‘Nobody wants this job now’: the gentle leaders of China’s Uighur exiles – in pictures

Dzhigit-beshchi is the identify Uighur folks in Kyrgyzstan give to the chief they elect for his or her mahallah – or neighborhood. Usually it’s a revered individual, principally an aged man.

Pushed out of China throughout the repressions of the 1960s, tens of 1000’s of Uighurs went to the former Soviet Union when these ageing leaders have been simply younger males. Sticking intently to kin and acquaintances who had come to Soviet cities and villages in earlier waves, they constructed mosques and mahallahs, every with its personal dzhigit-beshchi.

The obligations of the dzhigit-beshchi usually are not written down, however everybody is aware of he should be kindly and take care of these in want. A dzhigit-beshchi helps to organise weddings, celebrations, feasts, funerals. All go him for assist after they want it.

Abdulov Mirzakim aji Abdulovich, 79, is dzhigit-beshchi for 7,000 folks in the Upper Tokoldosh, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

“We got here from China to the USSR after I was 22, and ever since then we’ve lived in Kyrgyzstan. I’m the basic dzhigit-beshchi, and the proprietor of the native mosque. I constructed it myself.

“Since I grew to become the dzhigit-beshchi, 4 folks with none kin died in our settlement, with nobody to bury them. I used to be the one to bury all 4. Raised the cash and buried them.

“You want expertise to be a dzhigit-beshchi. First of all, the individual must be an orator, wants to have the ability to communicate effectively. Other than that, it’s essential to be good at figuring folks out, understanding personalities. Only then will a dzhigit-beshchi be capable to do the work effectively.

“I can’t sit in one place without working, I’m always on the street, with the guys, with the people.”

Zhakhanov Gairat Abdrakhmanovich

Zhakhanov Gairat Abdrakhmanovich, 79, dzhigit-beshchi for 1,000 households in Novopokrovka village, east of Bishkek

“I used to be 23 when my household and I moved to Kyrgyzstan, as a result of Uighurs in China have been handled badly. At first, dwelling right here was onerous, however with time we bought comfy.

“It’s the ninth 12 months that I’m the dzhigit-beshchi right here. I watched the elders govern, and discovered. At first, it’s tough. There’s so much of issues to do, I’m chargeable for the whole lot: weddings, wakes, funerals, and plenty of extra. If somebody dies, even when it’s 2am, folks name me. Sometimes, if a bride is kidnapped, I’ve to work so much, as a result of it’s an enormous scandal. If the bride agrees, then I am going to make peace. If not – it’s a courtroom case.

“A dzhigit-beshchi must be honest, sincere and make good on guarantees. You must take discover of who lives how, and who wants assist. It’s like being a father who cares about his kids, but it surely’s 1,000 households.

“Soon I’ll be 80 years old. If I’m still alive, I’ll say when I decide to leave the post.”

The official flag of the former East Turkestan Republic

The official flag of the former East Turkestan Republic, which existed on the territory of the fashionable Xinjiang Uighur autonomous area from 1933 to 1949. Since the East Turkestan Republic was occupied by China in 1949 the flag has been forbidden on the territory of China, because it’s thought of to be an expression of separatism.

Kibirov Makhmudzhan Akhmetovich, 67, dzhigit-beshchi for 200 families in the Lower Tokoldosh.

Kibirov Makhmudzhan Akhmetovich, 67, dzhigit-beshchi for 200 households in the Lower Tokoldosh, Bishkek

“Our household lived in the metropolis of Ghulja, China, however we needed to depart as a result of father participated in the Ghulja protests. It was onerous, however we’re glad we left, as a result of now the whole lot is way worse there.

“We have been amongst the first ones to return to Tokoldosh. I’ve lived right here for 64 years. Two years in the past, I grew to become the dzhigit-beshchi. Before that I all the time refused, as a result of the job is accountable and thankless. There’s no wage, however so much of work. If somebody dies, I’m the first one folks come to, even when it’s 4am. And I’ve to be current, make calls, organise, make a grave.

