Reviews

A journalist and traveller in Central Asia since 2000, the author has since 2006 enlarged her interest from former Soviet Central Asia (on which she has a blog in the French newspaper Le Monde, entitled “On the Central Asian Roads”) to Eastern Turkistan. She has become a supporter and friend to the Uighur dissident Rebiya Kadeer, after the latter’s release from Chinese jail and deportation to the USA in 2005, and her subsequent election as the leader of the World Uighur Congress in 2006. The aim of S. Lasserre’s book is to relate a journey to Xinjiang, and an encounter with a population poorly known to Europeans, according to the line of the “Voyage au pays des . . .” collection at the Éditions Cartouche. The author’s narrative provides, all along her travel from Kazakhstan’s border to the historical Uighur city of Kashghar and its surroundings, historical, political and sociological information. Alas, due to “endless crackdowns” against the Uighur population (cf. D. T., “Uyghur Culture Faced with Endless Campaigns,” China Rights Forum 2007/4, http://www.hrichina.org/public/PDFs/CRF.4.2007/CRF-2007-4_Uyghur.pdf), this travel, which took place in 2007, has provided little possibility for encounters with the population. Obliged to deal with a fickle and evanescent young female interpreter, the author could make very few discoveries, except the genuine terror of the people to be seen talking to a foreigner. The real interest of Voyage au pays des Ouïghours, when forgiving a number of misprints, comes from the author’s encounter with Rebiya Kadeer herself. During a visit in Paris, Kadeer shows touching kindness, infinite courage, endlessly asserting that the Uighurs are not terrorists, but in search of peace and dialogue. S. Lasserre has made a moving description of the unbearable despair of young Uighurs living in Paris, following the repression of Urumchi in July 2009, when relatives disappeared or were arrested. The oral testimonies collected about the July 9 demonstrations and on the ruthless repression that followed remain rare. Let us remember that China had then cut the whole Xinjiang region from phone and Internet for nearly one year. S. Lasserre deserves esteem for her commitment to the fate of the Uighur people, when so many have chosen to ignore their sufferings. Though imperfect and often superficial, this small book deserves attention for these very rare and valuable testimonies.

Leila Cherif-Chebbi, National Foundation for Political Sciences, Paris
CER: II-2.5-94