Portraits of Uighurs, China's Embattled Muslim Minority

Photographer Eleanor Moseman shows the daily lives of a people native the Xinjiang region, whom the country's majority population tends to treat with suspicion.

morseman1.jpgA woman takes a break from her afternoon work in the fields to pray.(Eleanor Moseman)

China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is the country's largest province, a vast land mass bordering seven countries that is almost as large as Mongolia. The region is the traditional home of the Uighur people, one of China's 55 official ethnic minority groups and one, along with the Tibetans to the south, whose relations with China's majority Han are most strained. Most media portrayals of the Uighur people have a negative edge; mentions of terrorism, unrest, and discrimination abound.

The Shanghai-based photographer Eleanor Moseman became fascinated with the Uighurs during a visit to Xinjiang. In these portraits, she portrays a people going about their daily lives, showcasing a people with a rich cultural and culinary tradition wholly unique in the People's Republic.

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A Tuesday afternoon at the weekly bazaar in a small town south of Kashgar. Uighur men traditionally have beards, although among younger men,mustaches are more fashionable. Shaves in Xinjiang typically consist of a face massage and straight razor.

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A Uighur couple rides an electric scooter through the rubble of Kashgar's Old Town. One of Xinjiang's most historic cities, Kashgar has been subject to extensive infrastructure development in recent years, a process that has pushed out many local residences and shops.

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A Uighur mother rocking her newborn to sleep. Because they are one of China's 55 officially recognized ethnic minority groups, Uighur women are exempt from the one-child policy.
 
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An afternoon tea in the countryside concludes with gifts of bread, naan, lamb, and dried fruit for the guests. The youngest woman residing at the home will prepare the gifts, beginning with the highest ranking man.


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A typical Uighur breakfast of naan and milk.

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A traditional Sufi burial ground in the Taklamakan desert roughly 120 miles south of the South Silk Road. Burial grounds can range from one shrine to nearly two dozen, and are found in the desert away from villages and cities. They are decorated with flags, embroidery, animal bones, small wooden cribs, and hand written notes and poetry.


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Matt Schiavenza is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He is a former global-affairs writer for the International Business Times and Atlantic senior associate editor.

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