Isolated from the rest of Tajikistan, with their own dialect and religious traditions, the people of Badakhshan have long complained of being ignored by the central government in far-away Dushanbe.
But the Pamiris, as they are called, are not sitting by idly and bemoaning their considerable economic difficulties. The region is the home to a vibrant network of village organizations in which democratic principles govern the use of community-raised funds and public spending.
The 1990s civil war hit this isolated area particularly hard. Pamiris were targeted in security sweeps, and the region found itself economically isolated. State support vanished. Many locals -- of all ethnic groups -- say they managed to endure due to the charity of the Aga Khan, the religious leader of the region's predominant Ismaili population. His network of development organizations started with handouts but soon began supporting locally-led village organizations (VOs), initially set up under the Mountain Societies Development Support Program (MSDSP).
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David Trilling is EurasiaNets Central Asia news editor.