Paru cette semaine aux éditions Hesse :
Voyage au Pays des Ouïghours – De la répression invisible à l’enfer orwellien
Mon livre évoque la situation dramatique de ce peuple soumis aux pires exactions de la part de Pékin. Le voyage commence en 2006 pour arriver à nos jours (en 2020) et à l’horreur des camps.
Aviez-vous entendu parler des frères Schlagintweit ? Ils sont cinq, nés en Bavière, dont trois explorateurs en Haute-Asie : Hermann, Adolphe et Robert, nés au début du XIXe siècle. Les trois frères, qui avaient plus d’une corde à leur arc (aquarellistes, botanistes, glaciologues, etc.), se distinguèrent par leurs explorations du Tibet et du Turkestan oriental, au point de recevoir en 1859 le grand prix de la Société de Géographie de Paris.
Hermann (1826 – 1882), notamment, est reconnu pour la qualité de ses aquarelles :
Notez que c’est à titre posthume qu’Adolphe (1829 – 1857) reçut son prix. En effet, celui-ci disparut en 1857 à 28 ans. De source quasi certaine, il fut décapité par Wali Khan, l’émir de Kashgar, son crâne couronnant une pyramide d’autres crânes à l’entrée de la ville. Quant aux circonstances exactes de sa mort, ses frères enquêtèrent longtemps.
A la fin de l’année 1856, les trois frères, qui se trouvaient au Punjab, se séparèrent. Robert et Hermann rentrèrent en Europe, tandis qu’Adolphe souhaitait séjourner une année de plus dans la région afin, notamment, d’explorer plusieurs parties inconnues du Tibet et du Turkestan.
Adolphe von Schlagintweit.
Déguisé en marchand indien, il était accompagné d’une impressionnante caravane lorsqu’il quitta Rawalpindi le 13 décembre 1856 : « plusieurs guides, de nombreux domestiques, quelques-uns armés, et, outre les chevaux, des yaks chargés des provisions, des tentes et des marchandises, soieries, tapis, vêtements, destinés à servir aux échanges ou à être donnés en présents ; enfin, un troupeau de bétail, moutons, chèvres, etc. » Autant de précautions nécessaires pour passer l’Himalaya par des chemins inconnus.
Début août 1857, la caravane se trouve à cinq jours de Yarkand, au Turkestan. Mais Schlagintweit apprend que des combats ont lieu du côté de Yarkand et Kashgar, entre les émirs turks et les Chinois qui n’ont de cesse d’occuper ces bastions du Turkestan. Kashgar était alors au pouvoir de Wali Khan, un émir cruel. Néanmoins, Shlagintweit décida de poursuivre sa route vers la cité, renvoyant tout de même à Lahore par précaution ses manuscrits, dessins et collections. Ayant demandé une audience à Wali Khan, « Celui-ci, pour toute réponse, l’aurait fait arrêter et conduire en sa présence avec son escorte. Puis, sans vouloir entendre aucune explication, sur-le-champ il lui aurait fait trancher la tête hors de la ville ».
Lire l’article de la revue Le Tour du Monde (1860) : Mort du voyageur Adolphe Schlagintweit dans le Turkestan
Voir aussi : On the death of M. Adolphe Schlagintweit.
Sa tombe se trouve à Münich car, quelques années plus tard, un anthropologue kazakh, se rendit à Kashgar, retrouva et rapporta ses restes en Russie. Mais ceci fera l’objet d’un autre post.
Pakistan, Copyright Sylvie Lasserre
Begining of a shamanic ritual in Tajikistan, Copyright Sylvie Lasserre
Début d’un rituel chamanique au Tadjikistan, Copyright Sylvie Lasserre
Copyright Sylvie Lasserre
Musée de Peshawar. Copyright 2010 Sylvie Lasserre
La Lettre du Toit du Monde publiait en juin 2019 un article très complet sur le cheval psychopompe, signé François Pannier, le directeur de l’Association pour le Rayonnement des Cultures Himalayennes (ARCH). En voici un extrait :
« Nous trouvons en effet, à la limite de l’Afghanistan et du Pakistan avec la passe de Khyber, lieu de passage d’importantes invasions, un arc d’ouest en est, avec des traditions extrêmement originales.
Les Kafirs et les Kalash tout d’abord, un peu plus au nord, le site funéraire de Pir Panjal avec ses centaines de cavaliers de pierre, les Dardes du Ladakh aux traditions très proches des Kafirs et des Kalash, leurs origines aryennes semblant communes, l’alignement mégalithique de Do Ring, les bois sculptés de Byash, à l’extrême nord-ouest du Népal, sont autant d’éléments qui nous font penser qu’ils ont grandement influencé ce type de phurbu psychopompe et qu’il faudrait y situer la source de l’utilisation de cet objet. »
Voici le numéro 27 de la lettre du Toit du Monde où figure cet article : Cheval psychopompe et phurbu.
