Aziz Isa Elkun
Research affiliate, SOAS, University of London
The Chinese government said this was done in order to modernize us, but their true aim was to destroy Uyghur ethnic, cultural and religious identities. I felt as if my father’s body had been brutally torn out of its resting place in our ancestors’ land.
Over the past century, countries have used the tool of nationalism to pursue their own interests. Nationalism is about people, land and the relationship between them. Nationalist propaganda creates a special relationship between a unique people and a particular territory.
The Uyghurs are one of the many peoples who have been left out of this tidy calculation. We are labelled as an “ethnic minority” that suits Chinese version of statehood. China’s policies aim to cut our ties to our land. Uyghur pilgrims are cut off from their places of worship; villages are uprooted from their fields, and families are torn apart. Islam and Uyghur culture are none separated identities of the Uyghurs, therefor they regard the burial place – gravy yard as a holy place that connects the sprits of the generation past and today. Plus, Uyghur graveyard is a symbol of belonging to each other in the Uyghur community that keep connects Uyghurs spiritually, culturally and politically.