May 27, 2019
Kohistan means “Land of Mountains” and is an area in Northern Pakistan along the Indus River and its side valleys. About 600 000 Kohistanis are living there, divided into different tribal groups. They became Muslim in the 17th century and incorporated into Pakistan in 1976. The Indus River divides their two major language groups, Shina and Indus-Kohistani, which are both poorly researched.
In most cases of dispute or crime, the village elders act as judges. People accused of a crime can flee into towers of refuge until a judgement is delivered or an agreement is reached. But blood vengeance is still widely practiced and has caused many Kohistanis to leave their homeland, as does unemployment. There are only a few Kohistani believers.
I’m on my way to visit a family in the upper village. It’s a long path uphill and, with one of our children on my back, the other at my hand, I’m quite exhausted when I arrive there. My friend interrupts her laundry to open the heavy gate and offers me a place on the bed in the middle of the courtyard. Her older kids are in the Islamic school. The younger ones are playing with marbles and our kids join them. The family is poor, but my friend prepares tea and gets some milk from the goat for me as a guest, drinking her own tea without milk.
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