Friday, July 20, 2018

Pamir Kyrgyz Returning from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – In the last century, some among the nationalities have moved from one country to another in response to changing political conditions. One of the longest odysseys was by a group of Kyrgyz who fled the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s into China only to leave that country when communism came there.

            These people then moved on to the Pamir region of Afghanistan where they lived until communism came there as well. They wanted to come to Alaska but objections by residents of that state made that impossible, and almost all of them agreed to be resettled in Turkey around
Lake Van.

            But one small group of this nation, perhaps as many as 2,000 people in all, did not leave the Pamirs. Post-communist Afghan governments were glad to have them as defenders of an area difficult to reach but bordered by four foreign states. Kabul did little for them, but it did little to encourage them to live.

            The Pamir Kyrgyz continued to live much as their ancestors had for centuries, living in yurts and herding sheep and having none of even limited advantages Kabul extends to some of the other groups in that country’s population. They might have stayed that way except for the political needs of one set of leaders in their people’s original homeland, Kyrgyzstan.

             In 2016, to demonstrate their interest in Kyrgyz abroad, Bishkek politicians decided to extend assistance to the Pamir Kyrgyz and subsequently they offered to resettle the members of that community who wanted to come in mountainous portions of Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, that effort hasn’t worked out; and the Pamir Kyrgyz are now returning to Afghanistan.

            On the Fergana news poral, Ulugbek Babakulov describes what happened and why the Pamir Kyrgyz are now on their latest and perhaps exodus, again leaving a homeland their ancestors had abandoned and going to a place that they and their families remarkably have made their own (

            Of the nearly 100 Pamir Kyrgyz who came believing that they would get support much as their co-ethnics had in Turkey 40 years ago, almost all have moved back or plan to because after using them for political devices several years ago, the leaders of the republic have largely ignored them and their special needs in adapting to a much more modernized society.

            One Kyrgyz journalist observed that the Kyrgyz were surprised: the Pamir Kyrgyz spoke the same language as the titular nationality of Kyrgyzstan; but it turned out that “they were even more foreigners than other guests from present-day foreign countries.” And it was hard for the Kyrgyz of Kyrgyzstan to deal with them because the Pamir Kyrgyz were “poor but proud.”

            When the Pamir Kyrgyz do return home, Babakulov says, they likely will tell the others of their community that they do not have a homeland elsewhere but only where they are now. 

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