During my roadtrip from Islamabad to Istanbul in 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the archeological site of Göbekli Tepe, located a dozen kilometers away from Urfa in Turkey. It was a long time dream. That was even one of the main reasons for this long trip – along with the visit of other neotlithic archeological sites.
Approaching Göbekli Tepe. Copyright 2014 Sylvie Lasserre
Göbekli Tepe, « the mount with a belly » in Turkish, was discovered in the 60’s by some archeologists guided by the shepperds, owners of the land. But those had no idea of the importance of the site. They thought they had found some Middle Age graveyards. It was Klaus Schmidt, a German archeologist, who understood the importance of such a place and he began excavations in 1994. Unfortunately Schmidt died of a heart attack in 2014.
It was found out that Göbekli Tepe was probably a temple 12000 years old. This shook up all preconceived ideas about neolithic societies. Indeed : still nomadics, the hunters and gatherers living in the region of Göbekli Tepe were gathering at this worship place (no evidence of settlements were found in the surroundings). This is the most amazing fact of this discovery.
Mahmut Yildiz, the shepperd owner of the land where lays Göbekli Tepe. Copyright 2014 Sylvie Lasserre
Still most of the mound has to be excavated. I was told by the locals that the vast plain down the tepe « hill » was the place of the Paradise. Indeed, this region is known for being the cradle of agriculture (upper Mesopotamia), which appeared some 10000 years ago, after the construction of Göbekli Tepe.
A fertile plain lays at the feet of Göbekli Tepe. Copyright 2014 Sylvie Lasserre
Today, Göbekli Tepe has dressed new clothes. Paths have been created for guiding the visitors, brand new roof is protecting the site. There are opening and closing times and soon it will be possible to fly over the site with hot air balloons… Moreover, some guided tours are full and can’t accept more tourists, due to the success of this modernisation.
Göbekli Tepe has been officially inaugurated on March 2019. And selfishly I wonder if I still will be able to dream there.
Monday, October 15th 2018
The news, chilling, just came: A doctor honoris causa of the French Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE) has been sentenced to death. He will be executed in two years. This is happening in China, and the researcher in question, Tashpolat Tiyip, is a renowned geographer. His only crime? To be Uyghur. He received the honorary title on November 14, 2008 at the Sorbonne, Paris, to salute his work on the environment in arid zones by satellite remote sensing. His friends and colleagues in Europe are appalled. His crime? He is suspected of being « double-faced », that is to say that Beijing accuses him of nourishing a secret attachment to his culture, this being unjustified since he was a member of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the University of Xinjiang since 2010 (after serving as Vice President from 1996 to 2010).
According to EPHE President Hubert Bost, Tashpolat Tiyip’s French colleagues saw him for the last time in February 2016. They remember him as a very funny, likeable person, fond of music and singing.
Sources disclosed that his duties as President of Xinjiang University were withdrawn in March 2017. Two months later, while on his way to a conference in Germany, he was arrested at Beijing Airport. His relatives, without news, are very worried. Nobody knows where he is. On the internet, the results of research about him only mention his scientific publications. « They have erased everything from the internet, » says a Uyghur who wants to remain anonymous. Moreover, the Uyghurs of the diaspora avoid doing such research on the web, they know that it can cost the prison or the rehabilitation camp to their relatives left in Xinjiang.
Tashpolat is not the only intellectual to have disappeared without a trace until the sentence is learned: Halmurat Ghopur, President of the University of Medicine of Xinjiang was arrested on April 7, 2017. He, too, has just been sentenced to death. Arslan Abdullah, director of the Institute of Human Sciences, arrested. Azat Sultan, director of the Association for Art and Literature of Xinjiang and Vice President of Xinjiang University, very knowledgeable of Uyghur literature, also arrested in July 2017, as well as Abdukerim Rahman, Rahile Dawut and Gheyretjan Osman, professors of literature, anthropology and history – reportedly arrested in January 2018. Same fate for the writer Yalqun Rozi, who disappeared more than a year ago before one learns his life sentence. Regarding Satar Sawut, the former director of Education, there are rumors about his death in custody. The list of arrested intellectuals continues to grow. Reportedly, according to Radio Free Asia, fifty-six lecturers and researchers have disappeared and are thought to have been sent to camps.
The actors and the journalists are also victims of the same move. According to Radio Free Asia English, Qeyser Qeyum, editor-in-chief of a literary magazine, committed suicide at the end of September 2018 by jumping from the 8th floor because he learned that he will be arrested. Before him, the editor of the Xinjiang Daily and three other directors had been arrested in mid-2017.
Since the end of 2016, Beijing has begun to imprison or to re-educate Uyghurs accused of having politically incorrect thoughts. It seems that the government of Xi Jinping has decided to get rid of the Uyghur elites. A foretaste of it was the arrest in January 2014 of Ilham Tohti, professor of economics, arrest that caused a big stir as well as his life sentence in 2018. « They want us to disappear, » says, bitter, a Uyghur settled in Europe.
