By Paul Goble
Few peoples of the world have been forced to fight and then flee more often than the Kyrgyz of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. They initially fought the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s as Basmachi, then fled to China, leaving there for “the roof of the world” when the communists took power, and retreating to Pakistan when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
But their odyssey did not end there. The group divided between into two: about a 1,000 who hoped to be resettled in Alaska but ultimately were forced to move to the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey and about 300 who returned to the Wakhan Corridor, hopeful they could hold out. Both hoped to move to Kyrgyzstan but Bishkek wasn’t prepared to take them in.
Now, with the Taliban moving into their largely inaccessible region, some of the 300 who had been eking out an existence in the Wakhan have been forced to flee again, this time to Tajikistan where their future is anything but secure (fergana.agency/news/122422/ and asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20210714/gruppa-etnicheskih-kirgizov-iz-afganistana-pereshla-granitsu-v-tadzhikistan).
According to the Tajik government, 77 members of this group, including 26 men, 20 women and 31 children, arrived in Tajikistan along with over 1300 animals which have been the basis of their economic life. Dushanbe has put them in rural areas of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, one of the most unstable places in that country.
Taliban officials are denying the entire story, but the details are such that it is virtually certain that it is true. What is depressing is the Kyrgyzstan continues to show itself unwilling to take these people and the 1,000 Kyrgyz in eastern Turkey back as refugees and provide them a national homeland.
For background on that refusal and on the travails of the Wakhan Kyrgyz more generally, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/kyrgyzstan-officials-again-refuse-to.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2012/01/window-on-eurasia-kyrgyz-who-fled.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/11/kyrgyz-who-fought-bolsheviks-in-central.html.