The Turkmen Tribes are the quintessential nomads of Central Asia. The Ersari are one of the larger main groupings of Turkmen Tribes. They traditionally (in recent centuries) lived in the more eastern part of the range of the Turkmen, near to Bokhara and Samarkand. However, after the Russian Revolution in the late twenties, early thirties, they migrated across the border to join their relations in Northern Afghanistan. Turkmenistan was taken over by the Soviets and the State started implementing massive collectivization campaigns across the length and breadth of the new, extended Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Turkmen society has been traditionally based around the extended family or clan. There is much less emphasis on success for the individual or nuclear family; instead, all members of the extended family play an important role in the survival and success of the entire clan. To date, in their refugee situation in modern Pakistan and in their homeland of Afghanistan, this form of social organization is the norm; work and living relationships continue to adhere to this customary format. Consequently, not wishing to participate in the collectivization of the USSR, the Turkmen migrated and settled down in the provinces of Faryab, Balkh and Jowzjan in Northern Afghanistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan saw these refugees once more displaced. By the mid-1980s the war reached their doorstep and many fled to Pakistan in order to maintain their religion and way of life. The civil war that followed close on the heels of the departure of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent domination of the country by the Taliban in 1996, not only caused the Turkmen and other Afghan refugees to resist going back to their war-torn homeland, it also increased the influx of refugees into Pakistan and Iran.
As of 2008, many Turkmen have chosen to return to their homeland in Afghanistan’s Northern provinces of Faryab and Jowzjan, but many remain as refugees and economic migrants in Pakistan. However, their stay in Pakistan is coming to an end as the Pakistani government now requires all refugees from Afghanistan to return to their own country by December 2009.
Op-ed article in the Boston Globe by Program Director Arti Pandey, about the murder of Kamil Khan, an education director working with Barakat in Afghanistan, and the extraordinary story of his daughter Azaada, who attended school as a boy in their province of Faryab.