The kom

Kâmaston, land of the Kom

Native Name: kʹom.

Other Names: The official name of the Kom appears in Afghan governmental documents as Kâmôzî (Darî and Pashto) or Qaum-i Kâmôzîhâ (Darî, "Tribe of the Kâmôzîs"). Other names include "Kam" (Robertson [1896]) and "Bashgali" (from Khowar bašgalʹi "person from bašgʹal [the Lanḍai Sin Valley]").

Location: the lower Lanḍai Sin basin and an adjoining portion of the Kunar Valley. This land is traditionally called kâmʹaston in ancient Kom songs.

Population: between 5,000 – 10,000.


Native Language Name: kâmvʹiri. The kṣtʹo, biniʹo, ǰâmčʹo, and ǰâšʹi also speak the kâmvʹiri dialect, but they call the language by their own tribal names (kṣtʹaviri, ǰâšvʹiri). Non-indigenous names include "Bashgali" (from Khowar) and "Kati" (Morgenstierne 1926).

Linguistic Position of Kâmvʹiri: Kâmvʹiri is a dialect of Kâmkʹata-vari, which forms with Vâsʹi-vari the Northern Group of Nuristâni languages (see the Table of Languages). Being somewhat isolated, speakers on the Pakistan side of the boundary diverge slightly from the dialectal norms of their more numerous cousins in Afghanistan.

Pashto has displaced Kâmvʹiri in the villages of pʹâšaŋar, gâṇʹür, ćünʹuk, šʹâŋir, šâlʹikuṭ, and mâc̣ʹiamon in kunʹař.

Subsistence: Kâmʹaston has extensive mountain pastureland, called so˜, and lowland winter grazing areas, called ṣor, which support the raising of goats and cattle for dairy, meat, and other products. Communities are typically surrounded by irrigated fields. Crops include maize, wheat, millet, sorghum, several kinds of legumes, and squash. During the agricultural season the fields are the locus of women´s work, while the mountain pastures are the domain of livestock-tending males. Arboriculture is extensive, with an abundance of walnuts, mulberries, and various kinds of fruit.

Society: Kom tribal organization comprises a number of agnatic groups that are bound together by a common genealogy and ties of intermarriage. Each male in an agnatic group is "X´s Boy" (X-dâra), "X" being the name or nickname of the patrilineal ancestor from whom the agnates claim a common inheritance. This inheritance is mountain pastureland (so˜), which agnates must manage and defend. In pre-Islamic times a male could not marry the daughter of an agnate. If one of X´s Boys eloped with one of X´s Boys´ girls, he "split the branch" and was denied further access to his patrimonial so˜. If he succeeded in obtaining his own, new so˜, his inheritors would designate themselves as his "Boys", otherwise they would become "nobodies." Nowadays, following Islamic and Afghân practice, men are beginning to marry agnates´ daughters

As in other Nuristâni societies, there is a caste division between the âźʹo 'freemen' and the bârʹi 'emburdened ones'. Before the introduction of Islâm, the bârʹi were slaves, and even today they do not form agnatic groups and may not own pastureland. They are responsible for all craft production and are divided into two occupational subcastes: the ǰâšbʹari, who do woodworking, and the čamkʹara, who are blacksmiths.

History: The name Kâmôzî is the modern Persian and Pashto form of the name of the ancient Kamboǰa people, a nomadic warrior-caste tribe of horse-trading Âryâs that ranged across southern Asia from the Caucasus to Cambodia (Kampuchea, "Land of the Kamboǰas") in ancient times (ca. 7th Century BCE to 10th Century CE). This name makes it is probable that the Kom are descendants of one group of Kamboǰas, although today's Kom have no knowledge of such a connection.

By their own account, the Kom came from Khorasân to Kandahâr to Kâbul to Kâpisâ to Kâma, at the confluence of the Kunar and Kâbul Rivers. After being forced out of Kâma a millenium ago, the Kom retreated up the Kunar Valley, first to Shewâ, then to Kâmnile (modern Ḍanḍuna). From there they apparently split into two groups. One group continued up the Kunar Valley, occupying various sites along the way. The other group fled north as far as the Kulem Valley (some say the Řâmgal Valley) in upper Laghmân before establishing the village of Kâmaṭol in the Kâmgal Valley, a tributary of the middle Pech Valley.

From Kâmaṭol the Kom harrassed their neighbors to the extent that the tribesmen from Ćâňu and Ktivi attacked and slaughtered most of the residents of Kâmaṭol one night, after the latter were stupefied from partying during a festival. The remaining Kom fled north and east via the Pâpuřuk Valley into the Lanḍay Sin Valley, ending up at the site of the present Mumo vilage of Sâskü˜. There a bad omen caused them to abandon that site, and they set their eyes on the nearby mountain spur called Clay Ridge, inhabited by J̌âšas. They climbed the spur and allegedly frightened off the J̌âša inhabitants, who fled to other sites down the Lanḍay Sin Valley. There the Kom established their major community, Kombřom (Kâmdeš).

In the 500 years since the Kom built Kombřom, their history has been one of expansion over the lower Lanḍai Sin watershed. At one point during their wars with the neighboring Kṣto, they wrested away the region of so˜ that the Kṣto inhabitants shared with their fellow tribesmen in the Dungal Valley, on the south side of the Ničangal-Kunar watershed. From that time on the Kṣto have lacked so˜ and have had to take their flocks through Kom territory to the upper Dungal Valley in the summer. The Kom also expropriated the so˜ of the Binio, Jâmčo, Jâši, Ârom, Gawâr, and Kâta peoples in the lower Lanḍai Sin basin and further down the Kunar to the present site of Nišagâm. Perhaps during that time the Kom who had fled up the Kunar Valley rejoined their kinsmen from Kombřom. Some so˜ in the Ničangal-Kunar watershed were acquired from the Väi people who had been expanding eastward from Wâigal; the region around mumdʹeš is said to have been won from the Väi in a game of quoits.

Their expansion brought the Kom into increasing conflict with the Afghân khânates that had been encroaching into the Kunar basin from the south and east. As the Afghân Âmir Abdur Rahmân Khân moved to consolidate his hegemony over these khânates in the late 19th century, he set his eye on conquering the "infidels" (kâfirs), as the pre-Islamic Nuristânis were called then. His army under Army Chief Ghulâm Haidar Charkhi marched up the Kunar in 1895, and when the Army Chief reached Barikoṭ in December, he sent emissaries to the Kom asking for negotiations. He claimed that all he wanted was tribute, and that they could continue to practice their old religion. When a deputation of leading Kom elders arrived in Barikoṭ, they were duplicitously taken prisoner and held hostage in order to intimidate the remaining population to capitulate to the Islamic force. In January, 1896, Afghân tribal irregulars, led by a Muslim Kom turncoat named Akram Jân, sacked the side villages of Uštroṭ, Pitigal, and Sâret, while the main force marched up the Lanḍai Sin, captured Kombřom, and went on to conquer the Kṣto, Mumo, and Kâta. Sons of tribal leaders were taken as "slave boy" hostages to the Âmir´s court in Kâbul, and the males of the region were forced to undergo circumcision as a sign of their submission to Allâh. All vestiges of the old religion were expunged by governmental mullahs sent in to reeducate the newly converted. As a result Kom culture is today profoundly changed from its pre-Islamic tradition.

`ptu mišoalea, `via pâtialea.
"Spit on the liar and beat the believer!"
(Kom proverb)

Further topics: