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The Secret Somali Tapes

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Kerning Cultures

Mother Tongue

How do you preserve a language when your government is actively trying to erase it?

Abduweli Ayup is a Uyghur linguist who was trying to stop the Chinese government from replacing Uyghur with Mandarin. He had been studying the language’s history, teaching Uyghur to younger students and writing books in Uyghur. But when the Chinese government began forcibly detaining Uyghurs in Xinjiang, his work got much riskier. Then, they came for Abduweli himself. This week on Kerning Cultures, Abduweli’s fight to preserve his mother tongue.

This episode originally aired in August 2019.

Special thanks to Abduweli Ayup and his family for sharing their story, and to Arienne Dwyer and Timothy Grose.

You can find a transcript for this episode here.

This episode was produced by Durrie Bouscaren and Alex Atack, with editorial support from Dana Ballout and Hebah Fisher. Sound design by Mohamed Khreizat. Fact-checking by Zeina Dowidar. Kerning Cultures is a Kerning Cultures Network production.


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