Thursday, 8 April 2010


Kashgar’s Old City: Landscape of Loss

  • Thursday, 8 April 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • Two weeks ago, ISN Security Watch published an article (originally for OpenDemocracy) by Henryk Szadziewski on the Uyghur town of Kashgar.

    Today "The dust that now rises in Kashgar’s old city comes [not] from the sands of the Taklamakan desert, but from the debris of centuries-old houses demolished in a “residents’-resettlement” project." writes Szadziewski. This article comes less than a year after the Ürümqi events in July 2009 in which major rioting erupted due to conflicts between indigenous Uyughrs and relocated Han Chinese leaving some 200 people dead.

    In an older article for OpenDemocracy, Szadziewski wrote on the politics of demolition in the Old City of Kashgar and the destruction of Uyghur traditions and livelihood in the millennia-old city. Kashgar's natives practised Zoroastrianism and Bhuddism before their conversion to Islam in the 8th century CE.

    Uyghur nationalism in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been a problematic matter for the Chinese state for decades and has risen to international attention at various junctions - especially in the aftermath of the "war on terror" in neighbouring Afghanistan and Central Asia.

    In his article, Szadziewski writes: "the demolition of Kashgar’s old city is in itself a great loss to world heritage and a serious threat to the survival of what is most distinctive and precious about Uyghur material culture, architecture, and human community. What makes the process all the more insidious is that is being accompanied by a relentless marginalisation of Uyghurs in their own homeland as the demographic increase of the Chinese is reinforced by a tightening of political control." Demolition and marginalisation of Uyghur heritage and traditions comes under the pretext of "modernisation" and "civilisation" of the Uyghur peoples.

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