WHEN ALL THE BUTTERFLIES HAVE GONE
Far away from China’s capital Beijing, in the mineral-rich far West of the country live the Uyghur people, a minority group of Turkic origin who are almost exclusively Muslim. Uyghurs have a completely different ethnic and historical background to that of the Han Chinese. Both their religious beliefs and lifestyle is at odds with that of the Chinese government hence for years there has been large spread unease and at times civil unrest. Human rights and Uyghur exile groups claim that the Chinese government is suppressing Uyghur culture and religion as well as violating human rights laws.
The Chinese government has sometimes referred to Uyghur nationalists as “terrorists”and has received large spread global support for these claims since the “War on Terror” began following the September 11, 2011 attacks in New York. Human rights organisations have voiced concerned that the “War on Terror” is being used by the Chinese government as a pretext to repress ethnic Uyghurs.
Over the past several years Beijing has offered financial incentives for ethnic Han Chinese to relocate to the Xinjiang province and set up businesses. This tactic is aimed at strengthening the Chinese Government’s hold over the area, giving them freer access to the vast minerals and resource rich area. Now, ethnic Han Chinese dominate nearly all big businesses in the region and the Uyghur people argue that Han Chinese hold the monopoly over both high-power and higher-paying jobs in the region. The Uyghur people are poorly represented in both local and state government and it is almost impossible for them to obtain passports or travel permits to leave the region. As a minority, the Uyghurs are gradually being forced out of their mud brick homes and into poorly constructed high rise apartments, losing homes and history which is centuries old. Since the ethnic tensions of 2009, the area has become a tightly controlled military zone and the local people live under close watch of the army. The Chinese government claims that this repression is all in the quest for “progress” in what is very quickly becoming one of the worlds fastest growing economies. However, many argue that this continual destruction of a culture, religion, and way of life is in fact, cultural genocide.
Aletheia Casey was born in Australia in 1980. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Photography and Graphic Design Aletheia devoted herself to travelling and photography, collaborating with international magazines and media including, BBC London, Getty Images Worldwide, Australian Associated Press, BBC Wales, SBS Television, Newspix Images and BBC Persia. In 2010 Aletheia was invited to exhibit alongside some of Australia’s leading photo-journalists as part of The Head On Portrait Festival in Sydney and was also a finalist in the Reportage Festival. She has also won a European Women’s Lobby Photography Award and short-listed for the Qantas Spirit of Australia Youth Award. More recently, she was named a finalist for the 2011 Lucie Foundation Scholarship in the USA for her series on Iran, and exhibited at the 2011 Ireland Photo Festival. Her work has also been published in Witness Journal magazine (Italy). Aletheia is particularly concerned with humanitarian and social issues relating to human displacement and environmental issues relating to water. To view more of Aletheia’s work please visit www.aletheiacasey.com