Tales of ancient Kafiristan. “Lost tribe struggles for survival,” from the Guardian, with thanks to Skeetstreet:
More than 2,000 years ago Alexander the Great tore across the mountains of northern Pakistan, plundering, conquering and, according to legend, sowing the seeds of a tribe that endures to this day. And today, the Greeks are back.
In a valley high in the Hindu Kush a three-storey building towers incongruously over a scattering of low-roofed huts. The ?300,000 (Â£200,000) centre – part school, part health centre, part museum and conference hall – is being built by the Greek government in an effort to save the Kalasha, Pakistan’s tribe of “infidels”.
Reputed to have descended from the armies of Alexander, the Kalasha have lived for thousands of years in a nest of idyllic valleys near the Afghan border. But their identity is being threatened by Muslim missionaries, tourism and neglect by central government.
The Kalasha are the last remnants of the population of Kafiristan, the
ancient “land of infidels” that straddled the borders of present-day
Pakistan and Afghanistan. About 4,000 of them survive in three majestic valleys that awe visitors as a sort of paradise lost.
Turquoise streams rush through leafy glades of giant walnut trees and
swaying crops. Clusters of simple houses cling to steep forested slopes. Compared with many compatriots beyond their valleys, the Kalasha are charmingly liberal: drinking wine, holding dancing festivals and worshipping a variety of gods. Women wear intricately beaded headdresses, not burkas, and may choose their husband.
“For me, the Kalasha are heroes, because they have reached the 21st century still living like their fathers,” said Athanasius Lerounis, a 50-year-old schoolteacher from Athens supervising construction of the centre, which is due to open next month. “We want to help them preserve that.”
The centre, which aims to provide everything from schooling to surgery, has reignited debate about how best to save the Kalasha way of life. Some community leaders feel the Greek initiative is good-hearted, but wrong-headed. “I don’t blame them for wanting to help, but that help could damage us,” said Saifullah Jan in Rumbur valley. “There is too much interference. Our people are getting spoilt. They should just let us be.”…