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Uygur women are navy's latest wave

Updated: 2014-08-01 07:28
By Zhao Lei in Dalian, Liaoning ( China Daily)

Uygur women are navy's latest wave

A Uygur student (left) checks a classmate's collar at Dalian Naval Academy in Liaoning province this summer. Zhou Hao / for China Daily

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.

Uygur women are navy's latest wave

"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.