Wakhan or "the Wakhan" (also spelt Vakhan; Persian and Pashto:
واخان, Vâxân and Wāxān respectively; Tajik: Вахон,
Vaxon) is a very mountainous and rugged part of the Pamir, Hindu Kush
Karakoram regions of Afghanistan.
Wakhan District is a district in
5 Popular culture
8 External links
Wakhan and surrounding areas along the border of
Wakhan people are also located in Pakistan, Gilgit, upper Hunza Gojal
Velly, where numerous people speaks wakhi and they have different
culture which include dance, food, festival and much more. The 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.
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
Wakhan River. An 1873 agreement between UK and
Russia split the
Wakhan by delimiting spheres of influence for the two countries at the
Panj and Pamir rivers, and an agreement between Britain and
Afghanistan in 1893 confirmed the new border. Since then, the name
Wakhan is now generally used to refer to the Afghan area south of the
two rivers. The northern part of the historic
Wakhan is now part of
Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province
Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in Tajikistan.
The only road into the
Wakhan is a rough track from Ishkashim past
Qila-e Panja to Sarhad-e Broghil. Paths lead from the end of the road
to the Wakhjir Pass, a mountain pass leading to China which is closed
The western part of the Wakhan, between Ishkashim and Qila-e Panja, is
known as Lower Wakhan, which includes the valley of the Panj River.
The valleys of the
Wakhan River, the
Pamir River and their
tributaries, and the terrain between, are known as Upper Wakhan.
The eastern extremity of Upper
Wakhan is known as the Pamir Knot, the
area where the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush
ranges meet. West of the Pamir Knot is the Little Pamir, a broad
U-shaped grassy valley 100 km long and 10 km wide, which
contains Chaqmaqtin Lake, the headwaters of the Aksu or Murghab River.
At the eastern end of the
Little Pamir is the Tegermansu Valley, from
where the closed Tegermansu Pass (4,827 m) leads to China. The Great
Pamir or Big Pamir, a 60 km long valley south of
drained by the Pamir River, lies to the northwest of the Little Pamir.
The mountain range that divides the two Pamirs is known as the
Nicholas Range. West of the Nicholas Range, between the Great Pamir
and the lower valley of the
Wakhan River, is the
Wakhan Range, which
culminates in the Koh-e Pamir (6,320 m).
The roads in the region have small shrines to
Ismaili Muslim pirs and
are adorned with "special stones and curled ibex and sheep horns",
which are symbols of purity in the
Zoroastrian faiths, once present in
the region before the arrival of Islam.
Wakhan is connected to Tashkurgan Tajik County, China, by a long,
narrow strip called the
Wakhan Corridor, which separates the
Gorno-Badakhshan region of
Tajikistan from the
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and
Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan.
Afghanistan and Tajikistan
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.
See also: Durand Line
Wakhan has been an important region for thousands of
years as it is where the Western and Eastern portions of Central Asia
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
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. In the 1880s, under pressure from Britain, Abdur
Rahman Khan the Emir of
Afghanistan imposed Afghan rule on the
Agreements between Britain and
Russia in 1873 and between Britain and
Afghanistan in 1893 effectively split the historic area of
making the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between
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 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 cul-de-sac. When the
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 the rest of Afghanistan.
Wakhi, Kyrgyz and Khowar are the major ethnic groups of Wakhan. Wakhan
is sparsely populated. The total population is estimated at about
10,600. Most of its inhabitants speak the Vakhi or Wakhi language
(x̌ik zik), and belong to an ethnic group known as Vakhi or Wakhi.
Nomadic Kyrgyz herders live at the higher altitudes.
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.
Main article: Wakhi people
The 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 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 wahabi, much milder than
the strict form of Islam generally practiced in the country. However,
in 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 and the people are poor, many being
traditional pastoralists living in yurts and lacking basic services.
However non-governmental organizations such as the Aga Khan
Development Network have taken an interest in the area. The Central
Asia Institute, founded by Greg Mortenson, has built 11 schools in the
There is a trickle of tourists who engage in trekking and
Alastair Leithead on
BBC News 24
BBC News 24 on 26 December 2007, presented a
half-hour feature about Wakhan, focusing particularly on the work of
expatriate British 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.
The Kyrgyz population of
Wakhan was 1,130 in 2003, all in the eastern
part of Wakhan. The Kyrgyz are
The suppression of the 1916 rebellion against Russian rule in Central
Asia caused many Kyrgyz later to migrate to China and Afghanistan.
Most of Kyrgyz refugees settled in
Wakhan region of Afghanistan.
Until 1978 the northeastern portion of
Great Pamir and the
Little Pamir) was home to about 3–5 thousand ethnic Kyrgyz.
