China Razes the Cradle of a Culture

Paul Mooney reports on the demolition of Kashgar’s old town and of a centuries old way of life:

A government plan worth US$440 million (Dh1.6 billion) calls for the relocation of 65,000 Uighur households, about 220,000 people, whose families have lived in the Old City for centuries. Until a few weeks ago, the area housed 40 per cent of the city’s residents in its labyrinth-like alleyways, where the naturalness of the life made it a popular tourist destination and one that was not ruined by tourism.

For centuries, children played on the cobblestone streets of the Old City, mothers standing in the doorways of their mud-brick dwellings chatting with neighbours, their faces covered by scarves. Bearded men wearing embroidered doppas (skullcaps) have walked daily to the many small neighbourhood mosques that pepper the area for prayers, passing by coppersmiths hammering pieces of metal into shiny pots, butchers cutting lamb in the open air and bakers slapping traditional flatbreads on to the sides of a tandoor, a makeshift clay oven.

According to the state media, the ancient district – which provided the exotic backdrop for Kabul in the movie The Kite Runner – chosen for its close resemblance to that vibrant Afghan city of the 1970s must be torn down because of poor drainage, unsound construction and susceptibility to earthquakes.

Irritated residents claim the government made no attempt to discuss the demolition plan with them or to consider other ways of dealing with the problems.

May 3, 2009 9:41 PM
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