May 24, 2012

Political Situation of Nuristan

Nuristan in Fall
After a tough start, Nuristan province has passed the summer without further serious traumas. Still, all the pre-existing concerns about an insurgent takeover of the whole province are still there, just probably postponed to next year depending on the early onset of winter. In order to prevent this from happening, it is high time to develop a new, comprehensive strategy to enhance state presence in the forsaken province, and none but the Afghan government can work that out, according to AAN’s Fabrizio Foschini.

The start of summer 2011 caught most of those following – albeit from afar – events in Nuristan, with a sense of impending tragedy. Something irreversible seemed about to happen in the remote province. Insurgents had been for months in control of a district centre, Waygal, and were routinely threatening or briefly storming several others and even closing in onto the provincial capital, Parun. The government and ISAF attitude vis-à-vis this onslaught looked passive, to say the least (for further report see our previous blog , and journalist colleagues'   Coupling the situation in Nuristan with the aggressive stance of the insurgency on other fronts, some colleagues could not resist drawing a parallel with the Tet Offensive . But the insurgency in Afghanistan, at least that operating in Nuristan, is not the Vietcong  and things follow their own, rather peculiar course. 
June and the first part of July were, in fact, hectic months. In particular, the insurgents tried to establish a firmer control over their main border-crossing route into Nuristan through the Gawardesh valley (administratively split between Kamdesh and Kunar’s Nari district). The valley is accessible from the Pakistani side through a choice of comparatively easy mountain passes (some under 2700 meters), which moreover lie close to the major highway connecting Chitral with the rest of the country (to the top of the main pass is a nice twelve kilometres trek from National Highway 45). The use of the passes by insurgents has been reported for years, and consequently Gawardesh has been dotted by Afghan Border Police (ANBP) checkpoints. It is these checkpoints that were massively attacked and in some cases overran between 5 and 7 July by a mixed group of Afghan and Pakistani Taleban, before the border police supported by the Afghan army (ANA) managed to repel the attackers. 
On the other hand, the undeclared siege of Parun extended into the summer, although direct attempts at storming the provincial capital did not occur after mid-June. The insurgents occasionally put more pressure on the beleaguered town by occupying positions on the main (and only) road connecting it with Asadabad in Kunar and with the outside world. The road was not reopened in any way to traffic until August when a security convoy bringing badly needed supplies made it to the city. Even after that, the road remained extremely vulnerable to insurgent activity, as it is to this day.
So, Nuristan came out of the summer more or less as it had entered it, an isolated province where the balance of forces is slowly but steadily turning against the government, and where nobody is actually governing. Only two major changes happened there in the course of this potentially fateful summer: in August the provincial governor was replaced and a fortnight ago a military operation was eventually mounted against insurgent-held Waygal. 
But for the moment, these two events can only be interpreted as symptoms that the situation is unbearable and something needed be done on part of the Afghan authorities and the ISAF. Their overall value for improving the dire situation of Nuristan is far from clear. 
The former governor, Jamaluddin Badr, had been often criticised for his excessive degree of absenteeism from his troubled seat, and this even by Nuristan’s standards (reportedly many of the provincial council members and other government officials spend most of their time in Kabul or Jalalabad). AAN was told, for example, that after the 2009 presidential elections, Governor Badr did not visit Nuristan for nine months. ‘Even when he was there, he would not move a step out of his compound in Parun’, a local official recalled. In the second half of August 2011, Badr was replaced by Tamim Nuristani who had already held the governorship from 2006 to 2008. Even though he ran restaurants in the US for most of the ‘1990s, Tamim Nuristani seems to be well connected with all the major jihadi political factions. He is the brother-in-law of the Jamiati, Massud Khalili, who was a close friend to the late Ahmad Shah Massud, has family relations with a local prominent Hezb-e Islami commander, and reportedly his early appointment was supported even by Sayyaf*. 
Interviewed soon after his appointment, Tamim Nuristani sounded optimistic about his chances to improve the situation and declared his will to bring insurgent-controlled areas back under the government grasp without recourse to military action . In fact, it seems his family connection with Abdul Ghaffur, a prominent Hezb commander of Kantiwa, was once sought by the government with a view to entice the latter to come in from the cold. According to a local analyst, Karzai approached Tamim Nuristani shortly before the parliamentary election last year and told him not to campaign, that he would be made governor instead, provided he was able to broker a deal with Abdul Ghaffur similar to that the government had with the other prominent Hezb commander in Nuristan, Mawlawi Sadeq, informally in control of Kamdesh district. 
Deals under the table, even if successful, would not be a sufficient solution for Nuristan’s governance problems. The long years of absenteeism on the part of state institutions have left their mark. In the words of a Nuristani graduate, ‘the distance between the people and the government has increased’ and ‘the insurgents increasingly fill the gap’. Moreover, some locals interviewed were afraid that governors and other officials are forwarded from Kabul to the province to exploit the lucrative opportunities offered by their position on behalf of their political patrons (mainly reconstruction projects by the PRT, although they have dwindled in recent times, or timber and gems smuggling – and, of course, there is also the traffic of old Soviet weapons coming down from Badakhshan). In this way, Jamaluddin Badr was allegedly financing Sayyaf's Da'wat-e Islami offices in all four provinces of the Eastern region with the profits made as governor. 
As for the other ‘big event’: the re-capture of Waygal district, which since March had turned into an insurgent stronghold from where attacks on the surrounding areas were planned, did not bring any long-term effect. The joint Afghan-international operation that started on 20 September led to a brief occupation of the district centre, the death of a number of insurgents and their decamping to safer side valleys. But no government presence was re-established in Waygal. It is even reported that as soon as the Afghan and ISAF troops withdrew, the insurgents moved to occupy the district centre again, and eventually desisted only after the entreaties of locals. They, already uneasy about the massive influx of militants from other areas during the period of Taleban sway, were left to mourn 17 civilians killed during the military blitz (other sources say 19), among them Juma Gul Khan, a respected elder and former official of the Tahkim-e Solh commission (Mujaddidi’s early version of the High Peace Council) in Nuristan. Thus, in the best scenario, Waygal will remain a sort of no man’s land, due to the locals’ unwillingness to bear the brunt of further attacks from either side. This is no success for a government, of course. 
