Cultural centers

China set to close Uyghur cultural and linguistic organizations — Radio Free Asia

The Chinese government’s decision to shut down more than 150 Uyghur cultural and linguistic research organizations is another indication of the cultural eradication of the predominantly Muslim community, those formerly involved with Uyghur organizations and artists have said.

The Civil Affairs Bureau of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) issued a “notice of revocation of registration certificates and seals of legal representatives of social organizations” on February 22, according to published Chinese media and information on the websites of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and the Urumqi Municipal Government (in Chinese, Wulumuqi).

The list released by the bureau includes 160 organizations dedicated to researching traditional Uyghur culture and teaching foreign languages, including the Uyghur Classical Literature Research Association and the Muqam, Dolan Agricultural Painters Association. , Atlan Vocational School, Intil Language School and Miraj Vocational School. Training center.

“This policy of elimination by the Chinese government – or, in its own words, this ‘war on terrorism’ – is a war on the Uyghurs,” said Kasimjan Abdurehim, founder of the vocational training school of Atlan.

“It’s proof,” he added. “We can see the cancellation, the elimination, of these Uyghur-run schools and organizations on the list as a small piece of evidence that Chinese government policies continue to operate at ever-new heights.”

Kasimjan, who now lives in the United States, pointed out that most of the social organizations, research centers and schools on the list were founded by Uyghurs. He said the campaign to shut down Uyghur cultural institutions began at least four years ago.

“As part of this process, they have already used all kinds of pretexts to deal with the leaders of these schools and organizations,” he said. “Today we see the results of that in this list.”

The release of the list also makes it clear that the new Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, Ma Xingrui, will follow the same path as previous Chinese leaders in the region regarding the crackdown on Uyghurs, he said.

Authorities had already revoked the certification of the vocational school, registered in 2013, and the Atlan language school, registered in 2006, Kasimjan said.

The Atlan School, which taught foreign languages ​​and computer programming to young Uyghurs, had branches in different prefectures in Xinjiang, he said. More than 100,000 students took courses from 2006 to 2017.

At the time, authorities said it was because Kasimjan, the schools’ legal representative, had left the area to live with his family in the United States.

“At the end of 2017, after my arrival in the United States, it was the language training school that [the authorities] dit would have his registration revoked if the legal representative did not come back and show up,” Kasimjan said. “It is managed directly by the Urumqi Municipal Department of Education [which] gave the school written permission to operate.

The recent region-wide unsubscribe announcement that lists the two schools was just a formality, he added.

“Clear Evidence”

China has cracked down on Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang through forced labor, forced displacement and cultural erasure. Authorities have purged Uyghur society of intellectuals, prominent businessmen, and cultural and religious figures, imprisoning many of them in a vast network of internment camps, as part of a campaign allegedly to prevent religious extremism and terrorist activities.

The US Congress and the parliaments of other Western countries have declared such actions to constitute genocide and crimes against humanity.

The inclusion of the Uyghur Classical Literature and Muqam Research Society on the list of debarred organizations has caught the attention of Uyghur musicians living in exile.

The European Uyghur Ensemble performed Uyghur muqama musical mode and set of melodic formulas that guide improvisation and composition in Uyghur music and other repertoires in European countries.

Netherlands-based Ensemble members Kamil Abbas and Sweden-based Muhtar Abdukerim Janbaz denounced the closure of the Muqam Research Society as “clear evidence of the ongoing elimination of Uyghur culture”.

“Now I heard this news that they have shut down this big research company,” Abbas said. “I’m really shocked to hear that. How can they look at something so important and just eliminate it? »

Abbas criticized the authorities’ disposal of cultural relics like the “Twelve Muqam”, a quintessential Uyghur work comprising 12 sets of ancient music including sung poetry, stories and dance, and is internationally protected.

He noted that Uyghurs have made significant contributions to the development of muqamwhich was listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2005, and recalled how he played it as a violinist while employed in the XUAR Opera Troupe in Urumqi in the 1980s and 1990s.

Uyghur artists have worked hard to develop muqamAbbas said.

Muhtar Abdukerim Janbaz, who learned Uyghur folk music by playing master Abdurehim Heyit, and is a self-taught performer of muqamalso criticized the closure of institutions dedicated to researching Uyghur classical music, such as the Muqam Research Society, as a great loss to Uyghur culture.

“The disappearance of a place where muqam can be researched, negotiated and presented to descendants, from a place where standards can be preserved, is unfortunate and distressing for our people – and, we can say, for the world,” he said.

Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.