Greeks return to land conquered by Alexander
Greeks return to land conquered by Alexander
dejan KALASH VALLEYS: More than 2,000 years ago Alexander the Great tore across the mountains of northern Pakistan, plundering, conquering and, according to legend, sowing the seeds of a tribe that endures to this day. And today, the Greeks are back. In a valley high in the Hindu Kush a three-storey building towers incongruously over a scattering of low-roofed huts. The £200,000 centre-part school, part health centre, part museum and conference hall — is being built by the Greek government in an effort to save the Kalash.

Reputed to have descended from the armies of Alexander, the Kalash have lived for thousands of years in a nest of idyllic valleys near the Afghan border.

The Kalash are the last remnants of the population of Kafiristan, the ancient “land of infidels” that straddled the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. About 4,000 of them survive in three majestic valleys that awe visitors as a sort of paradise lost.

Turquoise streams rush through leafy glades of giant walnut trees and swaying crops. Clusters of simple houses cling to steep forested slopes. Compared with many compatriots beyond their valleys, the Kalash are charmingly liberal: drinking wine, holding dancing festivals and worshipping a variety of gods. Women wear intricately beaded headdresses, not burkas, and may choose their husband.

“For me, the Kalash are heroes, because they have reached the 21st century still living like their fathers,” said Athanasius Lerounis, a 50-year-old schoolteacher from Athens supervising construction of the centre, which is due to open next month. “We want to help them preserve that.”

The centre, which aims to provide everything from schooling to surgery, has reignited debate about how best to save the Kalash way of life. Some community leaders feel the Greek initiative is good-hearted, but wrong-headed. “I don’t blame them for wanting to help, but that help could damage us,” said Saifullah Jan in Rumbur valley. “There is too much interference. Our people are getting spoilt. They should just let us be.”

Theories of ancestry with Alexander the Great are fuelled by some Kalashs’ fair skin and Caucasian features, but ethnologists say the link remains unproven. “The Kalash language was never written, so we have no proof. But I respect this story like I respect all of their traditions,” said Mr Lerounis, a volunteer who has visited every summer for 10 years.

Modern life is tough for the Kalash. The valleys are cut off for months each year by snow; there is no doctor; education levels are low; and bad hygiene has triggered a plague of diseases. The construction of a rocky access road across the mountains in the 1970s ended centuries of isolation, but not all of the visitors have been welcome. Muslim immigrants now outnumber the Kalash by almost two to one. Eleven madrasas have been built. Two more are being built. Community leaders say madrasas offer money, clothes, land and educational scholarships in exchange for conversion.

“They offer money to the poor and wives to the wifeless,” said hotel owner Abdul Khaliq. Muhammad Salim, a shopkeeper who converted to Islam eight years ago, said he had a store of free winter clothes for distribution to the needy. “But they are only for the Kalash who convert,” he said. Many Kalash believe the madrasas are funded by foreign zealots.

Gul Bahadar, a 28-year-old cleric at a mosque in Bamboret valley, denied that serious tensions existed between the communities. “We come from the same blood,” he said. Conversions to Islam were “the work of Allah, not man”, he added.

Tourists and aid workers pose another threat. The number of British visitors has dramatically increased since the Kalash featured last year on Michael Palin’s television series Himalaya, according to Siraj ul-Mulk, a leading member of the community in nearby Chitral.

But little of the extra income finds its way into Kalash pockets. A string of small hotels has sprung up along the valley floor. Many sport garish cola advertisements and unlikely menus offering macaroni and “franch fries”. Nearly all are owned by Muslims or outsiders.

Other visitors, like the Greeks, come offering development aid. But such projects have a mixed track record. “Too much money, too fast, takes away the community’s responsibility to help itself. Now if the temple is broken, people just wait for it to be fixed instead of doing it themselves.” said Akiko Wada, a Japanese woman who married a Kalash.

Others point at the government, which has allocated billions for defence but has spent just 2% of its budget on health and education. “They are the ones that should be providing these services,” said Lakshan Bibi, a pilot and one of the first Kalash women to get higher education.

The best solution to the Kalash problem would be to “put them under a glass bowl and leave them there,” said Mr Lerounis. But, he smiled, “that would not be very practical”.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service

Dobro e sto im pomognuvat....ama stvarno, Grcive se SIK! I nemoj da mi kazete 'e taka treba koga nasava vlada ne se zaminava so toa' !!
I sega sto?? Ovie MAKEDONCI ke gi pretvorat vo GRCI, i sve sto e tamu sto lici na Makedonski, Grcive ke go zemat za svoe!!!
Great_Macedonian Dejan, za Kalasiye imam citano dosta pati, nese samo grcite koj im kazuvet za svojte "grcki koreni"... imam citano deka tamu odat i bugari, mu nosat pokloni i im kazuvaat na kalasite deka tie se "potomci na bugarite". Dejan, tie luge se kalash i nisto drugo.. ne veruvam deka imet dopirni tocki so denesnite makedonci ili grcija ili bugari ili koj bilo drug od evropa. Vojskata na aleksandar bila oformena od mnogu pleminja, makedonski,grcki,trakijski,venetski itn.. zgora na toa so tek na vremeto, denesnive kalasi se izmesale so sosema drugi pleminja, a denesnive narodi od balanot se izmesani so pleminja koj nemaat dopirni tocki so kalasite.
dejan Znam za bugarite, pa tie... Neznam slusnal za Ilija Casule?? Makedonski profesor vo Macquarie universitet vo Sidnej?? Kako sto znam covekot bil vo aghanistan, tamu negde...