The security situation remains then a priority for any realistic approach to the province. The scanty deployment of Afghan security forces is always highlighted when talking to locals, and there is no ANA presence except for that at the PRT base in Kalagosh of Nurgram district, oddly located in one far-off corner of the province and often termed by locals as being ‘in Laghman’. The police garrison of Parun was mainly left to defend itself against overwhelming numbers of insurgents through the summer and, if they managed to successfully, it is difficult to see how even smaller detachments in the districts could. Even when reinforcements were sent for specific operations like the relief of Parun in August or the recent capture of Waygal, they were withdrawn shortly after. 
After reviewing the costs and benefits of their previous FOB (Forward Operation Base) experience in Nuristan and northern Kunar, Coalition troops ended up without a clear COIN strategy in the region. It seems now, after the announced shift to the East in ISAF’s strategic focus  that they will re-enter at least some of the abandoned areas, as they are already doing in the Pech valley on Nuristan’s outskirts. However, one wonders what their new course of action will be. Judging by the last months, ISAF will focus much more on providing air support for the ANA blitzes. Unfortunately, we have fresh evidence of the failures of such a strategy. In late May, when a large group of insurgents attacked Doab district centre, the US airstrikes wrought havoc on the amassed rebels, the police (both garrison and reinforcements), and the civilians alike, with estimates ranging from 150 to 250 victims, maybe a third of whom on the wrong side.** On 31 July, a helicopter strike meant to help the supply convoy headed for Parun hit an Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoint on the Kunar-Nuristan border, killing four. To add insult to injury, the surviving twelve ANP personnel were detained by the ISAF troops landing on the scene. 
It is clear that if the human and natural terrain of Nuristan proved nightmarish for ground operations, it is as much difficult for air and commando warfare. Evidently, detailed intelligence and understanding of ‘what’s going on down there’ is destined to vanish in the fog of war once there are no boots on the ground and the quality of communication with the Afghan counterparts deteriorate. 
A temptation could then be that of shaping the new COIN strategy much more on the role of local militias - sorry, Afghan Local Police (ALP) units. The diffused presence of armed locals defending main villages and roads would hinder insurgents’ build up and freedom of movement, and help government claims to be in control of the province. Probably not. This time it is not only about the standard concerns which ALP creates countrywide, although these are present as well. For example, would it be wise to arm different communities and to exploit rivalries in a notoriously clannish, fragmented and revenge-driven environment as Nuristan's?*** And the degree of control the central government could be fairly expected to have on such units would be even lower than in other provinces. Moreover, in the case of Nuristan the ALP will simply not be enough. Judging by the sheer numbers the insurgents have been able to amass in the past, no ALP unit would stand a chance of fighting them back without massive air support from the Coalition and the subsequent, unavoidable casualties from 'friendly fire', 'collateral damage' or any way you choose to call it. The presence of even a few, selected US mentors embedded with the ALP for the sake of communication and intelligence, on the other hand, would irreparably spoil the efforts at removing from the local conflict the problematic presence of those 'infidels, invaders, colonialists and crusaders' - or more simply 'foreigners' -  which is one of the main propaganda tool for the Taleban and was one of the rationales behind the US withdrawal from the area in 2009-2010.
In fact, many locals would maintain that it was shortly after the arrival of NATO troops, in 2004-2005, that the Taleban were able to make inroads in Nuristan for the first time. Paradoxically, Pakistani militant outfits like Lashkar-e Taiba or Harkat ul-Mujaheddin, now also engaged in the fight against the Afghan government and its international backers in Nuristan, could probably boast of older roots in the region than the Afghan Taleban, which never ruled Nuristan during their Emirate.****    
So, if it is true that sending back US troops to garrison isolated FOBs in the middle of the Hindu Kush would not help (and it is improbable that it could be considered a viable option by the US government), what are the options left to avoid the gradual but inexorable slipping of Nuristan beyond the pale of possible claims of control by the Afghan government? 
I happened to hear or read comments as of late of the peculiarities in Nuristani people’s history and character which make them impatient of external authorities and foreigners in general. It may well be so. But I could probably use similar arguments for at least ten other historical regions inside Afghanistan, arguing in support of exactly opposite thesis and outcomes. It is true, as all Nuristani interviewees said, that there is presently a huge gap between the government and the people of their valleys, but it stems more from the absence of organized state institutions for the last thirty years (including the predatory and ineffective behaviour of those half-present in the last decade) than from the fierce and independent customs of the ‘Kafirs’ of old. 
The Afghan government should indeed multiply its efforts at establishing a stronger presence in the province, both in terms of security forces and of the quality of governance. Changing a governor or striking the insurgents here and there will not prove enough if mechanisms for co-opting the communities - on a firm basis, not through secret deals with commanders or with militia projects - and bringing back the idea of belonging to a country are not enabled. Examples? This year the ANA answered the repeated calls for help made by Nuristani notables saying it did not have the human potential to send reinforcements. Fine, then they should recruit new levees locally to be deployed in site after training, not under commanders-dominated ALP structures, but in a proper chain of command and control, and make sure they are not ghost soldiers or their salaries are not pocketed by corrupt officials or officers. At least it would bear more results than relying on NATO airstrikes, handing over to militias and wait until the locals are thoroughly antagonized. 
Nuristan has also been plagued by the problem of an insufficient road network, not least this summer when Parun was almost starved by the insurgent blockade. The old project of a trans-Nuristan road, which got shipwrecked somewhere during the first governorship of Tamim Nuristani, could be resuscitated, and its construction assigned not to big firms with a political backing and economic interests in delaying their job, but to the local communities who are to benefit from both the work it creates and its completion. Providing them with the technologic expertise and means do not necessarily imply creating room for huge bribes and bringing in ‘infidel’ engineers. And, a truculent attitude by the insurgents against infrastructure works that are perceived as ‘useful’ and ‘national’ will probably show that indeed Nuristanis are intolerant also of this kind of foreign interference. More effectively so than asking old jihadi commanders to fight their former comrades for the sake of an ALP salary or the control over a few villages. 
The solution thus sketched may sound very simple and dull, and I am sure that it would prove much more difficult and stimulating a job, if ever anybody in the Afghan government were to try an do it. Or Kabul can just sit and wait until Parun falls, and then split Nuristan on the administrative map between Laghman and Kunar, as it used to be before 1994, so that the government does not have to admit that a whole province was lost to the insurgency. 

