Flash floods caused damages in Kalasha valleys

The Kalasha Times Report… Crying face

Kalasha Primary School Balanguru Ruined

Kalash 1st August: Unpredictable and inclement weather patterns causing devastating calamities have been plaguing the Kalasha valleys Mumuret, Rukmu, Biriu, Acuhagha and its main town Ayun. So far many people have lost their Houses, cultivated lands, Fruit trees, live stocks etc through out the history. Some 25 years ago the most beautiful and biggest Kalasha populated village of Rukmu Malidesh was disappeared by flood; eventually the people have migrated and shifted to other parts of the valleys. Several such examples are there which are being narrated by the grand fathers to their young nephews.

On 28th July 2010 and 6th August 2010 Kalash Valley Mumuret and Rukmu have been suffered due to heavy floods in the valleys. The flood causes huge damages in both valleys.

This year on 31 July 2013 Kalasha valleys again severely affected by flash floods, Sources told the Kalasha Times that four valleys of Kalasha people have been suffered first time in the history. All valleys have been suffered by flash floods at a same time due to heavy rains.

An old woman named Sajama told The Kalasha Times that ‘’I was in Acuhagha valley, the valley is ruined now and I cannot stay there, therefore I am coming back to Anish village with my cattle’s’’ she added that ‘’while crossing the river of Acuhagha my shoes washed away and I travelled 22 kilo meters by bared foot’’ When asked what is the situation in the valley she replied ‘’the land, crops, goats-stable and lot of tress both fruits, and non fruit trees have been damaged, with tears on her eyes she said there is no reason to stay there and I moving to Anish now.’’

Since last few years Acuhgha valley remained under attacked by timber mafias and a large number of deforestation had caused people in trouble. To demolish the beautiful cedar tress a fake joint forest management committee was active since 2008 and caused a huge deforestation in the valley. Now a beautiful a famous summer place known for its cedar tress and natural beauty has been in troubled.

Due to media failure and communication gap caused disparity among the people living in the valleys because no one knows how much damages caused in the valleys due to flash floods. Properly it would take some days to assess the valleys and damages due to devastating flash floods.

The people in the valleys have been astonished to see the lightening on 31 July at 8: 20 PM it was extra ordinary. The elders says that they haven’t seen such thunder storming  in past, they were shocked as there were no raining in many villages only targeted type of rain it was said by one of the elder Yasing. A government Kalasha primary school at Balanguru village in Rukmu valley had been completed damaged and whole building has been swept away, while another school, J’est’a Han, Safiullah jan’s guest in the same locality have partially damaged. All foot bridges have been washed away in Rukmu and Acuhagha valley and some bridges are damaged in Mumuret valley as well. Sources told The Kalasha Times that  four vehicle in Rukmu and one vehicle at Darasguru in Mumuret have been partially or fully damaged. This year the damages are counting more then damages caused in 2010. Standing crops have been damaged partially or fully at a large scale. While people of these valley are depending on cultivated lands.

Detail of destruction in images:

  1. Houses:

Sher Khan hosueSuhal Faqir House

  1. Cattle House:

  1. Irrigation/HPS and Water Mills Channels

  1. Drinking water supply system:

  1. Link Bridges:

A foot bridge at Darasguru villageA jeepable bridge at Gumbayak

  1. Water Mills:

Water mill at Rukmu

  1. Standing and harvested Crops and Fruits Tress:

Standing crops at ToishMaize Crops at Prishi

  1. Electricity:

SRSP Power house pollNoorshidin's power house

9. Pipe Lines:

Roads

Near Dubazh Rukmu sideIn Mumuret Near Wadas

10. Temple/Jestahan

Jestahan a Kalasha temple at Balanguru

11. Vehicles

A car recoverd from mud..vehicle Noorshidin

Impact of Flash Floods

Roads are closed, no electricity at many villages, drinking water supplies disconnected, corps have been damaged, irrigation channels damaged and chance of drying remaining crops, families are homeless, communication system worst affected, schools damaged and where the students will be setting for studies and there are many other such issues need urgent support.

Note:  While talking to The Kalasha Times people are appealed to government and NGOs to help them for early restoration of water channels, drinking water, schools, bridges, electricity,roads  and other affected areas. Otherwise the people would be facing a big troubles. Elders of the valleys  urge local to come forward on voluntarily to restore irrigation channels in order to avoid further damages..

