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Wakhi

 Wahki People Group Statistics

Population Total:
65,000
Gilgit: 31,000
Chitral Valley: 13,000
Wahkan Corridor (Afghanistan): 9,600
Tajikistan: 10,000
Xingjang Province (China): 6,000

Sect:
Ismaili Muslims
  

The Wakhi people were originally native to the area between the Hindu Kush and the Pamir Mountains. The name “Wakhi” is derived from the name of this their traditional homeland the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. As an ethnic group through repatriation they now reside in South East Tadjikistan, in China’s Xinjang province as well as in the very northern parts of Pakistan. They are to be found namely in the North of Chitral, Ishkoman, and in the Gojal, Hunza, which is the only place in Pakistan where they predominate.

People profile

The Wakhi people belong to an ancient Iranian stock of people, whose language Wakhi is the most primitive form of Persian still spoken and differs from the Tadjik language. They have a rich folklore of songs and tales, with their language now written in an Arabic form. The common identity of the Wakhis is a religious heritage dating from the beginning of Islam. In the early 20th century, two complete handwritings of the Persian” Original Text It (Umm- al- kitab) were found in the Wakhan corridor, proving to be of an Arabic text originating from 8th Century Iraq. More recently the Wakhis converted to Ismaili-ism and follow the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, Prince Kareem Aga Khan. Due to the influence of the present Aga Khan and his humanistic western approach to the Ismaili faith, there is a liberal attitude towards the Quran and a general acceptance and openness towards the scriptures in general. The story of the Wakhi’s migration to there present places of habitation is interesting. As a people they had always been content with the scarce resources they had and had never looked beyond their borders for shelter on political or religious grounds. The Wakhi’s though found themselves in trouble by the second half of the 19th century, with the first refugees crossing into Chitral in 1886, due to an unknown cause. The next major migration occurred from 1919 probably due to the general effect of war, famine and mass people migrations resulting from the Bolshevik takeover of Central Asia. The final migration did not take place till 1937, due to pressures and persecutions from the rulers in Afghanistan compulsory recruitment of Wakhi’s into the army. The Wakhi’s still live as semi-pastoral society, depending largely on agriculture and cattle-raising. This however has been seriously disrupted by the upheavals of occupation, and now civil war in Afghanistan and Tadjikistan. Maybe this is one of the primary reasons for the Wakhi people In Chitral, the Wakhan Corridor and High Pamir to now be reported to be widely addicted to opium. This has had disastrous effects on health and income generation. The only place where the Wakhi people have developed and prospered has been in the Gojal region of the upper Hunza valley. Here they predominate and live at unity with their fellow Ismaili Hunzakot neighbors. Benefiting greatly from contact with this progressive people group and the business and tourist opportunities presented by the Karakoram Highway now linking Pakistan with China. Source: https://www.synapsenow.com/synapse/homepage/view.cfm?edit_id=40&website=NorthernPakistan.com

Wakhi-The Language

  The Wakhi language belongs to the southern group of the Pamir languages, in the Iranian group of the Indo-European family of languages, where the different Ishkashmi and Wakhi languages are included.  The Wakhi language, rich in archaisms, differs considerably from the Pamir languages, and generally from the southeastern group of Iranian languages, having certain common characteristics with the Indian languages. Although divided by borders, the Wakhi language is still very much the same, and dialectal differences are not great. The language of mutual communication, and the written language, for the Ismaelites of the small nations of Pamir has been the Tadzhik language. The Wakhi oral tradition is also bilingual (Wakhi and Tadzhik). On the Upper Wakhandarya, there are noticeable Turkic influences in place-names.  Wakhi-Kirgiz contacts are maintained even today. Many Wakhs also speak the Shugni language. The Wakhi folksong bul’bulik is principally a women’s song, it is sung on the summer pastures. Before the establishment of the Soviet regime, the Wakhs were almost totally illiterate. Nowadays, schooling is obligatory for everyone.  The language for schooling is, without exception, Tadzhik, which places Wakhi in a passive role and accelerates the disintegration of the language. In domestic situation, however, Wakhi is still preferred, whatever the subject, although most Wakhs speak Tadzhik quite fluently. Source: http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Languages/wakhi.htm

The Wakhs 

The inhabitants of Wakhan , Boroghil and Gojal-Upper Hunza are the Wakhi tribe who belong to an ancient Iranian stock, They have Moingolide features and it is believed they are the master speakers of Ghalcha language of the past.. A thin wedge of Afghan territory known as the “Wakhan corridor” separates Tajikistan and Pakistan which is the home land of these nomads. In Chitral and Ishkuman, Wakhan is known as Wokh and the people as Wakhi, in Hunza the name of Wakhan is Gojal and the people of Wakhan as Gojali. In the past the name of Hunza was little Gojal, while Wakhan was known as big Gojal.The Wakhi live as a semi-pastoral society, which depends on agriculture and cattle raising. The Wakhi huts are made of mud and due to climate conditions their huts have no veranda or corridor. All the rooms in the house are interconnected and have one outlet at a convenient place well protected from the wind. There is a small outlet for smoke and light. Cooking is done in the living room, while grain storage is in a separate room connected to it. If in the neighborhood of a settlement a suitable base area of stone is located then a central storages place is constructed having separate areas for different families. The people are peace loving modest and friendly. Crimes do not exist in this society and the people have a peaceful existence. Due to the harsh weather and long winters people are addicted to opium.Trans border relations of the frontier people are very common in areas where borders are mere unnatural barriers. When the Persians and Tartars subjugated the areas north of the Hindukush in the 12th century the southern valleys of the Hindukush gained a distinct identity under different names as Bolor, Dardistan, Tibet Gujal, Kashkar etc who were divided by the chains of mountains however the Ghalcha and Dard people living on the northern and southern side of the Hindukush have been close to each other despite the natural hurdle of the mountain chains.Trade caravans and pilgrims from eastern Turkistan used to cross over the Kurambar Boroghil and Darwaza passes into Chitral and this caravan route served as a permanent link between these regions. Many people from Chitral crossed into Wakhan for permanent settlement. The Wakhi herdsmen usually came with their flocks to the Boroghil for summer camps. Wakhi horsemen used to visit for Polo and Buzkashi as far south as Razdan field in Torikho valley.The Wakhi art, craft and architecture occupy a distinct place in the neighboring area. There are certain festivities which mark particular occasions and vary from valley to valley. The Wakhi are fond of music Daf open drum and flute and Rabab are popularly played. Male members are responsible for farming, weaving woolen clothes. While women look after the house and cattle. 

Source: http://www.hindukushtrails.com/tribes/wakhi.asp

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