Life on the old Silk Road: the Uighurs of Kashgar – in pictures
  • Wed, 08/02/2017 - 15:58

All images by Kevin Frayer/Getty

Wednesday 2 August 2017 05.09 EDT

Chinese tourists pose with a Uighur performer in Kashgar’s old town. The historic trading city in north-west China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region has been the heart of the Uighur civilisation – a Turkic ethnic group – for centuries

>Kashgar is widely regarded as the best-preserved Islamic city in central Asia. For years, though, the heritage of the old city and Uighur culture in general have come under threat as Beijing exerts control – pouring billions of dollars into the region’s development and enforcing strict crackdowns on religion and traditions

Kashgar is China’s westernmost city. The region shares borders with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia. For more than 1,000 years Kashgar was an oasis town on the old Silk Road, acting as a crossroads on the route linking the Mediterranean to Asia

The Uighurs are the region’s largest ethnic group, with almost 10 million Uighur Muslims living in Kashgar. In the early 20th century, the group gained independence for a brief time, but the region was brought under control of communist China in 1949

Men dance after prayers marking Eid al-Fitr outside Id Kah mosque

Uighurs believe their traditional language, religion and culture is threatened by restrictions imposed by Beijing and the impact of growing Han Chinese settlement. Conflict has plagued the region for decades – with anti-government uprisings, rioting and terror attacks

The Chinese government – citing fears of ‘terrorist acts’ by Uighur separatist movements – has recently enforced restrictions at mosques

It was already forbidden for under-18s to enter mosques in Kashgar or to broadcast calls to prayer

This year there have been reports of authorities forbidding ‘Islamic’ names and face veils across the Xinjiang region

But the Chinese government says it is encouraging integration with the rest of the country, bringing money and jobs to the poorer west

Xinjiang is a key region in Beijing’sOne Belt, One Road initiative that will link China to the east and west. This massive infrastructure project will span more than 60 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa

Children play during a laser and water show – part of the local government’s efforts to develop tourism