Posts tagged with "Uyghur"

Cultural erasure: Tracing the destruction of Uyghur and Islamic spaces in Xinjiang

Cultural erasure This report is supported by a companion website, the Xinjiang Data Project. 24 Sep 2020

What’s the problem?

The Chinese Government has embarked on a systematic and intentional campaign to rewrite the cultural heritage of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). It’s seeking to erode and redefine the culture of the Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking communities—stripping away any Islamic, transnational or autonomous elements—in order to render those indigenous cultural traditions subservient to the ‘Chinese nation’.

Using satellite imagery, we estimate that approximately 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang (65% of the total) have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies, mostly since 2017. An estimated 8,500 have been demolished outright, and, for the most part, the land on which those razed mosques once sat remains vacant. A further 30% of important Islamic sacred sites (shrines, cemeteries and pilgrimage routes, including many protected under Chinese law) have been demolished across Xinjiang, mostly since 2017, and an additional 28% have been damaged or altered in some way.

Alongside other coercive efforts to re-engineer Uyghur social and cultural life by transforming or eliminating Uyghurs’ language, music, homes and even diets,1 the Chinese Government’s policies are actively erasing and altering key elements of their tangible cultural heritage.

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A Poem For My Father Who Stayed In His Grave Only 623 Days

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.

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The true story of a Uyghur youth who was a victim of the “12 December Student Protest” in Urumchi

(To mark the 28th  anniversary of the “12 December Student Protest” in 1985, Urumchi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China)

Rozinisa 
(independent scholar)
Translated into English by Ayshemgul Nuremet

Photo of Aziz Isa Elkun © www.azizisa.org

Photo of Aziz Isa Elkun © www.azizisa.org


Part one

The clock always ticks ahead in busy times, and it can never be turned back. The past time or what we call history, always takes this busy time and adds us to its great caravan, embracing us, and carrying us across the desert among all the others towards the endless life journey which is located on the far horizon. We are all a sort of traveller and we travel towards our goals, we all have to go on that journey and no one is exceptional.

 Although 28 years have already passed since the protest happened, its memory is still fresh and alive. If you have made history in your lifetime and if its aim was to realise your people’s desire for freedom and liberation, that true history will live among your people’s hearts forever and it will become an unforgettable memory for future generations because no-one can deny that every page of the history of humankind is made by the life and death struggle to live in this world.

Inequality, racial discrimination and injustice were become widespread issues, and the state abused its power at this critical moment, on 12 December, 1985, when several thousand Uyghur students in Urumchi and other cities marched to demand from the Chinese authorities an end to their unequal policies in East Turkistan (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China). The protest, which happened for the very first time 10 years after the Chinese Cultural Revolution, gathered ideological momentum for a democratic Uyghur student movement in the region. Although this protest movement was gradually suppressed, it inspired many Uyghur youths to dedicate their youth to the movement, and they become Uyghur rights campaigners. This is the true story of Aziz Isa, one of the followers of that student protest movement. It tells us how he become victimised, and his subsequent life story as a refugee. The example of Aziz Isa’s early troubled life experience which is connected to the “12 December Student Protest” in East Turkistan (Xinjiang) should lead us to reflect on what happened there at that time and what is happening there now.

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