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The Lives of Muslim Women in Tajikistan
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
07 Feb 2015

Little Gulguna, like most children around the world, goes to school at 8am. This Morning, like every morning in the Bartang Valley starts by rearranging the room from bedroom to living room. She swiftly collects the flowery mattresses, quilts and pillows, and places them in pile in a corner of the room. She covers a neatly stacked pile of colorful mattresses with blankets, patterned with flowers and Marco Polo sheep. Pamiri kitchens sparkle as if from tales of the Far East. Walls are adorned with colorful carpets and rugs; vivid vinyl tablecloths decorate tables and cupboards, and flowery shawls grace women’s heads. Dad lights a fire in the stove. First morning smoke spreads throughout the room. It chokes and attacks the eyes. After a while you become accustomed to it. They say that apparently it's not healthy to breathe smoke, but it's better than freezing in winter at 3000 meters. It’s cold and windy outside, but inside the family begins to enjoy pleasant and blissful warmth wafting through the room. After the winter, you need to beat fabrics and clean everything, because of the smoke. Old houses can be recognized by the blackened beams on their ceilings. For breakfast, Gulguna enjoys a bowl of her favorite shir thai. Shir thai is a milk tea with salt and margarine added, perfect to dip pieces of homemade bread into. She is just about to leave the house, when mum fixes her hair and helps her put on her backpack. She goes to school happily. Lessons begin when all the kids are present, so there are never late. Roshovr, a village in which Gulguna lives is made up of the Ismaili, common throughout the Tajik Pamir. The Ismaili are a progressive branch of Islam, labeling them to other groups as heretics. For centuries persecuted, they found their refuge in the mountainous regions of Asia: Pakistani and Afghani Hindu Kush, Iran, and here in the Tajik Pamir. Khorog, home to 28,000 is one of the biggest Ismaili cities. The rest are scattered in villages in the mountains. Their spiritual leader is the Agha Khan, educated and living in the west. The 49th imam instructs his followers to follow the ways of the present day. He urges people to learn English, as it is considered to be a language of science and to learn to use computers, themselves a tool for learning. Women may or may not cover their heads. You often see them walking with their long black hair free in the wind, conversely, some may opt to due to the harsh, hot and sandy climate. Muslim women in this part of the world are free. Their position in society may have its differences, but could be looked upon as equal to that of men. They can learn and they can work. If they want to study, they go to university and afterwards, they marry a man they chose.

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Sarabdek 02
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
21 Nov 2014

Dust rises above the village. The Pamir Mountains are a snowless desert. For Europeans dust is associated with the scorching sweltering summer, cracked earth parched by the sun. Here it is dusty all the time until the first snow falls.

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Sarabdek 03
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
21 Nov 2014

A calm afternoon in the village. Women sit in front of their houses. Here, houses are built with stones and clay mixed with straw. A roof is the most expensive part of a house as people need to import wood from Kirgizstan. During soviet times, it was not so expensive as it is now as it was imported from Siberia.

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Tajik Women 01
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
21 Nov 2014

Gulguna is having her lunch, shir tchai with her neighbors in the winter room.

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Tajik Women 17
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
21 Nov 2014

Her daughter is serving a tea. Odinamo spent all her life in Roshorv. She is the mother of 9 children. Two daughters still live with them. She also takes care of her two grandchildren as their parents work in Khorog, a 7 hour drive away. Her older grandson helps her with grazing her herd.

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Sarabdek 01
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
20 Nov 2014

Sarabdek looks at his village. Roshorv is beautifully located village on a high mountain plateau. It is the biggest village in the Bartang Valley. 3 000 people live there in 165 houses. People came here 4 or 5 centuries ago from a village located below Yapshorv, which was slowly eroded away by the roaring Bartang River. Previously, there was only alpine pasture.

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Tajik Women 04
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
19 Nov 2014

She does her homework after school. Behind, her mum prepares bread for dinner. Lessons in primary school are mixed. Ismailis do not have a madrasa, the Koranic school. At school, she learns Russian and Tajik. She will start learning English at secondary school. In the Bartang Valley, people speak their own Rushan language. It is spoken, not written. Two valleys futher to the south is the Wakhan Corridor, but Bartangi and Wakhani peoples can’t understand each other.

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Tajik Women 07
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
19 Nov 2014

Afternoon bath. Mum prepared tubs of hot water.

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Tajik Women 08
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
19 Nov 2014

After the bath mum arranges Gulguna’s braids. Children are loved here because they are a blessing of God.

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Sarabdek 12
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
18 Nov 2014

Catching a yak. A few wild yaks are brought from a distant Murghab. One was chosen to be culled for upcoming wedding party.