“I used to be chosen as a result of I do know nearly everybody in Bishkek [the capital]. When a mahallah gathers, it’s crucial to decide on a pacesetter. You can’t get by with no chief in any tribe.

Velamov Erkin Ilakhunovich

Velamov Erkin Ilakhunovich, 67, dzhigit-beshchi for the 600 households in Lebedinovka village, on the outskirts of Bishkek

“I used to be 10 when our household crossed the Sino-Soviet border. There have been no detentions, no checks, the border was open on objective.

“Ever since then we’ve lived in the Lebedinovka village, Kyrgyzstan. Seven years in the past, I grew to become the dzhigit-beshchi. Life expertise helps me in determining easy methods to discuss, and to whom. I don’t battle with anybody, and it appears no one fights with me. Even if somebody says one thing about me, I don’t fear. I’m doing my half, attempting to assist everybody.

“Now nobody wants to be a dzhigit-beshchi, it’s just more problems. You can decline the position, but only if the people will let you, or if there is a replacement. It has to be ‘their person’, he has to know more or less who your father is, who your grandfather was, who was born from whom, and who married whom. I just took on that weight, because someone had to be doing this.”

Portrait of the second president of the East Turkestan Republic, Ehmetjan Qasim

Portrait of the second president of the East Turkestan Republic, Ehmetjan Qasim. There are two important variations relating to the deaths of members of his authorities. The official one is a aircraft crash on the jap coast of Baikal. The different one is that the crash was staged after the delegates have been killed. But no documentary proof has been discovered.

Roziev Kaim

Roziev Kaim, 74, dzhigit-beshchi of Ala-Too state farm, Bishkek, the place 180 households stay

“In 1963, we have been allowed to go away China for the USSR along with my brother, who had an ‘underground’ Soviet passport. When we have been delivered to Karaganda [in Kazakhstan], we have been very upset. In China we lived and studied in the metropolis, however right here there are solely mountains, there are not any folks. At first it was very tough, however steadily we bought used to it and moved to the metropolis of Frunze [Bishkek’s name until 1991]. Since then, now we have been dwelling right here. Uighurs assist one another, we’re a small folks – we will’t abandon one another.

“I’m already old. If in two years there will be a suitable candidate, I will step back. I could do it now, but the people don’t let me. That’s why it’s hard to choose a dzhigit-beshchi, nobody wants to be one.”

Mosque in Vostok

Mosque in Vostok, Bishkek. Next to the mosque there’s a madrasa for boys the place 50 kids stay and research. Behind the mosque there’s a gazebo that may accommodate 500 folks, the place native folks maintain occasions. In each Uighur space there’s a mosque. In huge settlements it’s the key place the place folks come collectively and necessary information is introduced when males collect for prayer. Uighur tradition is intently tied to faith.

Uzakov Abdujalil

Uzakov Abdujalil, 64, dzhigit-beshchi for 100 households in Vostok village

“I’ve been the dzhigit-beshchi for lower than a 12 months. I used to be the dzhigit-beshchi’s helper, however he left and I needed to change him. Someone who doesn’t know the obligations received’t change into a dzhigit-beshchi.

In the Vostok village there’s so much of nationalities, however for so long as I’ve lived right here, there have been no disagreements primarily based on that.

“If somebody moved, he all the time involves a dzhigit-beshchi, lets him know that now he lives right here and is able to take part in the life of the neighborhood.

“There are difficulties, too, because you can’t please everyone. You have to take care of your nerves, try to find a way to get through to people. Like it, don’t like it, someone has to do it.”

Sadyrov Abdurauf

Sadyrov Abdurauf, 67, dzhigit-beshchi for 60 households in Malovodnoe village, Bishkek

“I’ve been the dzhigit-beshchi for 10 years. I’d already refused on a number of events, as a result of I don’t have the time, I get drained, however folks don’t let me go.

