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Archive for the ‘Conflict Zones’ Category

Today, I defied the advice of many concerned friends and went to a Uygur neighborhood in Urumqi on the anniversary of last year’s ethnic riots; but I must admit, after learning more about the racial tension in Xinjiang, I walked around with some apprehension.

I exhibited my tourist identity – a camera hanging down my neck, spotting a colorful tubular buff as headwear, and speaking in limited Uygur language that I picked up in the past week. But what difference would that make? In the eyes of the locals, I would be a Han Chinese tourist from another province.

Oddly enough, when I walked down a lane with many roadside stalls and stopped to buy some cookies from a Uygur vendor, the middle-aged woman asked if I was a journalist. Perhaps, no Han would have any business to stroll down a street full of Uygur, and with security forces in every corner.

Apparently, quite some tourists who owned a SLR camera have been mistaken as a “professional” and asked the same question. A few days ago, I met a tourist from Thailand, who claimed to have been detained by the police for some two hours, as he was being suspected a journalist. (more…)

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Armed personnel patrol the streets of Urumqi diligently.

 

Instead of taking me to a restaurant that served Xinjiang signature dishes like roasted whole lamb, grill meat or pulou rice, a few acquaintances in Urumqi treated me to Sichuan hot pot yesterday.  

Initially I thought they were trying to please my Malaysian taste bud that preferred the hot and spicy southern Chinese cuisine, but later I was startled to learn of the real reason.    

“We are not treating you to typical Xinjiang food, because after last year’s incident, we have quit going to Uygur restaurant or eating Uygur food,” said Wang, a Han ethnic who is born and bred in Urumqi.  

I have arrived in the provincial capital of Xinjiang Uygur Minority Autonomous Region, Urumqi, just ahead of the anniversary of last year’s July 5 bloody ethnic riots, which left 197 dead and some 1,700 injured, according to official figure.  

Last year, what started as a street protest demanding investigations into a Uygur-Han brawl at a factory in southern China, had instead turned violent in Urumqi. The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uygur attacked and killed the Han, who is the biggest ethnic group in China, and eventually led to a bloody crackdown.  

Since then, like Wang, many Han locals in Urumqi have boycotted Uygur businesses – from restaurants, grocery shops to department stores. The deadly riots have further strained the already difficult race relations in Xinjiang. (more…)

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The Pakistan Label

A Cinema in Peshawar, Pakistan, screening action-packed local movie.

The headlines shout: “Pakistan is the Epicenter of Terrorism”, “Why Pakistan Produces Jihadists”, “Terror Roads Lead Back to Pakistan”…..

The list can go on and on, as investigations into the New York Times Square thwarted car bomb case unfolded, and a Pakistani-American has been charged with the attempted bombing. Again, Pakistan is grabbing world attention for the wrong reason.

Pakistanis are acutely aware of how the world views them; I recalled during my travel there in 2006, one of the questions most frequently directed to me was: “Do you really think that Pakistan is a nation of terror?” (more…)

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Received an email from A the other day, as usual, it was brief but full of troubling news.

“Yesterday here in Kandahar city a remote control blast took place at a police check post in district #6, an eleven-year-old child was riding on a donkey loaded with explosive device, eight casualties and three injuries reported. With bad luck, three of the casualties are my cousins.”

This is not the first time since I last visited him in Kandahar, Afghanistan, four years ago that such unfortunate news reached me via emails. (more…)

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