For more details visit www.kpdn.org www.facebook.com/thekalashatimes

Rights of Kalash minorities to be fully protected, says minister

kalasha delegation met KPK minister

PESHAWAR, July 25: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Tourism, Culture, Sports, Museums and Archaeology Mahmood Khan has said that the provincial government is trying its utmost to protect the rights of minorities and further promote the culture of Kalash Valley. This he said while talking to a 12-member delegation of Kalash Valley Chitral led by Wazirzada Mohtarma Saeed Gul in Peshawar on Wednesday. Secretary Information Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Director Culture, XEN C&W Chitral and other concerned officers were also present on the occasion. The delegation apprised the minister in detail of the problems being faced by the minorities of Kalash valley and demanded to give monthly salary to Qazis in Kalash. They also demanded holding of Kalash festival, provision of land for graveyard and appointing local teachers of Kalash valley in government primary schools so that the teachers could impart education to the children in local language. Mahmood Khan said that the provincial government has earmarked Rs10 million in the ADP for the development and welfare of minorities dwelling in Kalash valley out of which Rs5 million would be spent this year over the ongoing development schemes. He asked the delegation to cooperate with the government in this connection so that the schemes could be completed in time having quality construction. He announced to bring all the downtrodden districts of Malakand division at a par with the developed ones. The minister assured the delegation that all their problems would be redressed on priority. The delegation thanked the provincial minister for taking keen interest in the solution of their problems and assured its full cooperation.–The Nation –

Do you know the Kalasha tribe of Pakistan?

By: Luke Rehmat

History

Map of Kalash valleyThe Ka’l’s’a (Kalash or Kalasha) are a small ethnic and religious community living near the western borders of the Chitral District, close to the neighbouring Afghan province of Nuristan (Nooristan). Shrouded in mystery, there are many different claims about the history and origin of the Kalasha peoples. The majority of writers, scholars, anthropologists, and linguists, point to a pervasive myth that testifies to the Kalasha as the descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great.In the past, the Kalasha peoples ruled for many centuries over territory that stretched from Chitral to Asmar in Aghanistan.

I was born into a Kalasha family known as Aspa’I’n Nawaw. I have practice the Kalasha religion, culture and tradition since my birth, nearly 24 years ago. From my research work in my own village, I have concluded that my people have lived in these valleys for as long as we have been a distinct community. Kalasha peoples firmly believe that originally, we came from a place called Tsiam. Some people say that Tsiam is the ancient name of Thailand, a claim that most of us consider unlikely.

Within the Kalasha community there are some people in Biriu (Birir) valley, who originally came from Majam in Nuristan (Nooristan). The cultural traits of these Biriu residents, particularly their rituals, differ from the rest of the Kalasha communities. However in their, and costumes they are brethren to the people of Rukmu and Mumuret. The people of Rukmu and Mumuret are culturally very similar and there is little difference between them.

We must now turn to the key issue: what is the essence of the Kalasha way of life? What makes us distinct? One thing is clear, the Kalasha are a unique people, unlike any other on the globe in our cultural practices. As a point of comparison, history and legend tell us, for example, that Mullah Nasir Uddin was a unique man. Many nations, including Iran, have claimed him as one of their own. His exploits have become the stuff of legend, stories I learnt myself while studying at school. Those who wrote down his achievements and philosophy make one thing clear: he was a unique man. We, the Kalasha, are the same. We too, are unique.

Recent news reports point to archeological evidence that suggest that the Kalasha peoples were the ancient inhabitants of the Swat region. Likewise, the Bulgarian ambassador, during his visit to Chitral, said in an interview to an online news service that the ‘’Kalasha peoples are descendants [i.e. of the Bulgarians]’’. The Greek people are similarly confident and claim the Kalasha as their descendants, working with the Kalasha communities in the valleys since 1998. What I understand is that further scientific research needs to be done to determine the ‘’origin of Kalash’’, and these results must be shared with the community.

Culture

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The Kalash people, and our way of life, clearly differ from both the surrounding cultures of Pakistan, and the rest of the world. We are a flexible people, living happily. By a definition of culture as ‘’something socially learnt and shared by members of the community’’, we, the Kalasha, have doubtless, a rich and ancient culture. Some years back the Greek volunteers in the valleys said that the ‘’Kalasha are the cultural heroes of 21st century’’. The Kalasha way of life is finely balanced, allowing both men and women to do their duties freely. The Kalasha society is not a male-dominated society like other communities in Pakistan. Our social organisation is very effective, and ensures there is no cruelty or discrimination based on issues of gender. Kalasha women feel comfortable living in a society which gives them respect and freedom. In her work, American anthropologist Wynne Maggi describes the difference between the Kalasha and other people. The difference – the title of her book – is quite simple, “our women are free”.

