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Among The Pamir Kyrgyz Of Eastern Turkey

The Pamir Kyrgyz nomads have known many homelands. Fleeing Russian occupation in Kyrgyzstan in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, they settled in the Pamir Mountains, spanning eastern Afghanistan and western China. In 1978, fearing the new communist regime in Afghanistan, many Pamir Kyrgyz took refuge in Pakistan and later in eastern Turkey. Today, some 2,500 ethnic Kyrgyz live in the Turkish village of Uluu Pamir, or Great Pamir. On November 8, the community celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of their former leader, Rakhmankul Khan, who led them through their migration 35 years ago. RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondent Janyl Jusupjan recently visited their village in Turkey and compiled this photo gallery.

A painting by Malik Kutlu, an Afghan Kyrgyz, shows nomads from the Pamir Mountains in Afghanistan going to Kabul to sell livestock. Unlike the Kyrgyz who remained in the Soviet Union and who were forced to adopt settled residences, those who were based in Afghanistan were able to continue their nomadic way of life.
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A painting by Malik Kutlu, an Afghan Kyrgyz, shows nomads from the Pamir Mountains in Afghanistan going to Kabul to sell livestock. Unlike the Kyrgyz who remained in the Soviet Union and who were forced to adopt settled residences, those who were based in Afghanistan were able to continue their nomadic way of life.

A painting by Malik Kutlu shows a nomad with a yak in Afghanistan's Pamir Mountains. A small Kyrgyz community remained in Afghanistan after most others emigrated in 1978. They live with virtually no infrastructure, schools, or health care in the remote Wakhan district, which borders China.
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A painting by Malik Kutlu shows a nomad with a yak in Afghanistan's Pamir Mountains. A small Kyrgyz community remained in Afghanistan after most others emigrated in 1978. They live with virtually no infrastructure, schools, or health care in the remote Wakhan district, which borders China.

A map shows the Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of Afghanistan that borders China, Tajikstan, and Pakistan. The Kyrgyz nomads once moved freely through the region, but the closure of the Soviet border and later the Chinese border left them confined to Afghan territory.
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A map shows the Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of Afghanistan that borders China, Tajikstan, and Pakistan. The Kyrgyz nomads once moved freely through the region, but the closure of the Soviet border and later the Chinese border left them confined to Afghan territory.

An illustration of nomadic Kyrgyz sorting wool. The nomads tended sheep, goats, and yaks, and traded wool, meat, and milk with customers in Afghanistan's lowlands.
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An illustration of nomadic Kyrgyz sorting wool. The nomads tended sheep, goats, and yaks, and traded wool, meat, and milk with customers in Afghanistan's lowlands.

A drawing by Malik Kutlu shows Kyrgyz refugees fleeing Afghanistan after the communist takeover in Kabul in 1978. Many lived as refugees in Pakistan for years, before the Turkish government offered to help them settle in the Lake Van region.
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A drawing by Malik Kutlu shows Kyrgyz refugees fleeing Afghanistan after the communist takeover in Kabul in 1978. Many lived as refugees in Pakistan for years, before the Turkish government offered to help them settle in the Lake Van region.

An archival photo of a young woman with her flock in the Pamir Mountains. Poorer families tended the sheep and goats of the richer tribe members.
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An archival photo of a young woman with her flock in the Pamir Mountains. Poorer families tended the sheep and goats of the richer tribe members.

A woman dries "qurut" -- cheese curd -- in the sun.
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A woman dries "qurut" -- cheese curd -- in the sun.

An archival photo of men pressing felt, one of the items traded by the Pamir Kyrgyz.
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An archival photo of men pressing felt, one of the items traded by the Pamir Kyrgyz.

An archival photo of a nomadic family gathered around the fire
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An archival photo of a nomadic family gathered around the fire

Various milk products are stored in a yurt. The Kyrgyz nomads were relatively wealthy compared with many people in Afghanistan; the trade in animal products allowed them to buy luxury items like radios, watches, and sewing machines.
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Various milk products are stored in a yurt. The Kyrgyz nomads were relatively wealthy compared with many people in Afghanistan; the trade in animal products allowed them to buy luxury items like radios, watches, and sewing machines.

Rakhmankul Khan, the leader of the Pamir Kyrgyz, was born in 1913 in the Murghab district of present-day Tajikistan. He fell afoul of authorities in the Soviet Union and was briefly imprisoned and declared an "enemy of the people." Khan fled to China and later Afghanistan. He was selected by a council of elders to represent the Kyrgyz nomads to authorities in Kabul. Kyrgyzstan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth on November 8.
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Rakhmankul Khan, the leader of the Pamir Kyrgyz, was born in 1913 in the Murghab district of present-day Tajikistan. He fell afoul of authorities in the Soviet Union and was briefly imprisoned and declared an "enemy of the people." Khan fled to China and later Afghanistan. He was selected by a council of elders to represent the Kyrgyz nomads to authorities in Kabul. Kyrgyzstan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth on November 8.

