All posts filed under: History

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 …

The stories of Kazakhstan citizens arrested in China

Translated by Gene Bunin on August 23, 2018; Republished with Permission The following is an English translation of an article published by Нұртай Лахан for Azattyq in the January of 2018. Though old, I found it quite insightful and as such have decided to translate it. It covers the stories of Omirbek Ali, Orynbek Koksebek, and Asqar Azatbek – all Kazakhstan citizens who had been arrested in China and sent to camps / detention centers at some point over the past two years. Omirbek had already been released when this article aired. Orynbek has been released since, in the March of this year. Asqar, taken in the special economic zone at Korgas, is still missing. News of a crackdown on ethnic Kazakhs in China have been coming in starting from April 2017. Among those detained are also those who had moved to their historical homeland from China and had already managed to obtain Kazakhstan citizenship. Omirbek Bekaly was born in China in 1970, in Turpan’s Pichan (Shanshan) County. In 2006, he moved from China to …

Gene A. Bunin: How the “Happiest Muslims in the World” are Coping with Their Happiness

Disclaimer: The greater part of this article seeks to convey the words, views, and behaviors of ethnic Uyghurs residing in both China proper (“inner China”) and China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as observed by the author over the previous year and a half. So as to protect the people mentioned, I have intentionally obscured or changed the relevant names, locations, and times, as well as any other details that could aid in fixing a given person’s identity. Quotes from individuals are from unrecorded conversations, in Uyghur, and as such are subject to some corruption due to both imperfect memory and translation. While this admittedly runs the risk of vague reporting, I do believe that the essential has been preserved and thereby hope for the reader’s understanding.   It was about a year ago that I first walked into Karim’s restaurant, intending to write about it as part of the food guide I was putting together about Uyghur restaurants in inner China. While my travels for this project would result in my visiting close to 200 …

Singing Back to the Steppe: Kazakh Poetry Battles in Contemporary Xinjiang

  On a summer evening in 2015, when I was attending a friend’s wedding after-party in a small village in Mori in Northern Xinjiang, a professional aqin – an oral poet who improvises while performing – sat next to me playing his dombra (a Kazakh two-stringed instrument). He was singing a song with the refrain: “ahaw sar qiz, pisqan darbiz, darbizingning qizilin maghan jarghiz” (Hey, fair-haired girl, you are like a ripe melon, let me cut your red ripe melon). It was clear he was directing the song at me. I felt my face begin to turn red. I was tongue-tied. I didn’t know what to say or do. How do you respond to lyrics like that from a poet? A Kazakh girl sitting nearby tried to sooth my discomfort by making excuses for him. She said he was just joking around and that the lyrics were supposed to be funny. That is just the manner of a poet. A while later, the poet received a phone call from his leader to go entertain some visiting officials who would attend …