Continuing his series of observations from the western frontier province of Xinjiang, Graham Adams (a pseudonym used to protect the author’s identity) details the measures taken by authorities to suppress Uyghur identity:
The political situation in Urumqi is particularly tense now that the Party Congress is taking place. During noontime prayers on Friday, a Uyghur teacher must stand by the outer gate of an assigned mosque and make sure that none of his students attempts to enter the premises. If one does, he will receive a demerit from his school. A Chinese teacher accompanies the Uyghur teacher to ensure that the latter does not turn a blind eye to student rule-breaking. In addition, there are cameras inside and outside the mosque, as well as public security officers in the streets, to ensure that students do not enter. If students are caught, the teachers who failed to stop them are reprimanded as well.
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government also forbids students and teachers from wearing headscarves or traditional hats on school campuses. One Uyghur professor with whom I spoke argued that these head coverings are a cultural marker, rather than strictly a religious marker. In fact, many Uyghurs have remarked that the July 2009 riots acted as a major turning point in their society. Since that time, the number of Uyghur women wearing headscarves has increased dramatically. They argue that they wear them to stand in solidarity with other Uyghurs as well as identify themselves as Muslim.
One day, I encountered a handful of students on a college campus wearing traditional hats and headscarves. I asked one of the young women why she chose to cover her head in spite of the ban. “It’s part of our culture,” she responded. When I subsequently inquired what might happen if she continued
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