ULUPAMIR, Turkey — Amid snow-capped mountains and sweeping valleys, a gaggle of males watch their buddy hurl a bone into the space. They’re enjoying “asik oyunu,” a recreation originating on the steppes of Central Asia that entails tossing a sheep’s ankle bones, known as “chuko.” However these males are removed from house and solely a two-hour drive from the jap Turkish metropolis of Van.
Within the mountain village of Ulupamir (actually “Nice Pamir”), a handful of Kyrgyz individuals maintain on to their conventional way of life. “In the summertime we play loads of Buzkashi,” says Yusuf Alp, one of many individuals, referring to a different Central Asian sport through which horse-mounted gamers search to position the headless carcass of a goat right into a aim. The sport, depicted within the e-book “The Horsemen” by French novelist Joseph Kessel, can also be identified for being the nationwide sport of Afghanistan.
Initially from the Afghan area of Pamir, the Kyrgyz of Ulupamir had been resettled in Turkey greater than 30 years in the past. Foreseeing a Soviet takeover of Kabul after the communist coup of 1978, a charismatic chief named Haji Rahman Kul led just a few thousand of his individuals to neighboring Pakistan. Unable to adapt to the recent local weather there, the group utilized for asylum on the US Embassy in Islamabad, asking to be moved to Alaska. However upon rejection from Washington, the Pamiri Kyrgyz had been supplied a spot in Turkey by Gen. Kenan Evren, who turned president after he carrying out a 1980 coup. The Kyrgyz had been dropped at this far-flung a part of Anatolia on constitution planes in 1982.
Their coming was extolled as an expression of Pan-Turkic solidarity. The beleaguered Kyrgyz had been portrayed as ethno-linguistic cousins with a pure place in Turkey. Officers drew on a notion championed by Turkish nationalists in response to which all individuals of Turkic lineage, whether or not Uighur, Kazakh or Azeri, are Turkey’s ethnic brethren. Notably after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Turkish overseas coverage centered on the Turkic republics of Central Asia. In 1992, the Turkish Worldwide Growth and Cooperation Company was established to spice up commerce and cooperation with the newly unbiased nations. Former President Suleyman Demirel famously captured this concept together with his repeated references to “the Turkish world from the Adriatic to the Nice Wall of China.”
Since then, the village has attracted throngs of vacationers from all elements of the nation. “We share the identical race and tradition,” Musa, a local of Antalya, contends to Al-Monitor as he excursions the village’s small reward store that additionally serves as a makeshift cultural middle. Inside it’s a hodgepodge of the normal kalpak hats and various leather-based equipment embroidered with Turkish ultra-nationalist insignia. Musa got here with a gaggle of pals who clarify they’re Yoruk, an ethnic subgroup often known as Turkey’s final nomads.
In recent times, movie crews have shot “Dirilis Ertugrul,” one among Turkey’s many Ottomanist TV sequence, in Ulupamir. The present is unabashedly patriotic and has obtained the approval of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself. Along with offering folkloric costumes for the solid, the villagers additionally function extras within the position of Mongol warriors.
Whereas the authorities greeted the distant Kyrgyz as their brothers, the locals didn’t really feel the identical method. The Pamiri Kyrgyz quickly discovered that they had been positioned in a predominantly Kurdish area. The picturesque land that was given to them turned out to be the positioning of the Zilan bloodbath, an try at a Kurdish rebellion that was crushed by Turkish forces in 1930.
“We had been rejected by the locals once we first moved right here,” explains Amanullah, a stockbreeder sporting a fur hat and an Islamic ring. “The encircling villages are all Kurdish and noticed us as Turkish invaders.”
A battle quickly erupted between the separatist Kurdistan Employees Social gathering (PKK) and the Turkish state. As a substitute of discovering peace away from Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz of Ulupamir bought caught up in yet one more conflict. Nonetheless, a lot of them took up jobs as militiamen on behalf of the federal government. Such cooperation with Turkey’s armed forces drew the PKK to fireplace a rocket at the village in 1992.
Abdullah, a 38-year-old village guard watching the bone recreation, makes no secret of the position performed by Ulupamir within the counter-insurgency. “Certain we had hassle with the PKK. However that was till we slaughtered them,” he boasts to Al-Monitor, clenching his fists. “They by no means dared to come back again.” These efforts earned the Kyrgyz village a fame in pro-government media as a bulwark in opposition to the PKK.
A lot of the villagers insist tensions with the neighbors have abated by now. But the ever-present three-crescent flags, symbols of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Motion Social gathering, are throughout the village as stark reminders of their stance within the battle.
From their arrival in 1982, the Pamiri Kyrgyz have proven an unflinching loyalty to their adoptive homeland. They’d come as “Turks” and have been celebrated for being each unique and acquainted. However for all of the showcasing of their folkloric traditions, some concern their id is threatened by assimilation.
Abdulveli is one other stockbreeder sitting with group of elders in opposition to the dramatic mountain backdrop. Whereas sipping a cup of tea, he bemoans the disappearance of his neighborhood’s language. “We train our sorts the Kyrgyz language at house however due to college schooling, they communicate Turkish between themselves.” A lot of the youth additionally go away for bigger cities to search out work. “Once they come again to the village, they’ve misplaced their acquaintance with our lifestyle,” Abdulveli instructed Al-Monitor.
As for ties with Kyrgyzstan itself, Bishkek does ship a few musicians per 12 months to assist hold komuz-based music traditions alive. A number of the villagers have additionally traveled to Kyrgyzstan for schooling, although most go for Istanbul or Ankara.
On this late winter afternoon, the solar is setting on Ulupamir. A young person is driving a horse across the village mosque. Such sights are among the many few seen traces of the Kyrgyz’s nomadic heritage. Yurts, the normal cover tents, have lengthy made method for the housing blocs made by TOKI, Turkey’s notorious housing administration. As time passes, the settlement is susceptible to turning into simply one other Anatolian village.
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