* Sayyaf’s influence in Nuristan’s politics seems to have become considerable in the last years, as Jamaluddin Badr is a member of his party, Da’wat-e Islami, and himself is said to entertain relations even with Nuristani senator Qari Qayum. Notwithstanding the connection between Badr and some religious militant outfits with a long history in Nuristan (many interviewees reported that one of his brothers enrolled with Lashkar-e Taiba and even went to fight in Kashmir), Sayyaf’s Wahhabi credentials and the existence of a minority of Nuristanis professing the Salafi tenets do not seem to have played any role in his interest for the province. In the weeks preceding the governor’s replacement, some Nuristani officials in Kabul were publicly supporting the candidacy of Eng. Amir Jan Nuristani, a former provincial deputy governor. 
** Apparently, the insurgents there comprised large numbers of common villagers who had been gathered and spurred to engage in jihad for the occasion by a religious preacher in Mandol district. Also, according to a Nuristani source interviewed by AAN, half of them withdrew when they found out that in Doab there were no ‘kafirs’ to be fought, but only Afghan policemen. 
*** Nuristan was not included in the list of provinces with established ALP projects released by the Ministry of Interior in July, but AAN heard of an ALP being formed in Wama in August – and of squabbles between the (former) governor and the chief of police of Nuristan to get hold of the budget for it. In the same district, fighting due to the rivalry between a local pro-government leader and insurgents from Gosalak, in the adjacent Chapadara district of Kunar, was reported in the first half of July. Armed and antagonized local communities, personal enmities between commanders, corrupted government officials: all the ingredients for an (unsuccessful) ALP program seem to be there. 
**** Connections between pro-Pakistan Kashmiri militant outfits and some jihadi networks in Nuristan and Kunar date to the late 1980s. This could explain the outrage of Pakistani security forces at seeing cross-border attacks coming from militants based on the Afghan side in a quarter where they least expected that. The reaction of the Pakistani army has been all but helpful, consisting in a criminal shelling of Afghan territory which lasted for the best part of the summer, and has sporadically resumed of late. Another strange and still unclear incident was the reported inroad of Pakistani patrols into the Gawardesh valley on 24 September, where they told local villagers to leave as they were dwelling illegally on what was Pakistani territory.

May 23, 2012

Nuristan in National Library of Norway,Oslo

National Library of Norway, Oslo

With Camera to India, Iran and Afghanistan: Access to Multimedia Sources of the Explorer, Professor Dr. Morgenstierne (1892-1975)