Since the appointment of Chen Quanguo as head of the Xinjiang Communist Party in 2016, Uighurs’ ordeal has reached unprecedented proportions: setting up of controls using monitoring devices unique in the world: all three hundred meters surveillance towers with soldiers – there are 1400 wujingzhan only in Urumqi -, facial recognition devices everywhere, control of the phones, incessant identity checks, even at the entrance of supermarkets, cameras, affixing on each house a QR code containing all the information related to the family – the knives of the house are also equipped with these QR codes -, bursts in houses at any time, etc. and then, about two years ago, launching of a massive re-education campaign targeting the Uyghur people to bring them to the main stream: « Almost all Uyghurs from abroad who return to China for the holidays are arrested in Beijing and sent to re-education camps,” disclosed us the source. Since then, they are scared to return to China to see their family. Alas, the government has asked them to send their papers, their employment contracts or student cards, their photographs, etc. otherwise their relatives in China would be arrested. « We are living the darkest, saddest period of our history, » said a Uyghur who agreed on the condition of anonymity. We are nothing else than laboratory mice for the Chinese government.” According to Radio Free Asia English, Xinjiang reportedly recruited in 2016 more than 30,000 new police officers, 89 % being dedicated to the surveillance towers.
The attacks on the freedoms of the Uyghurs are not new. Already in 2007, Rebiya Kadeer, was mentioning a cultural genocide to denounce the exactions of Beijing against her people and claimed: « We live in a huge concentration camp in the open air! » in an interview she gave us in Geneva. But today, the liberticidal system has reached such an extreme that, for the first time, the media publish widely about the alarming situation in Xinjiang. HRW estimates that more than one million Uighurs are interned in camps, this is just over ten per cent of the Uyghur population. The Uyghurs themselves mention the figure of two million, sometimes even three. A village in the Hotan region, Yengisheher, has seen its population decreasing by 40%: according to Radio Free Asia, almost all the adult males of the 1,700 households have been interned.
Little is known about what is going on in the reeducation camps. The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report in September 2018, “Eradicating Ideological Viruses – China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims” with first-hands accounts from five people who have been held in detention centers and in reeducation camps. According to the report, prisoners held in the detention centers are interrogated for days, chained on a chair, badly beaten, or hung from the ceiling in order to make them admit anything. Cells are overcrowded with 24 to 35 people in a 12-square-meter room.
In the reeducation camps, the captives are not allowed to speak in their mother tong but in Mandarin Chinese and undergo a military discipline: flag-raising ceremony every morning and singing songs praising Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. Before meals they must also praise the president and the Party. “They are given a small bread and a bowl of rice to eat, but if you do not speak good Chinese, they do not give you anything. » Prisoners are told they wouldn’t be released until they can speak Mandarin. Even the illiterate and old ones.
According to the same report, the crime of those held in political education camps is to have relationship with people in a list of 26 foreign countries, or to have practiced Islam. The fact of keeping WhatsApp or a VPN on your phone is also a reason to be politically educated.
Mistreatment is not spared to the detainees: There are reports about guards using high-voltage gloves to hit them. All women had their hair cut off. One who had not been obedient enough was put inside a metal outfit. Another one told HRW he was put inside a kind of well where he could not move and where they poured water until he vanished. Punishment for not being capable of learning patriotic songs quickly enough is deprivation of food for one week. Life in camp is unbearable to the point that many try to commit suicide. Moreover, four deaths have been reported in the political camps due to torture and denial of ill treatment, according to the HRW’s report which states that there are probably more cases.
Cut off from their family, the Uyghurs abroad live in anguish of what happens or can happen to their loved ones: « We cannot call each other. Neither mail nor message nor anything. My father called me from China a year and a half ago to tell me not to call or write to him. That would have put him in danger. I have no news, » said the student. Others are not suspicious enough and go back to spend a few weeks in Xinjiang, like this mother of two, who left late 2016 to China for a couple of days. Her daughters have never seen her again. So many families are broken. This does not only affects Uyghurs of Europe. About three hundreds Pakistani husbands are separated from their Uyghur wives and kids for the same reasons, amongst which 38 headed to Beijing to lobby their embassy (Reuters).
Now that the mass internment of Uyghurs in camps could not be hidden anymore and came to surface, China first denied their existence. But faced with the evidences and the accumulation of testimonies, Beijing recently admitted the facts and is now trying to give a legal frame to the political education camps, calling them “vocational training centers” and claiming they are aiming at offering employment opportunities.
Since October 1st, the Chinese National Day, Beijing is suspected to move prisoners to Inner China and rumors are circulating about the construction of underground camps that would be invisible from satellites.
To read the full text in PDF : Uyghur elites eradicated