Xinjiang Authorities Construct Parking Lot Atop Historic Uyghur Cemetery

Sandra Loyd

A cemetery thought about spiritual by Uyghurs that was taken down by authorities in 2015 in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Self-governing Area (XUAR) has actually been paved over and became a car park, according to a specialist on Uyghur history.

” In 2015, the Chinese federal government ruined the main Uyghur graveyard and spiritual shrine in [Hotan],” Rian Thum, a teacher of history at the University of Nottingham in Britain, stated in a post to Twitter on April 28.

“We can now see part of what they have put in its place: a parking lot.”

Thum posted a time lapse view of the Sultanim Cemetery, in main Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) city, based upon satellite images from Google Earth, which shows serious plots being slowly being raked over with dirt start in 2019 and a parking area being set up in the western part of the website.

“This is not just a run-of-the mill graveyard,” Thum tweeted, consisting of collaborates for others to utilize to discover the website on Google Earth.

“It is a well-known sacred site, the only major one inside the city. People would go there to pray for healing, fertility, forgiveness, etc.”

Thum likewise posted a picture taken by a professional photographer from Agence France-Presse in 2015 revealing a notification from regional authorities, notifying locals that the cemetery was being ruined “on the basis of the needs of our city’s development,” and to “promote a spacious, beautiful environment for all of the city’s people.”

“The graveyard and shrine destructions are part of a larger cultural cleansing campaign involving mass internment camps, forced labor, and child separation for Turkic minorities in China,” he stated.

In specific, Thum stated, authorities have actually concentrated on “eliminating or desecrating Uyghur sacred shrines,” consisting of one to a popular Muslim imam called Jafar Sadiq, which he referred to as “one of the five most important Uyghur holy places.”

He stated that the parking area in Hotan is among the first cases in which outside observers have actually had the ability to see what was built over a graveyard, or “mazar,” that consisted of an essential spiritual shrine, although he kept in mind that an AFP examination in 2015 exposed that a park had actually been built atop a cemetery that held the tomb of popular Uyghur poet Lutpulla Mutellip.

According to that examination, which AFP performed with Earthrise Alliance and released the findings from in October, a minimum of 45 cemeteries had actually been ruined considering that 2014–30 of which were taken down considering that 2017.

Much of the websites were changed into parks or parking area, while others had actually stayed empty lots, AFP stated. Press reporters stated they had actually seen human remains left at a number of websites.

Targeting the dead

Talking to RFA’s Uyghur Service, Thum stated that by taking down cemeteries, China’s judgment Communist Party is “literally targeting Uyghurs who have already died,” in addition to the approximated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities authorities are thought to have actually been apprehended in the XUAR’s huge network of internment camps considering that April 2017.

However he stated that ruining graveyards is likewise part of a quote to manage the broader Uyghur population, which sees the websites as “a part of the historical landscape of the Uyghur region,” despite their spiritual significance.

” For a long period of time, [Chinese authorities] have actually fidgeted about the shrines– especially those shrines where great deals of people collect– therefore a great deal of the most essential shrines were currently closed however were not being ruined or harmed,” Thum stated.

“And that’s what’s really different here, is that they’re now—in several places—completely removing and destroying these mazars.”

Thum recommended that actions such as ruining graveyards are techniques authorities utilize to “eliminate Uyghur culture or to transform it into something that is more like Han Chinese people’s culture.”

“Some of these shrines are just a collection of flags in the desert, and yet, by people going there frequently and engaging in the memorialization of the person who is supposed to be buried there, they keep them up, and they keep the memory alive,” he stated.

“But also, these physical markers on the landscape help remind Uyghurs of their own traditions.”

Reported by Kurban Niyaz for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Composed in English by Joshua Lipes.

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