“When I grew to become the dzhigit-beshchi, one of our folks lived very poorly, a water pipe burst in his home and just one room remained intact. So the very first thing I did was calling the locals to return, explaining the downside, and setting the process. Everyone supported it, agreed to assist. With joint efforts we fastened the home.

“The important accountability is to be the bridge for folks.

“The age doesn’t matter, what matters is that this person is respected in the settlement. I’m preparing a young man too, he’s a bit over 30. I wanted to give him the position now, but have to wait until he’s ready himself.”

This Qur’an is a family relic brought by Abdurauf’s father from China

This Qur’an is a household relic introduced by Abdurauf’s father from China when the household emigrated to Kyrgyzstan. ‘When [my father] got old, he was caught with an under-the-table Soviet passport. We were given three days to pack and leave. He wrote a note for me: “This is to my son Abdurauf, as a keepsake, for him to read and teach his children to read.”’

Musaev Erkin Karimovich

Musaev Erkin Karimovich, 61, dzhigit-beshchi for 250 households in Chatkul village, close to Bishkek

“I contemplate myself a patriot, I like to are inclined to the neighborhood life of the village, in order that we’re not sitting on the sidelines. That’s why I used to be chosen. Chosen as the custom dictates, throughout a gathering, so I’m the actual dzhigit-beshchi and never some impostor.

“Difficulties happen. Religious youth talks about various bans that aren’t part of Islam. They say that music is haram [forbidden], birthdays not allowed, wakes not allowed, the way our parents used to do things isn’t right. But we treat them with understanding. Because if you try to force anyone to share the same opinion, there may be a conflict. People won’t understand it the right way.”

The Uighur national men’s headdress is known as a doppa

The Uighur nationwide males’s headdress is named a doppa. By the form and sample of a doppa you’ll be able to perceive which Xinjiang metropolis the individual is from, as a result of every has its personal embroidery approach and design. Uighur males put on doppas to weddings, funerals, meshrep [gatherings] and holidays. In some instances a doppa is placed on the man after he’s chosen as dzhigit-beshchi. An worldwide day of the doppa is widely known on 5 May by Uighurs dwelling in completely different international locations.

Akhmullaev Abdikim Azizzhanovich, 66, dzhigit-beshchi for 1,300 households in Alamedi, on the northern outskirts of Bishkek

Akhmullaev Abdikim Azizzhanovich

“I’m the oldest resident of this neighbourhood. Everyone is aware of me right here, so two years in the past I used to be chosen for the position.

“When I became the dzhigit-beshchi, the workload increased. If there’s a wedding or a funeral in the mahallah, people come for my advice – how to organise it, whom to invite. Other than me there’s no one in this area who could complete the responsibilities of the dzhigit-beshchi, nobody needs it. We ask the youth, but they aren’t interested, they’re far from Uighur traditions and aren’t as tightknit as our generation.”

Shayakhmyat Shamuhamedovich

Shayakhmyat Shamuhamedovich, 75, dzhigit-beshchi in the space round Aaly-Tokombaev Street in Bishkek

“We have so much of nationalities dwelling right here, and I do know Uighur, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tatar, so I talk with everybody effectively. Being a dzhigit-beshchi means realizing each household. If one thing occurs in one of the households, be it a feast, somebody’s dying, a necessity for one thing, or a battle, we resolve this inside the mahallah, with our native residents. Everyone in the mahallah is aware of that I’m dzhigit-beshchi, is aware of the place I stay, has my cellphone quantity and I’ve theirs.

“If there is no dzhigit-beshchi, all sorts of situations can arise. Every nation has their traditions, and it’s necessary to stick to them, or it’ll be a mess.”

The dutar is the most popular Uighur musical instrument

The dutar is the hottest Uighur musical instrument. For Uighurs, music and songs have a particular half in on a regular basis life. All festive occasions are accompanied by nationwide dances and songs.

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