All posts filed under: Editorial

Uyghurs, Kazakhs and the Chinese “De-extremification” Campaign: Interview with Darren Byler

A version of this interview first appeared in the online journal Voices on Central Asia in English and the Central Asian Analytic Network in Russian. It is republished here with permission. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, as well as representatives of other Muslim nations living in China’s Xinjiang province, have faced religious restrictions and persecution by the authorities in recent years. Oppression has taken on a particularly large-scale character of late, with Uyghurs being forced to go through so-called “re-education camps.” The Chinese authorities justify their actions as security measures, while the international community claims that the rights of these religious and national minorities are being violated on a massive scale. The Living Otherwise project, founded by a group of young experts, is actively engaged in covering what is happening with Uyghurs in China. Dr. Darren Byler, who runs the platform, offers some insight into Islamophobia in China. Please tell us about Living Otherwise : The website I curate, LivingOtherwise.com, is a public-facing aspect of my doctoral research as an anthropologist at the University of Washington. By …

A Petition for “the Disappeared” in the Uyghur & Kazakh Homelands in China

By Darren Byler and Tahir Hamut with the support of Concerned Scholars of Xinjiang Also available in Uyghur (ئۇيغۇرچە) & Chinese (中文) Based on mounting evidence it is clear that the Chinese state is engaging in the extrajudicial systematic mass detention of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities. This process resonates with the most horrific moments in modern history. Such processes have resulted in generational trauma and social elimination. They shattered families, destroyed native forms of knowledge and, at times, resulted in mass death. We call on Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, and Chen Quanguo, Chinese Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, to immediately abolish the “transformation through education” detention system and release all Uyghur and Kazakh detainees and prisoners that have been “disappeared” without due process or legal representation. Provide complete and open transparency regarding the location of all detainees and facilitate an immediate process of freeing and reunifying them with their children and their loved ones. Release of all Uyghur and Kazakh intellectuals and prisoners of conscience.  Allow Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities …

Navigating Checkpoints in the Uyghur Homeland

On a visit in April 2018 to the Uyghur homeland in Northwest China I was amazed by the number of checkpoints that turn every city and town into a maze of ethno-racial profiling and ID scans. In some areas, the checkpoints are every several hundred meters. The checkpoints are only for those who pass as Uyghur. Han folks and obvious foreigners are usually directed to walk through the exits of the checkpoints with the wave of a hand. The checkpoints are not for them. Since 2009 there have been a number of large-scale violent incidents involving Uyghurs, state security and Han Chinese civilians. Since 2014 the state has conducted a so-called People’s War on Terror that has subjected Uyghurs between the ages of 15-45 to intense scrutiny. As a result of this campaign, the state has detained hundreds of thousands of young Uyghurs in a reeducation camp system while radically increasing the police presence. At the checkpoint exiting the highspeed rail station in Turpan I observed the way “native” (Uy: yerlik) people were directed through two long lines to have their IDs …

An Introduction to The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia

I first came to Xinjiang in 2003. At the time I was in the second year of an undergraduate program in photojournalism in my home state of Ohio. As part of my training I had the opportunity to travel throughout China, from Shenyang to Lhasa. It gave me a chance to try to understand the breadth and diversity of the space and get a feel for a profession and a country that would have a large impact on my life. Eventually I ended up in Kashgar. I had never seen anything like it: vibrant street life, warm and embracing friendships, a vibrant folk music scene, desert landscapes and Sufi shrines. The history of the place felt alive and vivid, but also fragile. It was also the only place in China where Han taxi drivers, shop keepers and hotel clerks assumed I, a white German-American, was a local Uyghur. That misrecognition, like the built environment, was also instructive. It taught me something about privilege and passing; and what the racial politics of Xinjiang might feel like …