English walnut fruit. Photo: Utah State University.
Emil Shukurov remembers what the great walnut forest of Central Asia was like. His first memory dates back to shortly after World War II, when expansion plans of the centralized Soviet economy had only barely touched remote valleys in southern Kyrgyzstan where tens of thousands of acres of walnut trees grew. It was—and is—a complex ecosystem that also hosts apple, pear and plum trees—130 species overall—and wild boars, deer, bears, owls, hawks and other wildlife, as well as farmers, herders and nomads descended from people who roamed the region for centuries. Continue reading →
In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, locals’ discussions on Hazara history and recent oppressions faced by Hazaras would often incorporate the meanings that two Buddha statues, built in the 6th and 7th centuries and destroyed on March 10 2001 by the Taliban, held for Hazaras. During my stays in Bamiyan between 2011 and 2013, some individuals recalled myths that explained the statues as symbolising the foundational ancestors of Hazaras, while others considered them to be nothing more than un-Islamic idols. Against the background of these myths, many locals pondered whether the destruction of the statues by the Taliban epitomised the suffering of Hazaras that reaches far into history. Continue reading →
Since I hail from Osh, which is known as one of the most religious cities in Kyrgyzstan, the news stories about hundreds of men and women from Central Asia leaving for jihad in Syria make me wonder what these news stories have to do with my own city? Since Central Asia is repeatedly portrayed as a fertile ground for religious extremism in both local and Western media, it is worth to have a look at how Islam is actually lived by those who are too often collectively suspected to conspire with extremist movements such as IS. Continue reading →
As for many places in Central Asia, a small container bazar grew in Murghab town. The centre of the Eastern Pamirs’ Murghab district in Tajikistan did not escape the quasi-rule of post-soviet countries: A marketplace where people turned to retail trade activities on individual or collective initiative. Behind a metal gate, a main footpath emerges between two rows of small to big shipping containers that were aligned to gather commercial activities in one place. Visitors make a particular sound when walking over the gravel that covers the otherwise dry and hard ground, a sound that is not to be heard somewhere else in Murghab. Jeeps, minibuses and other small vehicles gather at the taxi stand behind the containers on dusty soil, waiting for passengers. Continue reading →
On 16 July 2015, a large mudslide buried parts of the village of Barsem, located in the Ghunt Valley sixteen kilometres east of the town of Khorugh in Tajikistan’s mountainous Pamir region. The mud dammed up the Ghunt river and a sizeable lake formed, interrupting the Pamir Highway that leads along the river. The mudslide at Barsem was triggered by a period of heavy rainfall and exceptionally high temperatures that caused glaciers and snow to melt more rapidly than usual. Accordingly, the Barsem case was only one of many flood related incidents in the Pamirs. Thus, for instance, several bridges along the Pamir Highway were washed away. While the disaster found some coverage in the media, little has since been written about its wider socio-economic significance. Continue reading →