Georg Morgenstierne (1892 - 1978) was Professor of Indo-Iranian languages at the University of Oslo, Norway. His bibliography lists 221 published books and articles. The National Library of Norway, Oslo and the Institute of East-European and Oriental Languages at the Univerity of Oslo have joined in to create a multimedia database containing source materials from Morgenstierne's study tours to isolated areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iran. The archive of some 3500 items contains primarily photographs, though sound recordings, moving images and sketches are also included. Some of this material records the last known traces of an ancient Asian culture before it succumbed to Islam.
Only a handful of the University employees had access to the grey steel cabinet in the seminar room of the Indo-Iranian Library at the Oslo campus. Even fewer knew what the many yellowed envelopes contained. Knut Kristiansen, lecturer in Hindi and Indian literature, kept a watchful eye on his old mentor's papers, the Morgenstierne archive. As he approached retirement in the 1990s his concern for the archive made him act. Something had to be done about the long-term preservation and access to the numerous photographs and other records from South Asia brought to the Institute by the respected linguist, Georg Valentin von Munthe af Morgenstierne (Fig. 1). The Institute of East European and Oriental Languages sought a partnership with Norway's major library, The University of Oslo Library (now The National Library of Norway) in order to find a way of preserving this important collection. A deal was struck that a database for the picture material would be created by a joint effort and the actual collection would become the responsibility of The National Library when the work was finished. During the process the condition of the archive was to be evaluated and necessary measures taken to ensure its physical preservation. It was believed that the Library had the means and expertise to cope with the tasks of both preservation and future access.
Georg Morgenstierne photo
Fig. 1. Georg Morgenstierne at fieldwork in Afghanistan.
Geography and politics
Although Georg Morgenstierne travelled extensively throughout South Asia, from Sri Lanka to Iran, by far the most unique were his visits to the inaccessible areas of The Hindu Kush Mountains. The high, snow covered passes and dangerous roads have helped to keep a large mountain area isolated for centuries. Access to the valleys was controlled from the east by the ruler of Chitral, the Mehtar, while the notorious reputation of the mountain people, the Kafirs, as neighbouring Muslims called the unbelievers, did their best to scare off any intruders from any other side of Kafiristan. Kafiristan, or the Land of the Infidel, lay to the East of Kabul, North of Jalalabad, South of Uzbekistan and West of Chitral (Fig. 2). The area, known for its deposits of lapis lazuli, served as a buffer zone between Afghanistan and colonial India fearing attack from the Russian Empire in the North. Undoubtedly, Kafiristan posed a great threat to the stability of the region and thus, unwillingly, became a territory of the Great Game at the end of the 19th century. Better control of the north border of India became a high priority for the Crown. As to the ruler of Kabul, he wanted to expand his influence as far east as possible and convert 'the wild tribes' who for so many centuries molested the neighbouring Muslims with numerous bloody attacks and looting.
Kafiristan map
Fig. 2. Map of Kafiristan, 1880.
History and conflict
The year 1896 was to become fateful for the Kafir culture. It was then that the Durand Line was drawn to limit India's influence over the unexplored Kafiristan. The Line is still the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, north of the Khyber Pass. Shortly after the Durand Line was drawn the Emir of Kabul, Abdur Rahman, successfully conducted a military campaign, sacking Kafiristan and imposing Islam onto the conquered tribes. Kafiristan was invaded several times and eventually stripped of its cultural identity. Altars were burned, priests murdered, boys kidnapped and conscripted to military school in Kabul. Only several hundred Kati Kafirs (the Red Kafirs of the Bashgal Valley) managed to flee across the border. The Mehtar of Chitralís gave them conditional permission to settle in the neighbouring valleys of Rumbur, Bumboret and Urtsun, which were then inhabited by the Kalasha tribe (the Black Kafirs). Being so deeply uprooted, the Kati refugees willingly converted to Islam and by the mid 1930s all had given up their old beliefs (Fig. 3). Effectively, only the Kalash people who lived on the Chitral side of the border remained unconverted. All what used to be known as Kafiristan on the Afghan side of the border became the Land of Enlightment, Nuristan.
last of the Afghan Kati
Fig. 3. The chief Bagashai and the chanting priest Kareik, the last of the Afghan Kati 'unbelievers' (Red Kafirs) and priests. By 1935, six years after this photograph was taken, both were dead.
Georg Morgenstierne was clearly attracted by the mysterious stories of Rudyard Kipling, such as Kim. Like the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, he was driven to search and discover what was yet unknown. His linguistic background was a good start, but it was his marriage to Agnes Konow that made his dream of becoming a discoverer come true. Agnes was brought up in India. She was a daughter of the Norwegian Indologist Sten Konow (1867-1948) who was instrumental in two monumental publications: The Archaeological Survey of India by John Marshall (1906-07) and The Linguistic Survey of India by George A. Grierson (1903-28). Morgenstierne's letters to his wife give us a valuable insight into what it was like to be on a linguistic mission to the lands where few Europeans ever ventured.1
Nuristan's unknown languages
A brief political thaw in Afghanistan allowed Morgenstierne to obtain a permit and visit the country for the first time in 1924. He started his journey from Peshawar in an automobile with his hired Pathan assistant, Yasin Khan, as well as a Russian and an Italian. In those days the dangerous road from Peshawar, through Jalalabad to Kabul claimed many victims to crime. Even today the road still retains its bad reputation. The middle leg of the trip across the Kunar River continued on the back of an elephant, at times a more reliable means of transport. Once in Kabul, Morgenstierne set to work straight away. Despite a favourable political climate in Afghanistan, the linguist was still prohibited from leaving a closely defined perimeter outside of Kabul. His faithful Yasin spotted the first Kafir-language speakers in the bazaar and persuaded them to speak in their native tongues in front of the linguist. The Nuristani from the Kabul marketplaces were to provide a valuable first insight into the complex patchwork of the unknown languages of Nuristan 2. Morgenstierne was to wait for over 25 years before he could return to Afghanistan and travel to Nuristan proper, which he did for the first time in 1949. His second linguistic expedition, however, started in 1929. Only Chitral was open to his linguistic research and strict orders were given not to cross the Afghanistan border. This trip and years of comparative studies that followed resulted in a proposed map of the distribution of the many surprisingly ancient languages in this area (Fig. 4). 3 Morgenstierne argued that the Nuristani (Kafir) family of languages that includes Kati, Prasun and Ashkun, was possibly formed even before the separation of the Iranian from the Indian language over 3000 years ago. Highly controversial at the time, this claim remains his most important discovery.
Chitral language distribution
Fig. 4 Nuristan (Chitral and Nuristan language distribution map)
Ancient languages and religions
The ancient origin of the Kafir culture is an indication of the age of the indigenous peoples and their northern origin. The Kafir religion resembles the Vedic religion of the Aryan invaders of the Indian continent who destroyed the rural Harappa culture of the Indus Valley around 1500 BC. It is believed that the Kafirs could be descendants of the Aryan invaders who stayed in the Hindu Kush Mountains.
Tough traveller
Throughout his career Morgenstierne did his fieldwork in the East on eight occasions, spanning a period of nearly 50 years of exploration. He climbed high mountain passes, visited feared tribes in the jungle of Assam, rode horses, donkeys and elephants, moved by car, steamer and airplane, but when it really mattered just set off on foot like a typical mountain-loving Norwegian. On one of his last trips to Afghanistan, when he was 76, he was deeply hurt for having been refused on grounds of his advanced age "permission to enter Nuristan".
Records of a disappearing world
Morgenstierne's trip of 1929 was by far his most exceptional. We are today in possession of a surprising wealth of information few researchers know about. Scarcely any other serious traveller before him brought so much diverse documentation, not to mention moving images and audio, of the Kafir culture. Nearly all the material symbols of the Kafir culture were destroyed by the invading Afghan army in 1896. A few trophies, rare wooden sculptures, found their way to Kabul Museum and a total of 18 were recorded there in the 1960s 4. After the Soviet invasion of 1978, the civil war of the 1990s and recent Taliban rule, the museum is a ruin with only a fraction of the mainly Islamic collection surviving. The wooden Kafir art was probably used as firewood.
Ancestral effigies
The expressive wooden figures were meaningful in a social context. They symbolized social status of prominent individuals or represented deities. A mounted horseman seated on a twin-headed animal represented the highest status achievable for a tribe member and was earned either by throwing lavish feasts to at least one village or by becoming a successful assassin. The ancestral figures (gandau) were raised after death and placed in a group on the outer perimeter of the burial ground, where coffins were left unburied (Fig. 5).
Kafir effigies
Fig. 5. Effigies of Kafir ancestors by a burial ground.
The skill of woodcarving lay exclusively in the hands of the bari, the lowest ranking artisan caste of the Kafirs. Smaller effigies (kundik) would be raised in the fields where a symbolic figure of a standing, seated or mounted ancestor could watch over and protect the crops of his descendants from the high position, perched in a simple construction of stone and timber. Although Kafir culture was strongly dominated by men, women also could gain high social rank and be depicted seated or standing after death.
Altars and shrines
The few altars and shrines remaining today can only be found in the Kalash valleys of Birir, Bumboret and Rumbur in Chitral. Neither Muslims nor women can approach the sites for fear of 'polluting' them. Altars in the name of the highest god Imra (or Mara) used to be found by every village where sacrifices were made. The altars to Imra consisted of a stone boulder and a flagstone placed as a tabletop where purifying fires of juniper would burn during frequent sacrificial ceremonies. The stone altars are all gone, even in Chitral. A shrine to another powerful god has been preserved in the oak forest where the god, Sajigor, has his place of worship. Mahandeo-dur (altar to the god Mahandeo) can be also found in secluded sites. These sites display similar layout features. They are simple timber and stone constructions with carved vertical and horizontal patterned wood, crowned with protruding long-necked horse heads. The area in front would normally include a number of raised, richly carved poles, each set up in memory of the generous members of the tribe who sponsored feasts. There would also be a hearth for a sacrificial fire in the middle. During important religious occasions a priest would sacrifice bread, cheese, fruit, butter or animal blood. In earlier times bulls were offered. Today, since other domestic animals are no longer plentiful, only precious goats are offered to the gods.
Household utensils and furniture
Practically any wooden surface was an excuse for carved decoration. These were always produced by the bari caste of craftsmen. The emblems and symbols cut into bowls and doors had to reflect the social status of the owner for whom they were made. Chairs in Kafiristan were not as common as in other parts of the world. In fact, the use of chairs outdoors was strictly restricted to only those who earned that right. Women could also attain such a high status, but indoors no such rule had to be observed. Kafir chairs were made in several styles according to area and/or tribe (see Klimburg). The 'horn-chairs' from the Waigal Valley especially attracted the attention of researchers as soon as they had been discovered by Morgiensterne in the village of Kegal in 1949. The figures of mating couples carved on the back of one of the two chairs are extremely rare (see Jones). Such figures seem to also form the high 'horns' of the furniture (Fig. 6).
Kegal chairs
Fig. 6. The Kegal chairs discovered and photographed in 1949 (detail of a larger photograph).
Striking, horned head-dresses crowning the heads of Kati women were commonplace in the Bashgal Valley up till 1896. There are several descriptions and photographs of them (see Jones). The earliest descriptions are from the late 1800s and the most detailed record with an illustration was provided by George Robertson in his book The Kafirs of Hindu-Kush (see Robertson). These peculiarly shaped woollen caps had four long horns made of human hair. When a four-horned goat was born in the herd, it was considered a good omen, a sign of favour from the gods. This is what the neighbouring Kalash tribe believed. Today, there are two known specimens in public collections, one in the Oslo Ethnographic Museum and the other in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Fig. 7). A variant of a horned head-dress (with short horns and no human hair) is in the Graziozi Collection at the Anthropological Museum in Florence and another one in the Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus, Denmark.
horned headdress
Fig. 7. Horned head-dress worn only by Kati women in pre-Islamic times. Ethnographic Museum, Oslo.

