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The Pamiri-Afghan War in Wakhi Folklore



Nestled in the Pamir's, stood a tall fort, in the 9th-10th century, the capital of Wakhi homeland, Shughnan. Now in modern-day Tajikistan, it witnessed a dark chapter in its history which stained it crimson, earning it the name Roshtkala, "the Red Fort."


You see, in those days, the Afghans had conquered these lands, and the people of Roshtkala had suffered greatly. So much blood had been shed that the once-proud fortress now bore a name that spoke of sorrow and pain.


All the kings and princes of Badakhshan were forced to pay tribute to the Afghan king, through his representative in Kala-i-Bar Panj, just across from what we now call Khorog. This tribute came in various forms: animals, money, and even slaves, particularly young women. It was a heavy burden that cast a shadow of unhappiness over the families of Roshtkala.


The people's sadness reached the ears of their king, and after much reflection, he decided that enough was enough. He refused to pay the tax to Kala-i-Bar Panj and sent only the horn of an ibex as a gesture.


The Afghans, stung by this perceived insult, threatened to kill the king and all his subjects. Fearing for his people, the king of Roshtkala sought their counsel. After much deliberation, he sent a message to the Afghans, explaining that in Badakhshan, an ibex horn symbolized purity and was meant as a blessing for the new fortress they intended to build for the Afghan king.


The Afghan leader, upon hearing this explanation, calmed down and came to inspect the construction of the fortress in a place known as Sindev. He reported back to the king of Afghanistan, who was pleased with the new fortress. However, the plight of slavery still loomed over Roshtkala.


When the king of Roshtkala passed away, a new leader emerged, Azizkhan. People fondly called him "Mingboshi Azizkhon," meaning "Akizkhan leader of a thousand," due to the immense respect and followers he commanded.


Upon Azizkhan's passing, his nephew, Azikhan Abodillokhon, assumed leadership. He, too, was greatly loved by his people, for he took a bold step. He sent messengers to the Russian Tsar, seeking assistance against the Afghans, who continued to bring misery to their lives, and also against the Bukharans, who had recently seized control of other parts of Badakhshan.


The first messenger met a tragic fate at the hands of robbers, leaving no trace of the letter's whereabouts. Unfazed, Azizkhan Abodillokhon sent a second messenger who managed to deliver the letter to the Tsar.


In response, the Tsar dispatched his soldiers to Badakhshan. Azizkhan Abodillokhon met with them, sharing the hardships faced by his people. The Russians appointed him as their representative in Badakhshan, offering protection against the Bukharans and the Afghans.


Yet, at the same time, England had extended its influence into Afghanistan and was backing the Afghan king's ambitions to rule both sides of the Panj River. Thanks to the presence of the Tsar's soldiers, the right bank of the river was liberated from Afghan and Bukharan rule.


In this tale of courage and resilience, the people of Roshtkala stood up against tyranny, and their cry for help reached across distant lands. It was a story of hope and cooperation that would change the course of their history forever.

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