In fall last year, a group of 33 Kyrgyz nomads from Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan’s far northern province of Badakhshan moved to Kyrgyzstan to attend school.
Both adults and children, including a pregnant woman, from the Small and Great Pamirs, which lie at an altitude of over 4,300 meters, waited for months for their passports to come through in Faizabad city in Badakhshan.
Once they had received their documents they traveled overland to Tajikistan – many on horseback. This journey to the border town of Eshkashim took them several days.
This was in late September last year and after waiting a week at the border they were finally allowed to cross into Tajikistan where they were met by Kyrgyzstan officials.
From there they traveled via Murghab Kyrgyz district of Tajikstan’s Gorny Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan before reaching Osh, a town in south Kyrgyzstan.
In Osh they were warmly welcomed by the local people.
The pregnant woman gave birth to a boy not long after their arrival in the capital Bishkek. She named him Almazbek, after the then president Almazbek Atambaev – who in turn presented the family with a house in Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan.
In Naryn the families were examined by doctors and children were enrolled in school. They soon settled in an now they live in several villages across Naryn region.
The students quickly learned to write in Cyrillic, the alphabet used in Kyrgyzstan, although many could already read some Dari.
They said they hope to get a good education and one day return to Afghanistan to help their Wakhan region develop economically.
However, their current wish is to return to Afghanistan, to Wakhan, for their summer holidays but word is that it might not be that easy as currently the Eshkashim border crossing is closed due to insurgent activity in the area.
An easier route would meanwhile be through the border crossings at Gunjubay or Harkush, along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. Through these border crossings the trip would take them only a day or so but these crossings are not open for the Afghan Kyrgyz.
The group of nomads have said they plan to appeal to the Kyrgyz government to ask the Tajik and Afghan governments to open at least one of the crossings for the so they can visit their families in Wakhan Corridor.
The Small and Great Pamirs has enormous potential for tourism similar to the burgeoning travel business in Gorny Badakshan Autonomous Oblast across the border in Tajikistan but the Pamiris who live there are extremely poor and few people ever visit the area.
In October last year, the Kyrgyzstan government delivered aid, mostly flour, rice, warm clothes and yurts, to the people of Wakhan Corridor and plan to again deliver aid to the area later in the year.
In November last year, a number of Pamiris from Wakhan walked to Faizabad, the Badakhshan capital, to lodge complaints about what they said were serious food shortages and a lack of health care facilities in their district.
The residents, from both Pamirs, said that government had forgotten about them and was not addressing their problems.
Both valleys are extremely remote and it took the Pamiri's 18 days to reach Faizabad on foot.
"We do not have food, roads, clinics or schools," said Haji Rawzatullah one Pamiri.
"Due to the cold weather and the lack of health services, our population has not increased. Our population today is equal to the numbers that existed 30 years ago," said Qurban Big another Pamir resident.
"If government does not pay attention to us, we will have to migrate to other countries," said Lotfullah Big another Pamiri.
During winter, Pamir is completely covered by snow and cut off from other regions. The area is in fact so remote that the Pamiris do not use money to buy and sell goods, instead they exchange their products for other necessary items.