Uighur intellectuals in China’s crosshairs | JPNN.us

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the united nations estimates that the chinese state has detained more than one million weakers the ethnic muslim minority in china in camps some have been eventually released but notably communist party officials have shown reluctance freeing uighur intellectuals and according to the weaker human rights project based in the u.s hundreds of scholars historians artists writers poets musicologists have disappeared activists call what’s happened a cultural genocide correspondent matthias bullinger has this report spanning germany and xinjiang as he tells the story of one missing professor from the city of kashgar for many years a few scientific books have been tahir motelit kahiri’s only link to his family his father mutalipsidik kahiri had dedicated his life to linguistics specializing in the etymology of weakened names a member of china’s ruling communist party the uyghur scholar was a model scientist in xinjiang and the editor of kashgar university’s magazine then in 2017 he suddenly disappeared he had been accused by the authorities of spreading ethnic hatred the party decides who is a professor and who is a criminal my father was a professor and scientist because the party allowed him he was of course hard-working but it was the party who allowed him to do this work and now the party has made him a criminal tahir is a university lecturer in gutting in germany he has followed in his father’s footsteps and teaches uyga language and literature this semester he is teaching a class on uyga pop culture online because of the corona epidemic [Music] some of the songs are just a few years old but to kahiri they already sound as though they are from a distant era feel american hundreds of professors who study uyghur culture have been arrested many artists and singers have been arrested the man we listen to today is one of them since 2017 china has detained hundreds of thousands possibly even millions of uyghurs and re-education camps or sentenced them to prison terms members of the cultural elite like his father have been especially targeted i’m very angry but i try to control my emotions to stay human and peaceful the persecution is part of a campaign to assimilate minorities in china the uyga language has been removed from school curricula while historic monuments like the ancient city of kashgar have been renovated and turned into tourist attractions traditional lifestyles have come under attack all mosques inside the ancient city have been closed many minarets been removed some have been converted into tourist spaces the ablution facilities now host public toilets a desecration one mosque was even turned into a bar it has since closed in kashgar’s two main bookstores we ask about the works of mr kahiri signing official documents have clearly named the goal of these policies to destroy the roots and break the lineage of the uyghurs back in gottingen tahir kahiri finally heard news from his father in march 2019 18 months after his disappearance looking old and frail he denied via video chat that he had been detained and said he had spent the last months in hospital my son you must not believe these lies you must keep your mouth shut and publicly renounce the accusations you have made and clean up the dirt that you left this will be best for us if you want to do something for us do what i tell you what’s sad for me is that here he’s defending the perpetrators i try to see mr kahiri who lives on campus as soon as i am at the gate police appeared [Applause] [Music] um [Music] has gotten confirmation from a court that a verdict has been issued against his father but he has not been able to obtain its content he can now talk to his parents every two weeks for two minutes then the line is cut off the chinese government has made me a lonely man a sad lonely man in exile one of his only solaces is that by teaching at the university he can contribute to preserving the culture that has suffered so much under china’s government we have uyghur ethnomusicologist performance artist and filmmaker mukadas joining us she was born in the city of um in what china calls its xinjiang region this story of mutalab sadiq kahiri has happened to many uyghur scholars and when so many stewards of a culture from specialists in literature to music to history and anthropology are silenced like that what is the impact um this is a very important question i think what is the impact the first impact is like we are losing so much knowledge so much um creativity even for human society i mean it is lost for everyone it is the the the it is really tragic for the the human civilization i would say because uyghur culture is really rich and it is a part of human history human culture if we lose that part of humanity it is a big loss for all of us um i know that many people doesn’t really know not really familiar with wigan culture or or uyghur arts but the main role of all these people who are disappeared in chinese camps are really the the the people who knows really a lot about these cultures and who were carrying on and making these uh cultural expressions alive so in that sense it is a big loss for bigger society or your people and it is also a big loss for anyone else that is a wonderful point you uh have highlighted because cultures interact so uyghur culture doesn’t happen just in its own ecosystem it’s shared by so many other people so tell us about your own recent work and how critical and important it is to preserve uyghur culture overseas in free spaces i mean you’ve taken traditional uyghur styles and made them contemporary um yes i have a very uh traditional um uyghur dance education i went to the art institute in urumqi when i was still living there and i had this chance to encounter with so many brilliant older traditional dance masters and then when i came to europe i realized that my culture was so less known like less known it’s a nice way to put it but a lot of people didn’t know who are the uyghurs and they didn’t know our existence so culture and artistic expression has always been uh this very important tool for me to introduce my culture introduce who i am and my people so and then i went to this journey of being a as a musicologist and i i saw that actually uh apart from what i learned in the art institute i like my culture is so diverse and there’s so many things still be be discovered for even for us for someone like me who are who were studying at uyghur culture so with all this richness and then with my own personal artistic journey that i i had in in europe and in in the world i started to think like uyghur dance or your music they also have like a very strong um power of expressing themselves it’s not just a museum piece and it’s not just a fixed or crystallized form of artistic expression or it doesn’t belong to the past so i wanted it to be a vibrant part of um contemporary um art scene i i wanted to make it more accessible and i wanted to use my own roots to express myself and tell my stories now if the chinese state manages to control education and deploy propaganda the way it has for an entire generation of weaker children we’re seeing this to try to essentially make them conform to ethnic han chinese norms what do you think will be the outcome the outcome is the ul region is a very uh historic and as you said very mixed and very diverse part of the world and if we took away all the identity um all the uyghur identity or or all the the rich history and all the vibrantness of these people and this culture and this this place um all like what chinese government is eventually trying to do is just erase anything which make these people individuals make these people uh free spirits and make these people different they’re erasing all the differences to bring them into like um making uh creating like machines or creating like um a soulless um um maneuver and they can create like they can work in in in the factories and then they just have to participate in this very dangerous ambition of chinese government to to really control world economy.

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