On the left, a photo of sisters Altyn and Marbet in the Pamir region in the 1970s. On the right, a photo of the sisters today in the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey. They say that in their new home, they cannot freely speak their language or wear their silver jewelry and Pamir clothes.
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On the left, a photo of sisters Altyn and Marbet in the Pamir region in the 1970s. On the right, a photo of the sisters today in the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey. They say that in their new home, they cannot freely speak their language or wear their silver jewelry and Pamir clothes.

A girl in the Turkish village of Uluu Pamir, or Great Pamir, named for the Kyrgyz nomads' onetime mountain homeland. Some 2,500 people live in the village.
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A girl in the Turkish village of Uluu Pamir, or Great Pamir, named for the Kyrgyz nomads' onetime mountain homeland. Some 2,500 people live in the village.

Women and a girl wait for a wedding party in eastern Turkey. Many Kyrgyz marry within their community, but those who go to Turkish universities often marry outsiders and don't return to the village. More young women than men receive a university education.
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Women and a girl wait for a wedding party in eastern Turkey. Many Kyrgyz marry within their community, but those who go to Turkish universities often marry outsiders and don't return to the village. More young women than men receive a university education.

Women collect items for a bride's dowry, which usually represents a considerable expense for families. Among the Pamir Kyrgyz, weddings often help to strengthen tribal alliances and reconcile feuding factions.
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Women collect items for a bride's dowry, which usually represents a considerable expense for families. Among the Pamir Kyrgyz, weddings often help to strengthen tribal alliances and reconcile feuding factions.

Children at a Turkish-language school in the village of Uluu Pamir. The majority of the Kyrgyz children here don't speak their parents' language.
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Children at a Turkish-language school in the village of Uluu Pamir. The majority of the Kyrgyz children here don't speak their parents' language.

Children return home from school. The local schools don't offer a complete secondary education, and many children are sent away to boarding school after age 13.
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Children return home from school. The local schools don't offer a complete secondary education, and many children are sent away to boarding school after age 13.

Tolumbubu, the second of three wives of Pamir Kyrgyz leader Rakhmankul Khan. The practice of polygamy has mostly disappeared among the Pamir Kyrgyz who resettled in Turkey.
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Tolumbubu, the second of three wives of Pamir Kyrgyz leader Rakhmankul Khan. The practice of polygamy has mostly disappeared among the Pamir Kyrgyz who resettled in Turkey.

Men relax outside in the village. The Turkish government sends mullahs to teach the Kyrgyz the tenets of Islam, but they otherwise have little contact with their neighbors in the region, who are ethnic Kurds.
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Men relax outside in the village. The Turkish government sends mullahs to teach the Kyrgyz the tenets of Islam, but they otherwise have little contact with their neighbors in the region, who are ethnic Kurds.

Asil and her daughter, Semanur, one of four siblings. The children have learned the Kyrgyz language as well as Turkish. The family plans to move to Istanbul to seek better educational opportunities for the children.
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Asil and her daughter, Semanur, one of four siblings. The children have learned the Kyrgyz language as well as Turkish. The family plans to move to Istanbul to seek better educational opportunities for the children.

Turgan is one of the last Sufi singers in the Kyrgyz community. Many Kyrgyz in Turkey have stopped learning traditional music as the influence of Islam grows. Turgan says that her children have urged her to stop singing, calling her music "the devil's work."
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Turgan is one of the last Sufi singers in the Kyrgyz community. Many Kyrgyz in Turkey have stopped learning traditional music as the influence of Islam grows. Turgan says that her children have urged her to stop singing, calling her music "the devil's work."

A woman weaves a carpet in Uluu Pamir. Carpets woven here are sold to traders in the city of Van.
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A woman weaves a carpet in Uluu Pamir. Carpets woven here are sold to traders in the city of Van.

Mekhmet Turdu, a member of a local militia, with villagers. The Turkish government pays militia members to protect the Kyrgyz village from possible attacks by Kurdish militants who live in the region.
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Mekhmet Turdu, a member of a local militia, with villagers. The Turkish government pays militia members to protect the Kyrgyz village from possible attacks by Kurdish militants who live in the region.

Scuptor Akbar Kutlu, a professor at Van University. Akbar is the oldest surviving son of Rakhmakul Khan, who died in 1990. Akbar and his late brother, Malik, taught themselves to paint and sculpt while still living in Afghanistan. Their work often represents themes from the lives of the Pamir Kyrgyz.
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Scuptor Akbar Kutlu, a professor at Van University. Akbar is the oldest surviving son of Rakhmakul Khan, who died in 1990. Akbar and his late brother, Malik, taught themselves to paint and sculpt while still living in Afghanistan. Their work often represents themes from the lives of the Pamir Kyrgyz.

A view across Lake Van in eastern Turkey, the new home of the Pamir Kyrgyz.
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A view across Lake Van in eastern Turkey, the new home of the Pamir Kyrgyz.

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