Meet Afghanistan's isolated Wakhi nomads who don't know about war, Taliban, burqa 

Published: 09th February 2018 12:38 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2018 01:10 PM  

The Wakhi, a tribe of roughly 12,000 nomadic people populate Afghanistan's mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a region so remote that its residents are untouched by the decades of conflict that have devastated their country. (All photos from AFP)
Known to those who live there by its Persian name Bam-e-Dunya, or 'roof of the world', it is a narrow strip of inhospitable and barely accessible land in Afghanistan bordered by the mountains of what is now Tajikistan and Pakistan, and extending all the way to China.
The Wakhi are moderate Ismaili Muslims, followers of the Aga Khan. The burka -- which is ubiquitous elsewhere in Afghanistan and is regarded by critics as a symbol of women's oppression -- is unknown.
Their life, largely free from crime and violence, revolves around yaks and cattle, which they barter for food and clothes from the few traders who visit the remote region.
Without electricity they have no internet or mobile phone service, often communicating with one another across the vast terrain by walkie-talkie.
But with temperatures below freezing for more than 300 days a year, this is no rural idyll. Even minor flu can kill, and childbirth means death nearly as often as it means life. The endless grief helps fuel use of the only drug freely available in Wakhan: opium.
There is little knowledge of the US invasion or the bloody resurgence of the Taliban, and more recently the emergence of the Islamic State group, that have killed or injured hundreds of thousands across the nation.
But change may be coming: The Afghan government says it's conducting aerial surveys to assess potential routes to connect Wakhan to the rest of Badakhshan province by road.If it all comes to fruition, it could bring more trade, tourism, and much-needed medical facilities. It could also spell the end of the Wakhi's protection from the brutality of war.
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