July 6, 2022

Uyghur graves systematically destroyed in Xinjiang

Part of a campaign of cultural genocide 

Beijing is destroying traditional Uyghur burial grounds / AFP

Satellite photos suggest that China is systematically destroying dozens of traditional burial grounds of Uyghur Muslims in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province. Bones are sometimes left scattered across the site.

This appears to be part of a broader campaign of cultural genocide waged by Beijing to wipe out separatism and Islam from the remote western province. It is believed that between one and two million Uyghurs are currently incarcerated in re-education camps.

The images, analysed by Earthwise Alliance and published on Wednesday, show new carparks and standardised facilities in sites that used to house the remains of Uighur families in Xinjiang. In just two years, dozens of cemeteries have been destroyed.

“This is all part of China’s campaign to effectively eradicate any evidence of who we are, to effectively make us like the Han Chinese,” Salih Hudayar told AFP. He said the last resting place of his great-grandparents had been was demolished. “That’s why they’re destroying all of these historical sites, these cemeteries — to disconnect us from our history, from our fathers and our ancestors.”

The destruction is “not just about religious persecution,” said another Uyghur, Australian resident Nurgul Sawut, who has five generations of family buried in a city in southwestern Xinjiang. “It is much deeper than that,” said Sawut. “If you destroy that cemetery … you’re uprooting whoever’s on that land, whoever’s connected to that land.”

Even the tombs of famous Uyghurs have not been spared. In Aksu, local authorities turned an enormous graveyard where prominent Uighur poet Lutpulla Mutellip was buried into a “Happiness Park”, with fake pandas, a children’s ride and a man-made lake.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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