The Kyrgyz of the Afghan Pamir Film Project | History

Posted: April 15, 2012 in Tajikistan

The Kyrgyz have a complicated history.

For hundreds of years, Kyrgyz nomad communities had been roaming freely through what was known as Turkestan, an area spreading over different countries with rich seasonal grazing grounds. Kyrgyz used to come to the pasturelands of Wakhan because of the quality of its grass. But borders became almost impossible to cross after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, and they definitely closed with the Chinese revolution of 1949, imprisoning the Kyrgyz community on the roof of the world, and putting an end to their traditional migration patterns.

In 1978, fearful of the Soviet invasion, the Kyrgyz fled to Pakistan under the guidance of their leader Rahman Kul. They left most of their wealth behind as only a small herd of 6,000 animals was taken across the high passes to Pakistan. They requested 5,000 visas from the United States Consulate in Peshawar for resettlement in Alaska, a region that shares a similar climate and temperature with the Wakhan Corridor. Their request was denied. In the meantime, the heat and the unsanitary conditions of the refugee camp were killing off the Kyrgyz refugees at an alarming rate. Turkey, which was under the military rule of General Kenan Evren, stepped in and resettled the entire group in the Lake Van region.

In August 1982 Rahman Kul migrated to Eastern Anatolia with his followers. A Kyrgyz community was established in Kurdish territory as a government resettlement scheme, which provided each household with a few sheep and goats. Presently this community has grown to 2,000 members and follows a combination of sedentary agriculture and animal husbandry.

Almost unnoticed, a small group of Kyrgyz refused to follow their khan to Turkey and returned to Afghanistan in October 1979. Under the leadership of Abdul Rashid Khan, they established themselves in Soviet-occupied Wakhan and have remained there since.

Among all the Kyrgyz groups studied, the least change in survival strategies has occurred amongst these Kyrgyz. No school and no dispensary or hospital are located in the Afghan Pamirs, neither are there any bazaars or shops. Bartering of livestock products and animal husbandry organized through a migratory cycle between winter and summer camps remain the prime occupations of this community.

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Abdul Rashid Khan passed away at the end of 2009.

via The Kyrgyz of the Afghan Pamir Film Project | History.

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