Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Even the dead in their graves couldn't get away from China's persecution in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Sultanim Cemetery has over 1,000 year long history. Muslim King Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan of Kashgar Kara-Khanid Khanate (999–1211) conquered Hotan (Buddhist Kingdom Udun at that time) and spread Islam in Hotan around 960 AD. During the war, four Kara-khan commanders, including prince Sultan Kilich Khan, were killed and Muslims buried them in this location. Since then, this cemetery was named Sultanim Maziri (my sultan shrine) and became the most important cemetery that Uyghur Muslims worshiped for over 1,000 years. In the center of the cemetery, the four commanders’ graves were still there until China completely bulldozed the entire cemetery. Many religious leaders, scholars and other important people in Hotan’s far and recent history was buried in this cemetery.
-Abdul Hemid Abdullah (Kari Hajim) Uyghur scholar who left Hotan in 2014; now living in Istanbul Turkey. Interviewed by Bahram K Sintash in June 2019.
Both Tawrizim and Sultanim Cemeteries are not located in a place that needs to be moved, they have been there for many hundreds of years.
Some of the most well-known Uyghur scholars' graves in Tawrizim Cemetery. The most famous Uyghur poet Rozi Sayit's grave is pictured on the left and one of the most respected Uyghur religious scholar Abdulhamid Yusufi's grave is pictured on the right. Pictures were taken in 2009.
Graves in the one thousand years old Sultanim Cemetery in Hotan
“The images of Imam Asim in ruins are quite shocking. For the more devoted pilgrims, they would be heartbreaking,” said Rian Thum, a historian of Islam at the University of Nottingham.
Before the crackdown, pilgrims also trekked 70km into the desert to reach the Jafari Sadiq shrine, honouring Jafari Sadiq, a holy warrior whose spirit was believed to have travelled to Xinjiang to help bring Islam to the region. The tomb, on a precipice in the desert, appears to have been torn down in March 2018. Buildings for housing the pilgrims in a nearby complex are also gone, according to satellite imagery captured this month.
“Nothing could say more clearly to the Uighurs that the Chinese state wants to uproot their culture and break their connection to the land than the desecration of their ancestors’ graves, the sacred shrines that are the landmarks of Uighur history,” source: Guardian
“If one were to remove these … shrines, the Uighur people would lose contact with earth. They would no longer have a personal, cultural, and spiritual history. After a few years we would not have a memory of why we live here or where we belong.”
- Rahila Dawut said in an interview in 2012.
To the reporters who are interested in putting this in the news, please feel free to shoot me an email to my email address listed under contact on Uyghurism.com.