May 5 marks the Uyghur Doppa Festival or Doppa Day. A Doppa is a four cornered hat traditionally worn by the Turkic of peoples of Central Asia and East Turkestan. Often brightly studded or embroidered with a distinctly Islamic and Turkic aesthetic, they are a point of pride for the Uyghurs of East Turkestan.
Uyghur culture is a unique blend of East Asian, Central Asian and Islamic cultures as Uyghur cities such as Kashgar and Urumqi were historically major cities on the Silk Road which connected Asia in thought, commerce and society far before the invention of digital mass communication. Uyghur people are predominantly Muslim and speak the Uyghur language which is a Turkic language more closely related to Turkish and Kazakh than it is to its neighboring languages of Mandarin and Tibetan, it is traditionally written in Arabic script.
East Turkestan, like Tibet and Inner Mongolia, is occupied by the People’s Republic of China and has been faced with increasing crackdowns on religious and cultural expression in recent years reminiscent of the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists as well as Falun Gong and Chinese Christians in the 1900’s to this day in what activists are calling a modern day genocide.
Uyghur diaspora and human rights organizations encourage the celebration of the Doppa Festival to celebrate and recognize the rich cultural heritage of the Uyghur people in the face of erasure by the Chinese Communist Party. Today also serves as a platform to raise awareness about the persecution of minority groups in the PRC such as Uyghur Muslims, Christians and Tibetan Buddhists. In recent years Hong-Konger and Taiwanese diaspora have jointly protested against the CCP’s increasingly restrictive policies and human rights abuses alongside Uyghur and Tibetan activists as well, though Western politicians have yet to put up a firm response against said abuses by the CCP.
This Doppa day, regardless of our culture and religion, let us reflect on the value of resilience in uncertainty, because even if hope is all we have, sometimes it could be just enough to carry us into a better tomorrow.