Irrigation in Nuristan

Irrigation in Nuristan 


The brief description below is based on a study published in 1979. It does not reflect what is in place in contemporary war-torn eastern Afghanistan. Nuristanis today are devout Muslims and were the first Afghanistanis to successfully revolt against the recent communist regime. The almost constant warfare since that time has resulted in large numbers of refugees.
According to Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies at New York University's Center for International Cooperation: "Much of Afghanistan's agriculture is dependent on irrigation . . . The irrigation works require constant maintenance and when people leave, the irrigation works aren't maintained. There is a huge amount of capital that probably can't even be measured, that has been destroyed. Whole orchards are cut down, a lot of trees have been destroyed for military purposes . . . there has been terrible deforestation."


Nuristan is located in the rugged mountains of the Hindu Kush in northeastern Afghanistan. The region is fortunate to lie far enough east to benefit from precipitation from the fringes of the Indian summer monsoon. Because of this, much of Nuristan, unlike the rest of Afghanistan, is well covered with trees. The characteristic topography is high mountain ridges separated by V-shaped valleys.
The region is one of a chain of ethnic enclaves that line the mountains of the Indian Plate collision zone from Afghanistan to Southeastern Asia. It is the homeland of a unique group of Indo-European-speaking tribal peoples who fled Islam as it spread eastward. In 1895-96 the Nuristanis were finally conquered by the Afghan armies of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, and the people were obliged to abandon their ancient religious beliefs in favor of Islam.
In Nuristan there is a strict division of labor; men and women have very different roles. A man will not normally engage in 'women's work' any more than a woman will normally have anything to do with 'men's work'. This division of labor exactly matches the main spheres of the Nuristani economy: livestock herding (men's work) and grain production or irrigated terraces (women's work).

Irrigation Systems

Much of the irrigation occurs on small terraced fields that are laboriously constructed by filling to horizontal behind stone walls. Because rainfall is insufficient, the fields are watered by a complicated system of open channels and wooden aqueducts (ie. hollowed-out logs) leading from the rivers or, more commonly, from the tributary streams (see figure 1). The wooden aqueducts are technically and aesthetically admirable, having been constructed by skillful craftsmen.

Figure 1.
Cross-section of a typical valley with a small tributary valley showing:
(a)rows of stones to catch run-off from the large rock surfaces above;
(b)tributary stream; (c)wooden channels; (d)terraced fields; and (e) main river.

The terraced fields, edged by low earthen balks, are sub-divided into small shallow basins. There are small openings in the balks stopped up with soil, which is removed while the basin is filled with water. Then the soil is replaced and the neighboring basin filled up. These balks are rebuilt each Spring after sowing. Wheat and millet often grows rather densely on the balks because they have been made by scraping fertile soil from the surface of the field. Sometimes beans or peas are planted on the balks, so that the crop growing in the basin is surrounded by a row of legumes.
Mulberry and walnut trees often grow on the small terraces. Small tree sprouts are encouraged and protected because when grown they provide shade, add humidity to the air, and provide a needed addition to the diet.
A chart showing the flow of energy in a typical Nuristani village is shown in figure 2. Note at the center of the energy flow is a water mill.

Figure 2.
The broad paths radiating from the sun represent the
flow of energy to the Nuristani landscape causing photosynthesis.
Two other broad paths show the energy flow from the forest to the
Nuristani community. Finally, the broad path from the windmill represents
the only mechanical energy used in Nuristani society.


Nuristani villages are of special interest because of the way they fit harmoniously into their natural environment–the steep forested mountain ridges of the Hindu Kush. The mosques, houses, mills, and wooden aqueducts are not only fine examples of architecture, but are designed to withstand the region's frequent earthquakes region. An important component of the harmony are the region's irrigation delivery system and terraced fields.


Edelberg, Lennart and Schuyler Jones, 1979. Nuristan, Akademische Druck - u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz, Au

