,” she said.

She was se­lected to at­tend a year­long train­ing course at the Dalian Naval Academy, study­ing radar elec­tron­ics.

“I was the only fe­male stu­dent in a class of 41,” Dil­i­hu­mar Abu­rat said.

“I made many friends at the academy. Some of them told me that they hope I can be­come the first naval cap­tain from an eth­nic group. I will do my best to ful­fill their wish,” she said. ‘Tur­pan celebrity’

Other women from the Uygur eth­nic group are also em­bark­ing on re­ward­ing naval ca­reers.

Ay­tu­lun Xukrat, 20, said she has be­come well known back in her home­town in Tur­pan, North­west China’s Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion.

“I am the first person from Tur­pan to join the navy, then I be­came more fa­mous af­ter be­ing shown on tele­vi­sion talk­ing to Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and shak­ing hands with him.”

Ay­tu­lun Xukrat met the pres­i­dent in April of last year af­ter she was cho­sen to rep­re­sent the fe­male sailors on the CNS Jing­gang­shan, one of the navy’s most ad­vanced land­ing craft, when Xi in­spected the ship.

Her fam­ily mem­bers are also ded­i­cated to the ser­vice.

Two of her younger sis­ters joined the navy in 2012 and are serv­ing in the North Sea Fleet and East Sea Fleet.

“Last year my brother also joined the navy and is sta­tioned in Qing­dao,” Ay­tu­lun Xukrat said.

She passed the ad­mit­tance test for the Dalian Naval Academy in June of last year and will spend five years there be­fore be­ing com­mis­sioned as an of­fi­cer.

It was not all easy sail­ing for these naval pi­o­neers.

Kelib­nur Turhon, 21, was one of the first fe­male Uygur sailors on the CNS Liaon­ing.

She said that when the ship was un­der­go­ing a re­fit in Dalian they were told their ac­com­mo­da­tion had yet to be in­stalled, so liv­ing ar­range­ments would be a bit ba­sic.

“But all of us in­sisted that we board the ship im­me­di­ately and live on it like our other com­rades, be­cause we couldn’t wait to start our navy life,” Kelib­nur Turhon said.

ZHOU HAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

A Uygur stu­dent (left) checks a class­mate’s col­lar at Dalian Naval Academy in Liaon­ing province this summer.

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