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Sarabdek 13
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
18 Nov 2014

To kill a yak, men bind its legs, put it down, hold it and one of them cuts its throat.

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Sarabdek 14
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
18 Nov 2014

Butchering the yak. As the custom, the neighbors receive a piece of meat, ready prepared and boiled.

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Tajik Women 05
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
18 Nov 2014

One of Gulguna’s duties is herding goats in the evening .This task is reserved for the children. A dog starts barking so she looks out for a wolf.

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Tajik Women 06
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
18 Nov 2014

Gulguna and her friends bring a goat to the village to find out to who it belonged. There are 7 to 10 big herds in the village. In one herd, there are around 10 to 15 smaller groups each owned by a local. Shepherds switch their turns for grazing their herds.

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Tajik Women 11
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
18 Nov 2014

Nigina studies Esperanto in Khorog. She came to be bridesmaid at her friend’s wedding. hers sister is en anglish teacher at local school. her brother just came back from his studies in london

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Sarabdek 07
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
17 Nov 2014

Sarabdek grinds flour in the water mill. Villagers make flour by themselves. There are 10 water mills in the village. At each house, bread tastes different as everyone bakes it in their own way, some add some oil, others more salt. The price of a bag of flour in a Soviet time was 11 rubles, today it costs 180 Somoni (30 euros), which constitutes Sarabdek’s monthly pension.

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Sarabdek 08
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
17 Nov 2014

A woman takes water from a spring. The water from the spring is used for drinking and cooking. For washing and cleaning, people take water from a system of irrigation channels around the village.

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Sarabdek 9
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
17 Nov 2014

The girl looks for sheep and goats. This task is reserved for children. There are 7 to 10 big herds in the village. In one herd, there are around 10 to 15 smaller groups each owned by a local. Shepherds switch their turn for grazing their herds.

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Tajik Women 20
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
16 Nov 2014

A dance leader is singing wedding songs. Songs are about the Badakshan and Pamir Mountains, not about Tajikistan as the Pamir was there before the rise of the Tajik state. A wedding ceremony takes place at the bride’s home. If the young couple comes from the same village, a ceremony starts at a bride’s house and afterwards moves to the groom’s house.

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Tajik Women 22
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
16 Nov 2014

Nigina, a bridesmaid is dancing. According to custom, the best dancers receive gifts such as home-made socks, necklaces or simply money.

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Sarabdek 18
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
16 Nov 2014

The groom’s family goes to the bride's house to form a wedding party.

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Tajik Women 21
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
15 Nov 2014

A wedding ceremony takes place in the big summer room. Guests dance in pairs and then they leave the dance floor for the next. A wedding ceremony takes place at the bride’s home. If the young couple comes from the same village, a ceremony starts at a bride’s house and afterwards moves to the groom’s house.

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Tajik Women 23
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
15 Nov 2014

The wedding guests. Anyone who wants to come is welcome. Hopefully there will be just enough space to dance.

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Sarabdek 11
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
15 Nov 2014

Kids are jumping from one roof to the other.

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Sarabdek 17
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
15 Nov 2014

Musicians are greeting guests at bride’s house. The tambourine is a local traditional instrument.

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Sarabdek 19
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
15 Nov 2014

A wedding ceremony takes place in the big summer room. Guests dance in pairs and then they leave the dance floor for the next. A wedding ceremony takes place at the bride’s home. If the young couple comes from the same village, a ceremony starts at a bride’s house and

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Tajik Women 15
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
15 Nov 2014

Granny Odinamo lives in the oldest house in the village. The house is so old that no one remembers when it was built. It could be a century or perhaps two centuries old. The house was formerly part of a defensive fortress, destroyed by the Soviets.

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Tajik Women 18
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
15 Nov 2014

Odinamo is 55 years old, her husband is 59. The wind has ravaged their faces. Odinamo prepares tobacco powder to be put under the tongue.

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Sarabdek 20
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
13 Nov 2014

The wedding guests are dancing. Anyone who wants to come is welcome. Hopefully there will be just enough space to dance.

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Tajik Women 13
Roshorv, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
13 Nov 2014

Wood in Roshorv is precious, because it is rare. The Pamir is a mountainous desert and except for a few poplars and willows nothing will to grow. Women pick up all branches and twigs, sweep leaves and stalks and put everything in a stove. Men get up at dawn and set off into the mountains in search of firewood. It is hard to find something bigger than twigs and small branches. Men wander kilometers collecting anything that will burn. To get thicker wood they need to ride two days away, to the border with Kyrgyzstan. Therefore hills, farms and farmland are tidy as like an English garden. The spaces are wild and natural, but you will not find a withered twig.