Xinjiang-Uyghur (East Turkestan, Sinkiang) on my vintage world globe
The other day, I came across this video on an Australian news channel, allegedly made by the Turkistan Islamic Party (formerly East Turkestan Islamic Movement), showing pint-sized boys shooting AK47 like soldiers in the Tora Bora mountains, Afghanistan. My first thought was not fear of terrorism, but fear for the Uyghur people of Xinjiang, China. As far as I understand, the Turkistan Islamic Party was indeed founded by some Uyghurs, and one of their main goals is to break free from China. It is a long, long story, and I don’t want to talk about it here. All I want to say is that I worry that the Uyghurs of Xinjiang will cop some crap as a result of this horrible video. Their culture and freedom, their very identity, is already so threatened over there; media reports of second class citizen-treatment are all too frequent. I am concerned for both Uyghurs and Han Chinese in the region, for more clashes, blood, casualties, civilians, innocent people getting arrested, people “disappearing”. We have seen in the last few days what can happen when someone gets wrongly blamed for a horrific crime. That boy ended up dead. And to associate your average Uyghur with terrorism is like associating me as a Swede with the more-than-scary Swedish racist party that has got so much media coverage in the last couple of years.
So today, I don’t want to talk any more about the dark. I want to talk about the light of Xinjiang Uyghur. The honest truth is that if I could teleport myself anywhere in the world right now, it would be to Kashgar, the ancient Silk Road town that has always exerted this strong, unexplainable pull on me, more than any other place in the world. I want to walk down the winding alleys in the clay-coloured old town, now threatened by demolition and earthquakes. I want to go to the Sunday market, which apparantly is on every day; breathe the mountain air, buy some of that magnificent ikat silk. I want to eat plomash, which I cannot for my life find a recipe of anywhere in the ether. I read about this dish in a fantastic book, “FRÅN DIN SYSTER LOVISA” (Swedish) – “From your sister Lovisa” by Maria Gustavsdotter (I am not sure if it is translated to English), a true story about a Swedish missionary woman who ended up in Kashgar, and broke the ultimate tabu of falling in love with and marrying an Uyghur; extremely controversial for them both. But most of all, I want to talk to people. In broken English, in sign language with some Uyghur or Mandarin phrases that I will pronounce horribly. I want to hear their stories.
I hope that I will get there one day, and that the Uyghur culture is still going strong, that they Uyghurs hold their heads high and proud, and in my silly mind I also hope that they have come to some kind of understanding with the Hans, that there is no more discrimination, that they Uyghurs have complete freedom and happiness. I cannot help hoping that I will even find tabu-breakers like Lovisa and her Uyghur husband TochtAchond.
culturalchina.com, farwestchina.com, wikipedia, cornucopia.com, tripadvisorkashgar.com, moreaboutkashgar.com, hittheroad.com, silkroadsuzie.blogspot.com, tripadvisor.com (the last image – a famous hostel in Kashgar)