The Kalasha culture is appreciated globally. Our society is optimistic even in the face of significant challenges and changes facing us. We know we cannot stop these changes, but we can effectively slow down the pace of change. In the Kalasha culture, one cannot marry with a close relative, including second cousins not within the same caste. Some 50 years ago the engagement system was strong and there were fewer love marriages, however since that time there has been a decline in arranged marriages and love marriages have become more popular. This is because the lack of freedom of choice in arranged marriages doomed many of them to failure. Consequently, people started to adopt love marriages as a more effective alternative with less chance of the marriage ending in divorce. All cultures are in flux, constantly adapting and changing to new situations, and tolerance and flexibility ultimately emerge once a society learns that change does happen, and that alternative options can be adopted successfully.

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The Kalash peoples believe in a single, creative God, referred to in the Kalasha language as Dezau, although we use the Persian term Khudai as well. Much literature written on the Kalasha religion has incorrectly mentioned that the Kalasha peoples believe in twelve Gods and Goddesses. Why did the authors report this to be the case? Doubtless the reason lies in a communication gap between the writer and the person interviewed. For example, different Kalasha alters and temples were incorrectly understood to be places of worship for separate and distinct Kalasha deities. While it is correct that the Kalasha people do have different names of alters such as Sajigor, Indrain and Warin etc., these alters are all ultimately a place to offer sacrifice to Dezau. Kalasha peoples do not have any routine daily prayers, like the Muslim communities have in the valleys. They do pray whenever they initiate any activities like harvesting, ploughing, construction and whenever the favour and honour of Dezau is needed. Most prayers are offered during Kalasha festivities. There is a strong belief of in purity and impurity in the Kalasha culture. In the Kalasha belief system women are considered to be especially impure during menstruation and childbirth. There is a separate building for these women and it is prohibited for men to enter the area. The area is known as Bashali.

Costume

Kalash women have a unique and colorful dress that serves as the most obvious symbol of identity for the Kalash community, as any outsiders that enter the valleys can recognize them easily. Historically, women used woolen cloths with embroidered designs. With the passage of time the raw materials become rare and expensive and they subsequently adopted cotton and silk fabrics. Kalasha male dresses had already changed some 50 years ago due to shortage and non-availability of wool. But there is an occasion during Cawmos, the winter festival, on the 19th of December every year when they use their traditional cloth for boys in a special ceremony.

Survival state

For most of our history, the Kalash valleys remained cut off from the rest of the world. The centuries of isolation provided an opportunity for us to sustain this unique culture. The Kalash culture does not have any attested documented form, it is an oral tradition performed practically. Our people are more committed and steadfast than ever before to sustain our culture for the younger generation. Historically, many people lost their lives but did not change their faith. Our elders used to say some years ago that during Zhoshi, the spring festival, in the Shishi Ku valley people were forced to convert to Islam and rather than convert, some 70 girls and boys ended their lives by throwing themselves into Shishi River. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries it was very difficult for Kalasha people to carry on their culture and religion. Very few families escaped forced conversion in the valleys. But in the 1970s, when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Butto visited the region, he introduced this culture to the nation and the world promising to protect and defend its uniqueness.

Universal value

I have earlier argued that the Kalasha culture is one of the ancient and rich cultures from across the world. That which might be described as being of universal value, would be something which was extraordinary and unlike anything else in other parts of the world. The Kalasha live in three small valleys of Pakistan only, and there are no signs of Kalasha culture elsewhere in the world. Our culture has survived for thousands of years and is still alive. Our culture is then, both extraordinary, and of universal value.

 

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Bibi Dow of Kalash forced to leave home

By Manzoor Ali

Published: November 15, 2012

Maureen Lines. PHOTO: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: The locals call her Bibi Dow – because it is easy to pronounce – but for the 75-year-old social worker Maureen Lines, life has been anything but for the past few years.

On the pretext of security, police personnel took Lines away from her home, in Birir village of Kalash Valley, and whisked her to a rundown Governor cottage in Chitral town. The Taliban are after her, she was told.

“I was taken in custodial arrest, and even the doors of the place where I was kept were bolted,” said a distressed Lines speaking to The Express Tribune in Peshawar, where she is now forced to live.

“I have been separated from my life; it is shocking, and a violation of human rights,” she added, talking about security restrictions placed on her by local authorities.

Who is Maureen Lines?

Granted a Pakistani citizenship in 2004, the 75-year-old social worker is known as the ‘barefoot doctor’ for scurrying through Kalash to treat the locals of their ailments. Lines has dedicated her life to improving the welfare of the Kalash community since she moved to Pakistan in 1980.

