Abduweli Ayup has now not been again to Kashgar since 2015, and his probabilities of doing so anytime quickly appear slender. The Chinese language executive has canceled his passport, he mentioned.
On occasion he watches movies on YouTube of his place of birth. They don’t make him really feel higher. It feels compulsive, he mentioned, “like consuming dangerous meals.”
“, you wish to have to stay consuming it, however later on your abdomen feels dissatisfied,” he added. As he watched one video whilst talking with a BuzzFeed Information reporter, Ayup pointed to an enormous sculpture of a standard stringed device by way of the gates of the town. “See that, that’s only for vacationers,” he mentioned.
Town is now filled with those varieties of photogenic additions. There are large teapots on the primary junction close to the town gate. Somewhere else, work of art display maps of Xinjiang or raise slogans comparable to “Xinjiang Impressions” the place guests forestall to take vacation snaps. A brand new front has been added to the metalwork marketplace, with a big signal that includes silhouetted figures hammering iron. The anvil statue on the nook now comes with projection-mapped fireplace, in addition to sparks and a piped soundtrack of steel being struck. Camel rides are to be had too.
Within the movies he has noticed, Ayup has additionally spotted photos of other folks dancing whilst dressed in conventional Uyghur get dressed — costumes that they could have worn greater than a century in the past. Figures like those may also be noticed on Chinese language state tv and on the nation’s annual rubber-stamp parliamentary consultation. “No one would put on that clothes anymore until it was once for display,” Ayup mentioned.
Tourism is now booming in Xinjiang. Remaining yr, whilst world numbers fell attributable to the pandemic, 190 million vacationers visited the area — greater than a 20% build up from the former yr. Income greater by way of 43%. As a part of its “Xinjiang is a superb land” marketing campaign, the Chinese language executive has produced English-language movies and held occasions to advertise a imaginative and prescient of the area as non violent, newly wealthy, and filled with dramatic landscapes and wealthy tradition.
Chinese language state media has portrayed this as an financial enlargement engine for Xinjiang natives, too. One article described how a former camp detainee named Aliye Ablimit had, upon her liberate, gained hospitality coaching. “After commencement, I was a excursion information for Kashgar Historic Town,” Ablimit mentioned, in keeping with the object. “And later, I grew to become my house right into a Mattress and Breakfast. Vacationers love my area very a lot on account of its Uygur taste. All of the rooms are absolutely booked nowadays. Now I’ve a per month source of revenue of about 50,000 yuan,” or about $7,475.
The facade holds up much less smartly with Kashgar’s mosques. Most of the smaller group mosques seem to be out of use, their wood doorways broken and padlocked close — and others had been demolished utterly or transformed to different makes use of, together with cafés and public bathrooms.
Within the Identification Kah mosque, lots of the cameras, together with within the prayer halls, have disappeared. However as could be anticipated given the previous 5 years, lots of the worshippers have disappeared too, down from 4,000–5,000 at Friday prayers in 2011 to only 800 or so lately.
The mosque’s imam, Mamat Juma, said as a lot in an interview with a vlogger who ceaselessly produces movies that toughen Chinese language executive narratives, posted in April 2021. Talking via a translator, he’s at pains to show that now not all Uyghurs are Muslims and to decrease the position of the faith in Uyghur tradition. “I in reality fear that the collection of believers will lower,” he mentioned, “however that should not be a reason why to power them to wish right here.” ●
Further reporting by way of Irene Benedicto