POST TIME: 10 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Afghanistan’s most isolated corner
The people who know no war

The people who know no war

This photograph taken recently shows an Afghan Wakhi nomad woman milking her cattle inside a pen in the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. AFP photo

WAKHAN CORRIDOR: “Taliban—what’s that?” asks Sultan Begium shyly from her freezing home in Afghanistan’s mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a region so remote that its residents are untouched by the decades of conflict that have devastated their country, reports AFP. The frail-looking grandmother whose harsh life has etched deep lines in her face, is a woman of the Wakhi, a tribe of roughly 12,000 nomadic people who populate the area. 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. Few venture out, even fewer venture in—but this isolation has kept the Wakhi sheltered from almost forty years of the near constant fighting that has ravaged their fellow Afghans.

“War, what war? There has never been a war,” Begium says, poking at a dying fire of yak dung, though she remembers people speaking of Russian soldiers dispensing cigarettes on the border at the other end of the corridor.

Such decades-old anecdotes are all the tribe really know of the Soviet invasion and US-funded mujahideen fightback, a brutal nine-year conflict that may have left as many as one million civilians dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced. The subsequent civil war, in which tens of thousands more people were killed and uprooted, and the rise of the extremist Taliban regime seem to them like folklore.

“Taliban are very bad people from some other country who rape sheep and slaughter humans,” says Askar Shah, Begium’s eldest son, who has heard stories about them from Pakistani traders. 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.