Spring in the Pamirs

Jonathan Hibbert-Hingston and his wife Beth work for Operation Mercy in Khorog, Tajikistan. Jonathan will be giving a lunch-time lecture for the RSAA about some of their experiences in September.

It was a slightly hazy afternoon when Nemat and I left our village on the outskirts of Khorog to go and look for his cows. Khorog is the principle town of the Gorno-Badakshan region of Tajikistan and our village sits at the base of the mountain range that divides the Ghund and Shogdara valleys. Everyday Nemat takes his cows across the Ghund river and lets them graze freely on the other side. In the late afternoon he goes back over the river to collect them.

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Afghanistan, Tajikistan

Following the Heroin Trail of Tajikistan

Malgosia Skowronska is a graduate of the War Studies Department of King’s College London, and the producer of Narkomen, an independent film on the problems faced by heroin addicts in Tajikistan.

The day comes to an end. The sun had almost gone down behind the surrounding peaks of the Pamir Mountains. Mirzo, with his slow and exhausted voice, lets me know that he no longer had the strength for conversation, for memories. He needs another dose. Mirzo, like many from his village of Porszniev, situated deep in the mountainous region of Tajik Badakhshan, has been struggling with heroin addiction for almost two decades.

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Mirzo with his mum in their house in Porshniev. Photo: Malgorzata Skowronska

Heroin took its toll. Mirzo talks about his youth, about his friends and classmates, among whom only a handful have managed to escape addiction. “Once, 30-40% of young people in the village took heroin. Most of them are already gone. They even did not live half of their life.” He counts everyone one by one: three sons of the neighbour, two doors down another three brothers, he and his younger brother. The list of those affected by addiction seems to have no end.

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Central Asia, Tajikistan

In search of ancient Christianity: The Nestorian Caves of Tajikistan

Huw Thomas is the co-author of Tajikistan and the High Pamirs: A Companion and Guide (Odyssey Publications). In this article, he describes a search for relics of ancient Christianity near the banks of the Oxus in the heart of Central Asia. 

It is especially poignant that with the turmoil in Syria and Iraq, there is the danger that the remnants of the earliest strands of Christianity in its original homelands will be lost. Christianity which has co-existed with Islam for centuries, is under unprecedented threat. It is increasingly viewed as a Western religion.

What is less well known is that Christian communities developed far to the east of the Roman Empire. One of the most significant of these communities was the ‘Nestorian Church’, officially known as the Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East, with its see in Baghdad. This church, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, once extended over a greater part of the world than did the Roman church, and until the sixteenth century had more adherents. In its heyday from the 10th to 14th centuries the Nestorian church had eight million adherents and stretched from the Mediterranean to China and India. Continue reading