May 20, 2012

The Lost Tribe of Elexender the Great

The Expeditions’ Aims
Mathew Leeming

A small proportion of Afghan children have a distinctively European appearance, sometimes blonde or red-haired, quite different from the dark Asian looks of most Afghans. Western explorers have always wondered whether they might be descended from the Greek soldiers in Alexander’s army whom we know settled in Asia. The Afghans themselves are proud of this tradition: Marco Polo records that in the thirteenth century the Kings of Badakshan (the remote eastern part of Afghanistan that abuts China) claimed descent from the Greek conqueror .
These people may be the descendants of Alexander’s settlers who have moved higher up the mountains over the past 2,300 years. The inhabitants at Boroghil, where the samples were taken in 2002, have named one of the huge mountains that tower over their village Qala Iskanderiya – the Fort of Alexander. So the knowledge of Alexander’s conquests live on in these people’s collective memory. Elsewhere in Afghanistan the murderous Mongol invaders probably killed all the inhabitants, but people up in high mountain villages escaped.
A second, and parallel, explanation is that these people share a common ancestry with the Greeks. Intriguingly, when Alexander conquered the inhabitants of what is now Nuristan he greeted them as fellow worshippers of Dionysus. Certain tribal groupings in Afghanistan may well be descended from Indo-Europeans, a prehistoric people who spread their languages across Asia and Europe.
The 2003 Spectator Alexander in Afghanistan Expedition and University College, London will use the latest genetic technology to test these two hypotheses. A clear and scientific result will be obtained to these two questions that have preoccupied scholars and explorers for hundreds of years.
The 2002 Expedition was financed by donations from readers of The Spectator, who, for £100 became Patrons and sponsored one day’s journey. This prospectus sets out the history and science of this old problem for those people who have expressed an interest in becoming a Patron in 2003. 
Historical background: Alexander in Afghanistan
Alexander the Great succeeded where the Soviet Union failed. He conquered and held Afghanistan. Along his route, he founded cities, always called Alexandria, in which he settled troops too old or too injured to continue on the campaign. He founded between eight and twelve in Afghanistan . These cities formed the backbone of one of the least known civilisations in the ancient world: the Greek kingdom of Bactria that flourished between 300 and 148 BC.
After Alexander’s death his eastern conquests were taken over by his general Seleucus, who became Seleucus Nikator I and who gave his name to the Seleucid dynasty in Persia. In about 250 BC, the province of Bactria became independent and ran its own affairs under a king until it fell to nomad invaders from Central Asia.
Until 1961 Bactria was known only from a handful of references in the ancient writers and some exceptionally high quality coins, including the world’s first cupro-nickel currency. Then the city of Ai Khanoum was discovered and excavated by a French team between 1965 and 1978. This city was a large one, containing a massive palace, and gives an idea of the wealth and power of the Bactrian kingdom.
I have visited this site in 2001 and 2002. In 2001 it formed the front line between the Taliban and Northern Alliance forces. Standing on the banks of the Oxus, the river that forms the boundary with the former Soviet Union, on a dusty central Asian plain, the full scale of Alexander’s achievement in bringing his victorious army to the very edge of the known world is awe-striking. And still he did not stop until his spirit finally outran the courage of his troops who forced him to turn back at the Beas. He was thirty years old.
Although the site has been shelled and badly looted, there are still Corinthian column heads, the remains of an ancient palace, a gymnasium and a tiered Greek theatre. Excavations revealed an inscription by Cleiarchus, a philosopher whom we know to have been (like Alexander) a pupil of Aristotle, and a temple dedicated by a Greek with a Thessalian name, who was obviously from Alexander’s army.
The settlers here lived a thoroughly Greek life; they exercised at a gymnasium with a pebble mosaic floor; bought olive oil and wine in terracotta amphorae certified by an agoranomos; and worshipped at a hero shrine displaying the Maxims copied from Delphi. The names of some of the six generations of Greeks who lived here were also uncovered by the French archaeologists: some clearly Macedonian – Lysanias, Molossos and Triballos – and others more specifically Greek – Theophrastos, Hippias, Hermaios and Callisthenes.
We know of three other Alexandrias in Afghanistan. In the Panjshir he founded another Alexandria on the site of modern day Bagram, a site the Americans now use as an airbase. This was called Alexandria-ad-Caucasum, because Alexander’s surveyors believed they were in the Caucasus. Herat and Kandahar, in western and southwestern Afghanistan, were also the sites of foundations. Alexander’s fort at Herat has always been said to lie underneath the Timurid castle in the centre of the town.
Then, in 2002, an astonishing discovery was made at Balkh, in the north of the country. Balkh was the capital of the Bactrian kingdom, and Alexander’s headquarters. Archaeologists have been searching for Greek and Hellenistic remains there since the 1920s. Then, last year, a local farmer unearthed a building with classical columns. These ruins have been seen by only two French archaeologists and I have seen one of their jealously-guarded photographs. It seems that the first building that can definitely be linked to Alexander’s life has now been uncovered and it is likely that the finds will be spectacular.
For a relatively modest sum of money, this area could be examined by Ground Penetrating Radar and a clear picture of what is there obtained. The same technology could be used to locate Alexander’s foundation at Herat and at Ai Khanoum.
So how likely is it that descendants of these Greek and Macedonian settlers survive? That depends how many settlers there were. Diodorus says that there were at least 23,000 when Alexander died in Babylon and they attempted to go back to Greece before being stopped by Alexander’s successors . This is an extremely large number of settlers and the statistician at UCL who worked on the genetic samples collected on last year’s Expedition says ‘The probability of such a population becoming extinct between 300 BC and 2001 AD is vanishingly small – I calculate it at .00000057.’
Having founded his chain of Alexandrias, and before turning his attention to India, Alexander conquered the area known today as Nuristan. The information given in the ancient sources about this is extraordinarily interesting. They record that the inhabitants made wine, there was ivy such as the Greeks used to wreathe their brows , myrtle, box trees and laurels. The native name seemed to be Nysa and Alexander decided that he had stumbled on a sanctuary of Dionysus founded by the god on his wanderings. Alexander sacrificed to Dionysus and some of his officers, wearing ivy garlands, became possessed by the god. ‘What a scene it must have been, like some painting of Poussin!’
Later Western explorers, too, have been fascinated by these people and their European appearance. Alexander Gardner, an eccentric Scotsman who spent most of the years 1817 to 1830 wandering all over the western Himalayas, was very taken with their women. He wrote that ‘they have hair varying from the deepest auburn to the brightest golden tints, lithe figures, fine white teeth and the loveliest peach blossom on their cheeks.’ He also pointed out certain other characteristics he thought were European, such as sitting on chairs rather than squatting. Nuristanis in Afghanistan today are immediately obvious by their red hair and blue eyes, features that make them, to an Englishman, look Celtic.
Classically-trained British administrators saw them as the descendants of Alexander’s troops . Anthropologists speculate today about the origin of their three legged tables called tripos, their silver drinking cups and their dances, which do indeed seem to show Greek influence. This may be true, but there is another, more intriguing possibility, first suggested by the world’s greatest living explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger : the Nuristanis are descended from the same people as the Greeks.
The ‘Indo-European problem’ is the name given by scholars to the extraordinary fact that most of the languages spoken throughout Asia and Europe are closely related. Sanskrit, like Latin, seems to be the ancestor of many of them. This map shows the distribution of the main modern and ancient Indo-European languages:
This is really very surprising. There is nothing that we know in recorded history that would explain this state of affairs. The explanation that most historical linguists favour is that these areas were conquered before recorded history by a group (or groups) of invaders speaking a language we refer to today as ‘Proto Indo-European.’ The various waves of conquest gave rise to the various language groups we see today. An Oxford University expedition and study in 2001 identified genetic markers that seem to correlate with the distribution of these languages in western Asia.
The Nuristanis speak five different, but related, Indo-European languages and are therefore likely to be descendants of a very early Indo-European migration. The recognised academic authority on the languages of Nuristan is Richard Strand of the University of Chicago. He dates the arrival of people bringing an Indo-European language to Nuristan sets their arrival at about 2,000 BC . We are fortunate that Dr Strand will be accompanying the Expedition to Nuristan.
The Greek language is also Indo-European. The first intrusive Greeks are almost certainly to be identified with invaders shown in the archaeological record between 2200 and 1450 BC , and would thus be very closely related to the migration that peopled Nuristan.
Recent genetic data on the movement of ancient peoples suggests that the Indo-European people originated between the Black and Caspian seas . The Celts are also descended from another wave of Indo-European migrations. So the story of Alexander welcoming them as fellow-worshippers of Dionysus may well express a historical truth.
Nuristan today is one of the most remote and inaccessible regions anywhere in the world. It is a wooded mountain fastness separated from the rest of Afghanistan by paths as high as 17,000 feet. The twentieth century has not affected it and travel is still only possible by foot or horse.
Evidence from this area is of crucial importance in solving scientifically the Indo-European question. Because of their inaccessible location, the Nuristanis almost certainly preserve the original genetic signal of the Indo-Europeans. If we have this piece of the jigsaw, many other pieces will fall into place. The Expedition will have played a key role in solving a question which has fascinated linguists and archaeologists since the eighteenth century. 
The Expedition’s hypothesis
A scientific experiment requires a hypothesis to test. The hypothesis that we will be testing is this:
Can we identify any modern population groups, either near ancient Alexandrias or in isolated mountain areas, that have a) genetic characteristics dissimilar to other Afghan population groups and b) whether any discovered dissimilar population groups have genetic characteristics similar to known ancient or modern European types?
In Nuristan , we will be testing the following hypothesis:
Are the Y-chromosomes of Nuristanis different from the ‘average Afghan’ and can these differences be related to known European types or genetic markers correlated with Indo-European languages in west Asia identified in 2001?
The human genome is made up of 23 pairs of chromosomes. On 22 of these, a person’s genes can recombine, so that they contain both maternal and paternal genes.
A man’s twenty-third pair of chromosome, however, are different. It contains the Y chromosome which, for the vast majority of its length does not recombine and is passed on essentially unchanged from father to son.
The Y chromosome is often used in population studies because (in anthropologist’s jargon) patrilocality is more common than matrilocality. In other words, women tend to move to their husband’s village, rather than the reverse.
A chart of many of the various genetic markers on the Y chromosome that can be tested is shown opposite.
Over time, at a rate of about .2% every generation, random mutations creep in caused by errors in copying the DNA as it is passed on between generations. This mutation rate gives the Y chromosome two characteristics of interest to modern geneticists: first, it means that populations isolated from one another will slowly evolve different Y chromosomes; and, second, that the mutation rate acts as a biological clock enabling geneticists to estimate when related populations divided.
The Centre for Genetic Anthropology in the department of biology at University College London (UCL) is one of the world leaders in using genetic variation to study population history. This lab will process the DNA samples collected by the Expedition and has recently performed experiments on two populations which have used these two characteristics of the Y chromosome to establish some extraordinarily interesting conclusions which provide an suggestive background to the hypothesis being tested by the Expedition.
The Cohenim
The Jewish priesthood is said to be descended from Moses’ brother Aaron. The Hebrew word for priest is kahen and Jewish tradition claims that the priestly caste is preserved in men surnamed Cohen. The laboratory tested a large group of male Jews called Cohen and found that 50% have a genetic signature signifying a common male ancestor who, if a constant mutation is assumed rate, lived in 2,100 to 3,250 BP (Before Present). 

