Dhaka: 1:51 AM, Fri, 21 Feb, 2020

Uyghur graveyards demolished, satellite images show

News Desk : risingbd.com
Publish on: 2020-01-03 2:09:52 PM     ||     Updated: 2020-01-05 9:31:45 AM

Uyghur poet Aziz Isa Elkun fled China's far western Xinjiang region more than 20 years ago.

He's not welcome in the country. He can't even phone his mother. She said it was better if he didn't, because every time he did, police would show up at her door.

So, when Elkun's father died in 2017, there was no way he could go back to China for the burial. To be closer to his family, he would view his father's grave on Google Earth.

"I know exactly where his tomb is," Elkun told CNN in his north London home. "When I was a kid we would go there, pray at the mosque, visit our relatives. The entire community was connected to that graveyard."

He "visited" his father like this for nearly two years. But in June, something changed. The satellite photo on Google had been updated and the graveyard that used to be there was now nothing more than a flattened, empty field.
"I had no idea what happened," said Elkun. "I was completely in shock."

In a months' long investigation, working with sources in the Uyghur community and analyzing hundreds of satellite images, CNN has found more than 100 cemeteries that have been destroyed, most in just the last two years. This reporting was backed up by dozens of official Chinese government notices announcing the "relocation" of cemeteries.

The destruction of Uyghur cemeteries was first reported in October by French news agency AFP and satellite imagery analysts Earthrise Alliance. They found at least 45 cemeteries had been destroyed since 2014.

AFP reporters visited several sites of destroyed cemeteries. In some, they found several bones that scientists later confirmed from photos were human remains.

CNN has identified more than 60 other gravesites that are no longer there, by cross-checking sites known to the Uyghur community abroad with satellite images taken over a number of years.

In response to CNN's request for comment, the Chinese government didn't deny the cemetery destruction.

Source: Agencies