GeographyThe Wakhan is located in the extreme north-east of Afghanistan. It contains the headwaters of the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, and was an ancient corridor for travellers from the Tarim Basin to Badakshan. The geographic position of Wakhan between China, India, and Bactria allowed it to play a major role in trade in the ancient world. Until 1883, the Wakhan included the whole valley of the Panj River and the Pamir River, as well as the upper flow of the Panj River known as the Wakhan River. An 1873 agreement between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, UK and Russia split the Wakhan by delimiting spheres of influence for the two countries at the Panj and Pamir rivers.International Boundary Study of the Afghanistan-USSR Boundary (1983)
Wakhan CorridorThe Wakhan is connected to Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County, Tashkurgan Tajik County, China, by a long, narrow strip called the Wakhan Corridor, which separates the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. The Wakhan River flows through the corridor from the east to Qila-e Panja where it joins the Pamir River to become the Panj River which then forms the border. In the south the corridor is bordered by the high mountains of the Hindu Kush, crossed by the Broghol pass, the Irshad Pass and the disused Dilisang Pass to Pakistan.
HistoryHistorically the Wakhan has been an important region for thousands of years as it is where the western and eastern portions of Central Asia meet.
Ancient HistoryWestern Wakhan (休密 ''Xiumi'') was conquered in the early part of the 1st century CE by Kujula Kadphises, the first "Great Kushan," and was one of the five ''xihou'' or principalities that formed the nucleus of the original Kushan kingdom. Wakhan was administered by the Kushan indirectly through semi-independent rulers who oversaw trade on the Buddhist Route of the Silk Road.
Wakhan MirdomUntil 1883 Wakhan was a principality on both sides of the Panj and Pamir Rivers, ruled by a hereditary ruler (''mir'') with his capital at Qila-e Panja. It was normally a tributary to Badakhshan but in the 1750s when the Qing dynasty, Qing Dzungar–Qing Wars, conquered the Dzungar Khanate they also ended up conquering Wakhan and Shughnan. The Khanate of Kokand eventually took Wakhan and Shughnan from the Qing by the 1830s.
Conquest by AfghanistanAgreements between Britain and Russia in 1873 and between Britain and Afghanistan in 1893 effectively split the historic area of Wakhan by making the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between Afghanistan and the Russian Empire. On its south side, the Durand Line agreement of 1893 marked the boundary between British India and Afghanistan. This left a narrow strip of land as a buffer between the two empires. In the 1880s (1880-1895), under pressure from Britain, Abdur Rahman Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan, imposed Afghan rule on the Wakhan.
Modern HistoryIn 1949, when Mao Zedong completed the Communist takeover of China, the borders were permanently closed, sealing off the 2,000-year-old caravan route and turning the corridor into a wikt:cul-de-sac, cul-de-sac. When the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, they occupied the Wakhan and built strong military posts at Sarhad-e Broghil and elsewhere. To facilitate access they built a bridge across the Pamir River at Prip, near Gaz Khan. However, the area did not see fighting. In 2010 the Wakhan was reported to be peaceful and unaffected by the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), war in the rest of Afghanistan.
DemographicsWakhan is sparsely populated. The total population is estimated at about 10,600. Wakhi people, Wakhi and Kyrgyz people, Kyrgyz are the major ethnic groups of Wakhan. Most of its inhabitants speak the Vakhi or Wakhi language (x̌ik zik), and belong to an ethnic group known as Vakhi or Wakhi (ethnic group), Wakhi. Nomadic Kyrgyz people, Kyrgyz herders live at the higher altitudes.Shahrani, M. Nazif. (1979) According to a 2003 report by the United Nations Environment Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization, the population of Wakhan suffers from lack of education, poverty, ill health, food insecurity and opium addiction.
WakhiThe Wakhi population of Wakhan was 9,444 in 2003. Almost all of them adhere to the Shia Ismaili faith and some of them speak Wakhi language. Wakhi people also inhabit several areas adjacent to the Wakhan in Tajikistan, Pakistan and China. The Wakhi practice agriculture in the river valleys, and herd animals in the summer pastures at higher elevations. The dominant sect of Islam in the region is Ismaili, much milder than the strict form of Islam generally practiced in the country. In Ishkashim, Afghanistan, Ishkashim, the city at the western mouth of the Wakhan, stricter observance is demanded. The area has been long neglected by the central government of Afghanistan. People are poor, many being traditional Pastoralism, pastoralists living in yurts and lacking basic services. Non-governmental organizations such as the Aga Khan Development Network foundation have taken an interest in the area. The Central Asia Institute, founded by Greg Mortenson, has built 11 schools in the region. There is a trickle of tourists who engage in trekking and mountaineering. Alastair Leithead of BBC News 24 on 26 December 2007, presented a half-hour feature about Wakhan, focusing particularly on the work of the expatriate British doctor Alexander Duncan (doctor), Alexander Duncan, which provided a significant piece of extended media reporting from this inaccessible area. He has also covered the Pamir Festival in the area.
KyrgyzThe Kyrgyz people, Kyrgyz population of Wakhan was 1,130 in 2003, all in the eastern part of Wakhan. The Kyrgyz are Sunni Hanafi Muslims. The suppression of the Central Asian Revolt, 1916 rebellion against Russian Empire, Russian rule in Central Asia caused many Kyrgyz to later migrate to China and Afghanistan. Most Kyrgyz refugees settled in Wakhan region of Afghanistan. Until 1978, the northeastern portion of Wakhan (the Great Pamir and the Little Pamir) was home to about 3,000-5,000 ethnic Kyrgyz.FACTBOX-Key facts about the Wakhan Corridor
TourismIn recent years the Wakhan has become a destination for adventurous trekkers, and several tour companies offer trips to the area. BBC correspondent John Simpson (journalist), John Simpson has recommended the area as a place to take a wonderful, and relatively safe, holiday. Kate Humble, a BBC television presenter, reports that the area is beautiful and the people friendly. The entire Wakhan was designated as the protected Wakhan National Park in 2014.
Popular cultureThe Wakhan plays a large role in Greg Mortenson's book, ''Stones into Schools''. This book tells the story of the building of a school in the Kyrgyz village of Bozai Gumbaz. The factual accuracy of this account is strongly disputed in Jon Krakauer's ebook Three Cups of Deceit.
References* Gordon, T. E. 1876. ''The Roof of the World: Being the Narrative of a Journey over the high plateau of Tibet to the Russian Frontier and the Oxus sources on Pamir.'' Edinburgh. Edmonston and Douglas. Reprint: Ch’eng Wen Publishing Company. Taipei. 1971. * Kokaisl, Petr. The lifestyles and changes in culture of Afghan Kyrgyz and Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. ''Asian Ethnicity''. 2013, vol. 14, issue 4, pages 407–433.