All posts tagged: Featured

Uyghur Love In A Time Of Interethnic Marriage

In May 2019, a young Uyghur graduate student in Europe who I’ll refer to as Nurzat received a WeChat video call from his panic-stricken girlfriend in a small city in southern Xinjiang. The young woman, who I’ll call Adila, told him that she would break up with him if he didn’t come back within the next several months to marry her. She said her parents were forcing her to do this. They thought that the risk of her being chosen for marriage by a Han young man was too high. They needed to find a Uyghur husband for her now, in order to protect her. Adila told Nurzat, “Please don’t blame me for doing this. A lot of Uyghur women are rushing to get married now. Everyone is afraid.” Nurzat and Adila met when they were both college students in Ürümchi. She had been placed in a major that put her in line for a job in the police force back in her hometown, while he found a computer engineering track that led him to …

Spirit Breaking: Capitalism and Terror in Northwest China

Soon after I arrived in Ürümchi in 2014 I met a young Uyghur man named Alim. He grew up in a small town near the city of Khotan in the deep south of the Uyghur homeland near the Chinese border with Pakistan. He was a tall, quiet young man who had come to the city looking for better opportunities. Critical of many of the rural people with whom he had grown up, he saw them as lacking capitalist ambition and an understanding of the broader Muslim world. But he was even more critical of the systemic, ongoing issues that had pushed Uyghurs into migrant labor and limited their access to Islamic knowledge.  There were far too few economic opportunities and far too many religious and political restrictions in the rural areas of Northwest China, he explained. Since the beginning of the most recent “hard-strike campaigns” that lead up to the implementation of the “People’s War on Terror” (Ch: renmin fankong zhanzheng) in May 2014, many people in the countryside had reached a new level of despair …

Requiem For The ‘Living Dead’: Ten Years After 7/5

Like a frightened flock of sheep, the people’s erratic dreams dividing unbroken Heavenly Mountains: A borderland Great Wall, a natural Wailing Wall Those unrecognized souls are the mud and night of other souls Only the cries of dreams, the tears on faces, like an expression of the heart, need no translation. 像惊恐的羊群 人们时断时续的梦境 隔着一座绵延千里的天山: 一座边地长城,一堵大自然哭墙 那些不被认识的心灵 是另一些心灵的泥淖和长夜 只有梦中的呼救、脸上的泪痕 像内心的表情,毋须翻译 — Shen Wei, an excerpt from “Ürümchi: An Abandoned Bed” (my translation) in the poetry collection Requiem I first heard about the poem “Ürümchi: An Abandoned Bed” from a now-disappeared poet, Perhat Tursun, in 2015. We were sitting in his apartment high above Consul Street in Ürümchi, smoking cigarettes and chatting in Uyghur. He told me that the poem’s author, Shen Wei, was one of the only Han intellectuals he truly respected. He said, “He was the only one who actually acknowledged what really happened during Qi Wu.” Like most Uyghurs, Perhat code-switched when it came to talking about the period of time that surrounded July 5, 2009. It was always just Qī Wǔ (七五) — the Chinese words …

How Kyrgyzstan abandoned its own in Xinjiang while Kazakhstan didn’t

While not exactly an odyssey, the trip from Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek to Kazakhstan’s “southern capital” of Almaty still makes for a day-long hassle. For many, it starts with climbing into a van at Bishkek’s western bus terminal, waiting up to an hour for the car to fill up, and then making a forty-minute drive to the border, where you get out, take all your things, and prepare for potentially grueling and chaotic lines – the depressing, lose-faith-in-humanity kind where people shove and curse, fighting to get inside and escape the weather, some with small children and others with push carts stacked overly high with goods. There, the border control guards – first the Kyrgyz and then, one river later, the Kazakh – check your things and documents and, depending on their mood and personality, decide whether or not to give you a hard time. Making it past them, you wait another thirty minutes to an hour for the van to get through its own inspection channel, after which you get back on and continue …