In 1978 almost all the Kyrgyz inhabitants fled to
Pakistan in the
aftermath of the Saur Revolution. They requested 5,000 visas from the
United States Consulate in
Peshawar for resettlement in
region that shares a similar climate and temperature with the Wakhan
Corridor). Their request was denied. In the meantime, the heat and the
unsanitary conditions of the refugee camp were killing off the Kyrgyz
refugees at an alarming rate.
Turkey which was under the military coup
rule of General Kenan Evren, stepped in, and resettled the entire
group in the
Lake Van region of
Turkey in 1982. The village of
Ulupamir (or “Great Pamir” in Kyrgyz) in
Lake Van was
given to these, where more than 5,000 of them still reside today. The
documentary film "37 Uses for a Dead Sheep – the story of the Pamir
Kirghiz" was based on the life of these Kyrgyz/Kirgiz in their new
Wakhan region of
Afghanistan moved to
Pakistan in the
1970s. Nearly 1,100 of these were accepted by
Turkey to settle in
Ulupamir (or “Great Pamir” in Kyrgyz), their resettlement village
in Van Province.
Some Kyrgyz returned to the
Wakhan in October 1979, following the
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The Kho (or Khowar) population of
Wakhan was 1,230 in 2003, all in the
eastern part of Wakhan. The Khos are
In recent years the
Wakhan has become a destination for adventurous
trekkers, and several tour companies are offering trips to the
area. BBC correspondent 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.
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. However, the factual accuracy of this
account is strongly disputed in Jon Krakauer's ebook Three Cups of
^ Hermann Kreutzmann (2005): The Significance of Geopolitical Issues
for Development of Mountainous Areas of Central Asia Map at p.12
^ a b International Boundary Study of the Afghanistan-USSR Boundary
(1983) by the US Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Aga Khan Development Network (2010):
Wakhan and the Afghan Pamir p.3
^ "Pamir and
Wakhan Geography". Juldu.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
^ Isaacson, Andy (17 December 2009). "Pamir Mountains, the Crossroads
of History". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
^ The pass was crossed by a couple in 1950 and by a couple in 2004.
See J.Mock and K. O'Neil: Expedition Report
^ Hill, John E. 2004. The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu.
Draft annotated English translation. Chapter 13
^ a b "Hermann Kreutzmann (2003) ''Ethnic minorities and marginality
in the Pamirian Knot''" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-27.
^ *Library of Congress – Country Study of Afghanistan
^ a b c d e "Wak.p65" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-27.
^ a b c Wong, Edward (27 October 2010). "In Icy Tip of Afghanistan,
War Seems Remote". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October
^ a b Shahrani, M. Nazif. (1979)
^ Leithead, Alastair (11 September 2007). "Doctor on call in
Afghanistan". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
^ "Pamir Times". Pamirtimes.wordpress.com. 20 November 2007. Retrieved
^ FACTBOX-Key facts about the
Wakhan Corridor. Reuters. 12 June 2009
^ "Mock and O'Neil, Expedition Report (2004)". Mockandoneil.com.
^ EurasiaNet (20 May 2012). "Turkey: Kyrgyz Nomads Struggle To Make
Peace With Settled Existence". Eurasiareview.com. Retrieved
^ Sleight, Christopher Tourism plan for Afghan mountains 25 February
^ Jamieson, Emma BBC's John Simpson recommends: Trek
^ Humble, Kate (6 February 2010), "War and peace:
Kate Humble treks
into Afghanistan", Independent on Sunday, retrieved 25 July 2010
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Photo Essay on Afghan Kyrgyz in
Wakhan and on the group Kyrgyz that
Turkey from the Wakhan
Aga Khan Development Network:
Wakhan and the Afghan Pamir (2010)
Juldu.com Photos and Online guide to trekking in the
Wakhan and Afghan
Wakhan Development Partnership A project working to improve the lives
of the people of
Wakhan since 2003
Wakhan Corridor Photos from Afghan
Little Pamir Photos of Life of Kirghiz in Afghanistan's Little Pamir
Photos From Afghanistan: Natural Beauty, Not War – slideshow by NPR
 Ride Report of two Polish motorcyclists who rode to
Poland in 2009
Wong, Edward. "In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War Seems Remote." The New
York Times. 27 October 2010.
Portfolio of images from summer 2010 trek through the Afghan Pamir by
Zygmunt Korytkowski, photographer and traveller.
Photos from the
Wakhan Corridor Albums mainly from the Eastern part of
Wakhan (Big and Little Pamir) inhabited by Kirghiz nomads.
Polish Climbing Expedition "
Climbing in the