“Nikah”, Uighur wedding in the early hours of a genocide – Liberation

“Nikah”, Uighur wedding in the early hours of a genocide – Liberation

2023-06-07 11:08:00

The repression of the Uyghurs in Chinadossier

The medium-length film by Mukaddas Mijit, a filmmaker who lives in France, immerses us in the melancholic summer of 2017 of a young woman in Xinjiang, as the genocidal mechanism kicks in.

“I’m sure there will be women from the neighborhood at the party tomorrow. To look at me and think: “The little sister is getting married, and the big sister is still single”. sighs Dilber on the phone, in conversation with his Parisian friend. At 27, this pediatric nurse is suffocating under social pressure. Her summer of 2017 stretches between melancholy and annoyance, family happiness and lurking tragedy. Dilber dances beautifully during the nikah feast, the banquet that follows the traditional religious ceremony. While with her mobile, she immortalizes the joy, the colors and the abundance that characterize the Uyghur celebrations, a facial recognition camera scans the guests who leave the house without qualms.

Dilber films his shopping at the market, his bus journeys. Without knowing it, she picks up the signs of the infernal machinery of genocide in motion. Slogans that call for “unity between ethnic groups”, the old neighborhoods destroyed, the new family planning rules mumbled over the loudspeaker. When her sister tells her that her young husband has disappeared after being interrogated, she reassures her. At that time, only the highest level of the Chinese government was aware of the final design: the erasure of Uyghur society, considered a threat by the Party-state because of its history, its sophistication and its resilience.

Through the eyes of her character, a modern young woman who comes up against the conservatism of her entourage, Mukaddas Mijit, Uyghur artist and ethnomusicologist living in France, reveals in this intense, delicate and sometimes funny film a society that is silently falling apart. Since 2017, at least 1 million Uyghurs, out of an estimated 11 million who live in Xinjiang, western China, have been sent to re-education camps, detention centers or sentenced to prison, for a phone abroad, a song considered to be committed or an invitation to a nikah party, all acts qualified as “terrorist”, “separatist” or “extremist”.

A planned filming on location would trigger the crew’s arrest, and traveling to Xinjiang would be a one-way ticket to prison for an exile. Nikah was therefore produced in a secret location in a Central Asian country, with amateur actors and funding from the CNC, Arte and the Rhône-Alpes region. The great difficulty was to find Uyghurs who take the risk of appearing on the screen. Guzelnur Uchqun, superb in the lead role, is an acrobat who lives in Europe. “I found them on Instagram. It was important for them to express themselves through a project like this, and to denounce the injustice done to Uyghur women,” says the director. As for the images that Dilber sends to his Parisian friend, they are amateur videos exfiltrated from Xinjiang, which mix reality with fiction and open the door wide to a world so close and so far away at the same time. While Beijing imposes an omerta on the crimes against humanity committed in Xinjiang, the film has not been selected by any festival.

Nikah, by Mukaddas Mijit and Bastien Ehouzan, 55 minutes, Arte, available for streaming until May 18, 2024

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