Project Description

Aziz Isa Elkun

Poet and academic Aziz Isa Elkun was born in Uyghuristan (Uyghur Autonomous Region). He grew up in Shahyar County, close to the Tarim River on the Northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert. After graduating from Urumchi University in 1991, he was persecuted by Chinese authorities due to his student political activities. He has been living in London since 2001. He graduated majoring in web development and Multimedia from Birkbeck University of London in 2009.

He has published many poems and research articles in both Uyghur and English. In 2012, he published his first book, “Journey from Danube River to the Orkhon Valley”, in the Uyghur language. He is an active member of the Uyghur Community and was the founder of the London Uyghur Ensemble. He worked for many years as secretary of the International PEN Uyghur Centre.

From 2014 to 2017, he worked as Research Assistant on the “Sounding Islam China” project based in SOAS, University of London, and conducted collaborative fieldwork in Central Asia for the project. His co-authored English language articles published in Inner Asia and Central Asian Survey (‘Invitation to a Mourning Ceremony’: Perspectives on the Uyghur Internet and ‘Islam by Smartphone: the changing sounds of Uyghur religiosity’) and a book chapter in The Routledge Companion to Music and Human Rights (Music, Terror, and Civilizing Projects in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region).

From 2018, he worked as a Researcher Affiliate on a British Academy Sustainable Development project “Uyghur Meshrep in Kazakhstan” based at SOAS, University of London (

He also works as a director for the Uyghur PEN Centre Online Revitalisation Project (

One of his major editing and poetry translation work, the “Uyghur Poems” book is going to be published by Penguin Random House in September 2023. |

New Year, how can I salute you today?

Aziz Isa Elkun

Once more you have passed
I have no desire for a new one
Because you brought with you unbearable oppression for my people
Countless friends have disappeared
The humiliation of the Uyghurs reached its peak
All the lovers of freedom thrown into jail
No tears fall from our nation’s eyes without blood
But the world pretends to be blind …
They sell their humanity for profit
If this is what you offer me as a gift
How can I salute you today, New Year?

You thief of life since ancient times!
That’s why our great poet Lutun answered you without fear
The enemy’s sword could not kill us all
But the Uyghurs were hardened
Became heroes on the battlefield
Without being defeated!

I am like a moth burning myself on the fire
But I will not accept my weakness
If this is what you offer me as a gift
How can I say farewell to you
How can I salute you today, New Year?

Our past have become a monument for us
The agony of our souls burning like a hell
The great caravan has set out on its journey
Though its destination is a road with no return
World, listen to us!
The earth has become too narrow for the stateless Uyghurs
And my people have scattered to the seven continents
Innocent lives begging for humanity
While being a Uyghur has become a crime
If this is what you offer me as a gift
How can I salute you today, New Year?

In our unjust land, our fists are clenched with rage
No patience left, we are ready to sacrifice for our independence
Life is on the edge, with no meaning left in it for us
The Uyghur problem is still not cured, though it has lasted a century
But the year has taught us tough lessons
And we are now dedicated to the struggle
Let’s stop our tears and start to act
If this is what you offer me as a gift
I will salute the New Year with joy!

31 December 2017, London