Year: 2020

Uyghur ‘caretaking’ and the isolation of reeducation

In 2015, a young baker named Yusup taught me the Uyghur concept of “caretaking” (Uy: qarimaq). I had been hanging out with him and his closest friend, Nurzat, a fellow migrant from Yusup’s home village near Kashgar, walking the bazaars and talking about life. They taught me how to eat piping hot baked dumplings called samsa without burning your mouth. The trick was to bite off one corner to release the steam, then hold the opened end up so you wouldn’t get seared by the lamb and onion broth as you nibbled. In a rush to pay the bill, they held back each other’s outstretched arm in an awkward dance, competing to pay the 20 yuan ($3) for the half-dozen dumplings. They referred to each other as “life and liver” friends (Uy: jan-jiger dost) — a type of heterosexual male friendship defined by, metaphorically, the same liver, an organ thought to carry the essence of a person’s life. Like soul mates and blood brothers, they ate many of their meals together, shared the same values, and protected …

The Elephant in the XUAR: I. Entire families sentenced

This is the first in a series of five articles highlighting the massive expansion of the prison system in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region that has taken place in recent years. The prisons have been running in parallel with the much-covered concentration camps (“vocational training centers”) and possess many of the same traits, interning hundreds of thousands without real due process and engaging in labor exploitation. However, while international action has led to many, if not most, of the camp detainees have been let out as a result of international action; by contrast, those currently in prisons have long sentences and have not seen concessions. The world remains passive on the issue. For Nursiman Abdureshid, June 15, 2020 is now remembered as the worst day of her life. As the day when, after three years of little to no news, she was finally given official confirmation regarding the fate of her disappeared family in Kashgar. The confirmation was delivered via a phone call from a representative of the Chinese embassy in Ankara to Nursiman in …

An Interview on Xinjiang w. Yi Xiaocuo of the “Camp Album” Project

This interview between Yi Xiaocuo and Matt Dagher-Margosian first appeared on the website Asia Art Tours. It is reprinted here with permission. Asia Art Tours and The Arts of Travel podcast hosts print and audio conversations, centered on creative voices in Asia. For more conversations on Japan, Thailand , Indonesia, Taiwan and elsewhere, come visit their platforms, or get in touch at matt@asiaarttours.com For victims of state violence or those witnessing its horror, knowing how to help and how to imagine a way forward may be the most urgent task. With that in mind, (Asia Art Tours) was joined by Yi Xiaocuo an art activist and creator of the Camp Album to discuss the current state violence and concentration camps built and managed by the Chinese government in the shared homeland of the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and other Indigenous peoples. ASIA ART TOURS: What can you tell us about your background? Why did you decide to start your website? YI XIAOCUO:  I belong to one of the Turkic ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang. I was in grad school in …

The Changing ‘Bright Future’ of Han Life in Xinjiang

In 2014, in the middle of a neighborhood at the southern edge of Ürümchi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, there was a restaurant with a big red sign. In Chinese, the six-foot-tall characters read “BIG MEAT” (大肉 dà ròu), as pork is commonly referred to across China. The sign was an anti-Islamic political statement; it told everyone in the neighborhood that Han migrants had arrived and that they would not respect the values of the Muslims who called it their home. This Uyghur-majority neighborhood known as Dawan was one of the centers of violence during the July 5, 2009 protests. A large number of the Han migrants who were killed or injured during the violence came from this neighborhood. In the years that followed, many Han migrants moved from this neighborhood to majority Han districts to the north. Those who remained marked their space, signaling their defiance. The six-foot-tall sign was a statement regarding the type of “quality,” or sùzhì (素质), that was protected by the institutions of the city. Unlike many places in China, in Ürümchi, …