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The Graves of Kalam, Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan

The Graves of Kalam

Two ridges over from Afghanistan and some of the fiercest and most persistent zones of conflict in the south and central Asia, Kalam and surrounding parts of the upper Swat Valley of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province are seeing an escalating cultural and religious conflict that is even extending to graveyards. A thousand years ago, this was the edge of a Buddhist kingdom. Little more than a century ago, this was the edge of Kafiristan but did not see Abdur Rahman’s forced conversions to Islam.

Graves in the upper part of central town of Kalam, Swat Valley, Pakistan, 12 August 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in the upper part of central town of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Today, Kalam remains a relatively civil margin of the Ummah, of the Pakistani national experience, and of globalization. But tensions are intensifying. These days, the graves of Kalam embody both signs of local animistic, ‘Kafir’, religions and various experiences of Islam. And of the clearly Islamic graves, there are signs tolerant and adaptive forms of Islamic observance, and the recent, Saudi and United States-funded forms of Salafi or ‘Wahabi’ intolerance. Today, the layers of ‘designs’ in the graveyards of Kalam show us a gradient of both local and globalized experience of religion and from tolerance to intolerance.

Grave in central Kalam, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Grave in central Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

As a citizen of a country with troops so near, initiation of conversations about local culture and especially about religion risked invoking a good deal of anger. Instead, I found myself looking carefully and quietly at the graves of Kalam.

Grave in central Kalam, upper Swat Valley, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Grave in central Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in central Kalam, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in the central part of village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in trees, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in trees, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Fenced graves in trees, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Fenced graves in trees, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Fenced graves in trees, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (2)

Fenced graves in trees, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in an oak woodland at Golkhan, near Kalam, Upper Swat Valley, 12 August 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in an oak woodland at Golkhan, near village of Kalam, Upper Swat Valley, 12 August 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in an oak woodland, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in an oak woodland, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in an oak woodland, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (2)

Graves in an oak woodland, village of Golkhan between Ushu and Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (2)

Golkhan graveyard, 12 August, 2006, photo by Gordon Brent Ingram

Golkhan graveyard near the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Golkhan mosque volunteer, Kalam, Upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Golkhan mosque volunteer, near village of Kalam, Upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Atror Valley above Kalam, Upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Atror Valley above Kalam, Upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Atror Valley above Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Atror Valley above Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves on the ridge above the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograp by Gordon Brent Ingram
Graves on the ridge above the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August, 2006, photograp by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, 12 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in an uUpper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in an upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in the upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August 2006 photogragh by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in the upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August 2006 photogragh by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in the upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August 2006 photogragh by Gordon Brent Ingram

Graves in the upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 12 August 2006 photogragh by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (4)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (4.2)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (4.5)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (5)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (8)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (9)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (9)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (10)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (11)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (12)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (13)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram (14)

Upper part of the village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Cemetary, central part of village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Cemetary, central part of village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Fresh grave, central part of village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006 photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Fresh grave, central part of village of Kalam, upper Swat Valley, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 13 August, 2006, photograph by Gordon Brent Ingram

Postscript

There were by many new graves in the Kalam district in the coming weeks and month. With the Taliban insurgency and the campaigns of the Pakistani military, hundreds of thousands of people are either trapped in their communities, with dwindling food, or have fled to refugee camps below the valley — where there is already stifling heat.

22-may-2009-kalam-townsfolk-resist-the-taliban-the-globe-and-mail

23-may-2009-a-birds-eye-view-of-war-torn-swat-the-globe-and-mail

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