She was born in the UK and lived the world over before settling down with a local Kalash family. She subsequently set up the Kalash Environmental Protection Society (KEPS) in 1993. “In 1979, I was planning a trip across Africa and then came across a documentary on the interesting Kalash people of Chitral,” she said.

The documentary made her change her plans, and she travelled through Egypt and Sudan, flew to Bahrain and then sailed to Karachi onboard P&O ship, Dawaka. Lines then took a train to Rawalpindi and boarded a bus to Peshawar from there.

The city instantly arrested her imagination. “It had an ambience, atmosphere and without heavy traffic; the old city was just fabulous with its narrow alleys, bazaars and tea shops,” she reminisced.

Then she boarded a bus to Landi Kotal in Khyber Agency. On-board were tribal women who were mesmerised by a Caucasian amongst them. “They were fascinated with me and one of them touched my face and lifted her veil, followed by the rest,” she said.

Second time’s a charm

Lines came back again in 1981, after saving money from interior decoration and painting in England, and was given a two-month permit by then-deputy commissioner of Chitral, Shakil Durrani.

While in Birir village, she was invited to by a local woman, Taqdeera, to stay at her home. An incident during that stay, however, altered her life forever.

“I heard a cry for help, and ran to the scene to discover a young girl bleeding from her head after a tree branch struck her head,” Lines said.

She had basic first-aid training and could not treat the girl but she washed the wound, and the girl luckily recovered.

Lines then went to New York and received two years of training as an emergency medical technician and returned to Kalash Valley. “I had four puppies, a rucksack of medicines, a plastic bag and went door to door, village to village, treating sick people.”

Social work

After founding KEPS, Lines set up a British charity, the Hindukush Conservation Association, in 1995 which pays for the infrastructure, workers’ salaries and the medical programme. At present, Lines is building a high school in Birir village.

She was awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in 2007 for her work on improving the welfare of the Kalash community. She has also authored four books on northwestern Pakistan and the Kalash people.

Lines said the situation of the Kalash people has improved over the years but adds that plunging numbers of tourists following 9/11 has affected them badly.

“They have two sources of income: tourism and forestry; the former has dropped, while trees are mercilessly chopped down by the timber mafia,” she said.

She also complained bitterly about the local authorities who have been regularly forcing her to stop her work under various pretexts for some years.

“They are big shots who have a problem with me and do not want me to be there,” she said.

Lines said she believes the Kalash people are her family, and it pains her to be away from them.

“But [the authorities] laugh when I call the people my family; they treat it as a joke,” she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2012.

Spotlighting Kalash: ‘Saving this culture is really important’

By Mavra Bari

Published: October 25, 2012

“Together with discovering this indigenous culture and beautiful landscape, I wanted to show why these foreigners have settled here,” says Hayat.

ISLAMABAD:

We see ancient cultures collapsing all the time, that’s why preserving this one is so important.

This was said by Kalasadur Project Director Lerounis while discussing the north western tribe of Kalash and its indigenous culture on Tuesday.

He was speaking at the weekly meeting of Rotrary Club Renaissance, where screening of the documentary titled “Rediscovering Greater Chitral” was also held.

Kalasadur or house of the Kalash project has also been discussed in the film. Dressed in traditional Chitrali garb, Lerounis stated that his projects are carried out in collaboration with the local community to keep their traditions intact. “Preserving this one is really important. It’s truly a treasure, it should be treated like a museum and not a tourist hub,” he said.

Nomad Art Gallery Curator Nageen Hayat collaborated with Pakistan Television for the documentary to explore the Kalasha, their traditions, religion and the existential challenges they are faced with. The film documents the work of foreign aid workers, namely Greeks, who have been working with the Kalash to preserve the area and culture.

“Together with discovering this indigenous culture and beautiful landscape, I wanted to show why these foreigners have settled here,” said Hayat introducing the film. The film focuses on the challenges the Kalasha have faced in preserving their identity amidst tourism, challenges posed by modernity and pressures to conform to Islamic extremists.

In neighbouring Nuristan, people once practised the same polytheistic religion as the Kalash. However, by the late 19th century most Nuristanis had converted to Islam, which is emblematic of the  pressures on the Kalash to convert in the area.

Due to time constraints only half of the documentary was screened at the event, but the film was successful in portraying how foreigners adapted themselves and become a part of the Kalash community. Greek Ambassador Petros Mavroidis who has been visiting the area since 1994, said, “I feel I’m still at home, in a northern part of Macedonia. We have roots here, we are Kalash.” Construction projects by Greek organisations have preserved the traditional facades of buildings and factored in earthquakes as the area is prone to seismic activity.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2012.