The oral traditions of the Lemba
The Lemba are a black, Bantu speaking group in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Their oral tradition claims Jewish descent. This is not uncommon. The myth of the ‘lost ten tribes’ exiled from Samaria in 722 BC is a powerful one, and as a legitimating myth of origins may be compared to royal houses claiming descent from Alexander. Indeed, the nineteenth century saw the establishment of a sect of ‘British Israelites’.
However, genetic testing of the Y chromosome showed the existence of the genetic signature of Cohen and a high level of genetic types typical of Jewish populations. Therefore, the Lemba’s oral tradition has gained considerable support as reflecting a genuine historical event. In the light of this, it would appear not unlikely that genetic traces of Alexander’s settlers remain in modern Afghans. 
DNA sampling may be done with simple mouth swabs to remove cheek cells, which are then preserved in chemicals in a test tube.
We will collect DNA samples from modern populations in locations around Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Nuristan and mountain valleys likely to have been sheltered from the murderous Mongol invasions.
To ensure a statistically reliable conclusion, a separate field trip was made in 2002 to northern Greece to collect 200 samples from the modern population to provide a further control for part b of the hypothesis outlined above.
It is also possible to extract DNA from ancient remains, and a further control sample can be derived from the teeth of ancient Macedonian skeletons. The body of Alexander’s father, Philip of Macedon, was excavated ten years ago. 
Laboratory work and analysis
Some months of laboratory work will be needed to process the samples, followed by statistical analysis of the results.
If genetic traces of Alexander’s settlers remain in the modern population they will be fairly obvious. Asian DNA is quite different from European.
However, by having a wide sample, including DNA from modern Europe already gathered, the conclusions reached will be final. We will have settled a question that has preoccupied European travellers since Marco Polo.

May 16, 2012

The Ancient Greeks in Afghanistan

The Ancient Greeks in Afghanistan and Their Probable Descendants Today in Nuristan, Afghanistan and in the Kalash People, Pakistan


By Michael Issigonis

Today, the region called Nuristan is one in a chain of ethnic refuge areas along the Hindu Kush, or the Indian Caucasus, named as such by Alexander the Great, located in northeast Afghanistan.
This is the home of a unique group of mixed European-Indian tribal peoples now called Nuristanis, people of the only Afghanistan province to have resisted Islam for centuries. The British established the "Durand Line" in 1893, a boundary creating the new countries of the British Protectorate (India) and Afghanistan. Nuristan was originally meant to be included in India.
When the Islamic rulers declared war on the Nuristanis, the British provided all necessary weapons to the Afghan army, thus contributing to the annihilation of Nuristanis and their subsequent forced conversion to Islam.
The male survivors were taken as prisoners to Kabul, a city whose ancient Greek name was Kofin, meaning the place were bees accumulate, or the place of honey, or a place rich in food supplies. Here, the men were forced to join the army. The women that survived were taken into the harems.1
After the occupying armies left, the more isolated Nuristanis reverted to their old religions and customs because they did not find in their invaders' qualities worth imitating.
The other Nuristanis who submitted to Islam are such devout Moslems that they were the first citizens of the country to successfully revolt against the Soviet occupation. It is unknown how many of them have joined the Taliban.

