“I WAS AT MY UNCLE’S AND THERE WERE ABOUT 15 OF US LIVING AT HIS HOUSE. I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHY SUDDENLY ALL THE GROWNUPS STARTED TO CRY AND SAY SHUKR MAWLO, SHUKR MAWLO. THEN THE NEWS SAID THAT HUMANITARIAN AIDS WOULD BE SENT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE…TIME WENT AND WE REACHED THE MOST MOMENTOUS DAY IN OUR LIFE: MAY 25, 1995, A HISTORICAL DATE THAT NO BADAKHSHANI WILL EVER FORGET. WE WERE BLESSED WITH MAWLA’S DIDAR FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME…THIS WAS THE DAY FOR WHICH ALL OUR ELDERLY AND ANCESTORS WERE LONGING, FOR CENTURIES.”
The Aga Khan wearing a black Persian hat, with a long, flowing purple coat covered with gold filigree, addresses his Ismaili followers during his visit to Badakhshan in May 1995. Photo: The Ismaili.
In short time, we were running out of clothes, food, medicine due to the blockade. People started to die because of starvation and illness. There was shortage of everything and I mean EVERYTHING. We hardly had food, especially during winter and spring. Those were the worst times, and there was hardly any electricity. I remember we had 1 pancake each (made of water, flour and salt) with tea in the morning and didn’t know if we’d have anything to eat for the night or the next day. Without power, people began to cut trees for wood to heat their houses. Since GBAO is mostly a mountainous region, after a while, there were hardly any trees left. Well-known politicians, professors, doctors, and scholars had to sell anything they could in order to survive. I remember I was very creative, so handy, that I made shoes for my sister and I with a piece of cloth and cut-off tires.
More than 2 years after the beginning of this chaos and nightmare, it seemed this was the end for us. We had lost all hope; life stopped making sense any more. Most people were convinced that if no help arrived soon enough, that this winter would be the last for many.
Ismailis sit on rugs spread out before the stage where their beloved Imam, the Aga Khan is seated. Photo: The Ismaili.
“ESSENTIAL TO THE CREATION OF A HIGHER ORDER OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS IS THE ACCEPTANCE OF PLURALISM. WITHIN THE MUSLIM WORLD, FOR EXAMPLE, THOUGHTFUL AND HEARTFELT DIFFERENCES EXIST IN REGARD TO THE INTERPRETATION OF THE FAITH. NOTHING IS GAINED BY IMPOSING ONE INTERPRETATION UPON PEOPLE DISPOSED TO ANOTHER. INDEED, THE EFFECT OF SUCH COERCION IS A DENIAL OF THE PRINCIPLES OF THE FAITH. RELIGIOUS PLURALITY IN THE UMMAH IS A TRIBUTE TO THE RICHNESS OF THE FAITH, AND A SOURCE OF ITS STRENGTH. SHIA AND SUNNI CAN CO-EXIST AND COOPERATE, TRUE TO THEIR OWN INTERPRETATIONS OF ISLAM BUT CONFEDERATES IN THE FAITH. SIMILARLY, PEOPLE OF PARTICULAR ETHNIC, CULTURAL OR POLITICAL GROUPS MUST GROW BEYOND NARROW CONCEPTIONS OF CLAN RIVALRY TO AN ACCEPTANCE OF DIFFERENCES. HUMAN GENIUS IS FOUND IN ITS VARIETY, WHICH IS A WORK OF ALLAH.” – HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN, KHOROG, MAY 24, 1995.
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