The Turkmen of Afghanistan
In times past, the Turkmen developed a strong ethnic identity as "children of the desert" because they would plunder rich caravans of Persian traders. Eventually, they became involved in slave trading as well. In the early 1880's the Russian empire succeeded in subduing the Turkmen. The Bolshevik Revolution was accompanied by a period of rebellion known as the Basmachi Revolt. Many Turkmen participated in this rebellion; but after the Soviet victory, many fled to Iran and Afghanistan.
What are their lives like?
Turkmen are generally tall and thin. They are physically strong and easily able to endure the harshness of the environment. Although characterized by hospitality, sincerity, and trustworthiness, they are also known as being hot-headed and revengeful.
Men usually wear baggy trousers, coarse shirts, boots, and shaggy wool hats. Women love wearing jewelry, especially anklets and bracelets. They cover their heads in fine cotton cloths (like turbans) that are also adorned with jewelry.
The Turkmen love to play Buzjashi, a wild polo-like game played by two teams on horseback. The game, which uses the headless carcass of a goat or calf as the "ball," can be very violent and go on for two or three days.
Turkmen are also well known for making beautiful carpets and rugs. Though this is usually considered to be women's work, the whole family will often share in the arduous task.
Their society has never been marked by strong political leaders or tribal chiefs. It is male dominated, with senior members of the family holding considerable authority. Within each family, sons must be obedient and respectful to their fathers. Their subordinate status is symbolized by many rules. The subordination of women is even greater, distinguishing them as second- class citizens.
The yurt, a velvet tent with wooden poles, is still a popular form of housing. However, in recent years, many Turkmen have turned to a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Most families now live a part of the year farming settled areas and part of the year migrating from pasture to pasture with their livestock.
What are their beliefs?
Despite the outward conformity to Islam, mysticism and other past religious traditions are still prevalent.
What are their needs?
It is unclear how much the war has directly affected the lifestyle of the Turkmen; however, we do know that Afghanistan is one of the neediest nations in the world, both physically and spiritually. Although three missions agencies are currently targeting the Turkmen, there are no known believers among them. Both the New Testament and the Jesus film are available in their language; however, Christian radio and television broadcasts are also needed to effectively spread the Gospel among them.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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