Alexander the Great

The expedition of Alexander the Great (327-325 B.C.) into what is now Afghanistan has been well documented. He laid the foundations of many cities, some bearing his own name. With the passage of time, some names were changed by newcomers to the area who could not pronounce Greek names. In this way, Kandahar is Alexander's name, Herat is Alexandria Areion, and Ganzhni is Alexandria Gazhaka, among others.
However, Alexander was not the first Greek coming to India. Legends hold that Dionysos, the god of wine, led an expedition into India several thousand years earlier. He and his companions were so amazed at the size of the then unnamed Indus river that he named it the Son of God (In-Dios). He established a settlement at Nyssa (Jalalabad) where he found Mediterranean plants growing such as ivy and grapes, possibly the only place in Asia where these plants grow. According to legends, Dionysus and his companions continued the journey eastwards and it is possible they reached the Yunnan province in China.
In Yunnan today the numerous minorities who are unlike the Chinese in appearance have preserved religion and customs, including wine-making, similar to the customs of the ancient Greeks.2

Indo-Greek Kingdoms

After Alexander, several Greek Kingdoms were created covering most of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of India that lasted for 3 centuries. The inhabitants were called Indo-Greeks. Only one ancient city has been excavated so far and it lies on the shores of the Amu Darya River. The city exhibits temples, a gymnasium, a palace, numerous buildings, and a huge theatre sculpted on the side of a hill with a superb view of the river valley and the tall mountains of what is now Tajikistan across.
These kingdoms ventured into India and expanded as far as the eastern parts of the Indian peninsula. Place names are still preserved today.
However, the legacy of these kingdoms outlasted the kings in culture and art that are still admired.
Greek techniques of stone and metalworking began to be used in India, Greek coins began to appear in the bazaars, and settlements of Greek type were found as urban islands in the sea of Indian native villages. The most important example of Greek influence in India is the upsurge of Buddhist art in Gandhara during the early Christian era, since called the Gandhara Art. This Greco-Indian school of art played a catalytic role in the development of Asian art. By creating the image of Buddha with the features of Apollo and wearing an ancient Greek tunic, the artists established an art religious in its meaning, but naturalistic and humanistic in its forms.
Examples can be admired today in the museums of Taxila, Peshawar, Swat, and Lahore, in the giant Buddha statues that were recently blown apart by the Taliban without a vigorous opposition from the civilized world.
One important piece of ancient art that is still "alive" today is the amazing over-abundance of coins of the Indo-Greek kings which are continually being unearthed by Afghan farmers and provide sometimes their only source of income after they are sold in the bazaars of Pakistan. These coins represent some of the finest coin-making of all time. They depict the kings on one side with some ancient Greek god or goddess on the other.
The abundance of gold supplies from Central Asia for several centuries before the arrival of the Greeks resulted in the minting of numerous coins as well as some enormous coins. In Afghanistan, one can find the largest gold and the largest silver coins ever minted. The silver coins had a diameter of 65 mm.! In some of the coins they incorporated nickel with a technique only known to the Chinese at that time.

Precious Stones

Northeastern Afghanistan has been a supplier of precious stones since at least 5,000 B.C., and its ancient name was simply " the vault" or Valaskia. The precious cargo was making its way through the so-called "Silk Route" to ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome, and later to the Byzantines, Europeans and now mostly to the Americans. In fact, the name Kalash is the ancient Greek name for lapis lazuli, possibly the only place on earth where it exists in abundance. The area is also rich in emeralds, rubies, spinel and others that provide a substantial share of the world production even during years of war, when the income from these stones becomes essential for the survival of the Afghan people.

The Kalash People

The Kalash people of northwestern Pakistan are unique in their customs and religion. Although surrounded by Moslems in all directions (Pakistan is essentially a Moslem state), they believe in ancient Greek gods and goddessess such as Zeus, Aphrodite, Hestia, and Apollo. Their language is principally a mixture of Sanskrit and Greek. They grow grapes and make wine (an illegal action in an Islamic country) and their diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts. Unlike their neighbors who sit on the ground, they use stools and chairs and their carpentry is decorated with Macedonian stars and "suns".
The Kalash people are virtually the only tourist attraction in Pakistan. However, the Kalash do not depend on tourism for survival; it is quite the opposite. The building of infrastructure to accommodate all those tourist "invaders" has brought an unprecedented pollution that the Kalash did not have to face during the 2000 years of isolation.
Recently, a group of Greek teachers have been raising money and spending their summer vacations among the Kalash for the last 7 years in an attempt to improve their standard of living. Some of the projects that the teacher volunteers have accomplished include the following: a primary school at an elevation of some 3 km, which is regarded the largest primary school building in Pakistan; water pipes for the supply of running water; a house for new mothers; landscaping and providing resource materials and pharmaceutical supplies. In this way the volunteers have contributed immensely to the preservation of the Kalash.
In the 19th century the British officers and scholars in India kept a romantic belief that, like the lost tribes of Israel, also a lost tribe of Europe of Alexander's Greeks may have survived somewhere in Afghanistan. The popular movie entitled "The Man Who Would Be King" starring Sean Connery was based upon that legend.

Other Greek Influences

Other remnants of the ancient Greek influence in the area are the characteristic "double-hat" or kausia, the ancient Macedonian hat, the Macedonian cloak or sari as worn by most women today and the polo on horseback, Pakistan's national sport. It was practiced by the Macedonian troops in the days of Alexander due to an unusual "present" given to Alexander by the great Persian king Darius.
When Alexander invaded the outlining areas of the Persian Empire and demanded taxes from Darius, the king refused, so Alexander threatened to invade. The king then sent him a bat with a ball so that the young Alexander can play ! "Those would be more appropriate to a novice than the arms of battle," thought the King. Alexander replied : "The ball is the Earth and I am the bat". A year later, Darius lost the battle and he was dead the following year