Trapped in an alien land

For centuries, the nomadic Kyrgyz people travelled freely across Central and South Asia, cutting across snow-capped mountains with their livestock.

Published: 09th February 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2018 02:32 AM   |  A+A-

For centuries, the nomadic Kyrgyz people travelled freely across Central and South Asia, cutting across snow-capped mountains with their livestock. Today they are caught in Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor with no hope of a way out

Accidental Afghans

Political upheaval and violence in the region have slowly boxed them in. “We are accidental Afghans,” Jo Boi, the frail Kyrgyz chief with heavy-lidded eyes, was quoted as saying by AFP. “We didn’t choose this land but we have no other place to go”

Fleeing communism in USSR and China

Previously the tribe only stopped in Afghanistan for the summer, travelling to Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang to escape the harsh winters, according to Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. “After the 1917 Russian and 1949 Communist revolution (in China), many fled to Wakhan preferring the numbing cold to communist-enforced collectivisation”

A knotty problem

The Kyrgyz call it Bam-e-Dunya (roof of the world) due to its location at the convergence of three of Asia’s highest mountain ranges—the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram and the Pamir, together forming the famed Pamir Knot. An inhospitable place where temperatures rarely rise above freezing and crops cannot grow, life expectancy here is low

No place in ‘yak-friendly’ Alaska

After a communist coup in Afghanistan, an exodus to Pakistan failed after hundreds died due to water-borne diseases. Most of the tribe, which now numbers just around 1,100, returned to the Afghan corridor. The US government then refused requests to resettle the group in ‘yak-friendly’ Alaska. Kyrgyzstan has also refused to repatriate them

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