Last week, I posted a story on Uzra, a woman in the Afghan province of Nuristan.  After her village in northern Barg-i-Matal District was attacked by a reported 300 insurgents, a member of her family was killed. Uzra picked up a weapon and, over the course of two hours, began killing members of the insurgent group.

After the enemy overran her position, killing her and the three-year old daughter she was fighting to protect, Uzra was found to have four confirmed kills. Other reports state that Uzra may have been responsible for killing as many as seven enemy. Both the provincial governor and the police chief have publicly acknowledged Uzra’s heroism. Both also cited her as an icon for the people of Nuristan and an inspiration for a movement of defiance against the tyrannical onslaught of Taliban rule in the province.

Nuristan is a remote and isolated province in eastern Afghanistan. Dating back hundreds of years to when the region was known as Kafiristan (“Land of the Infidels”), Nuristanis have a well-earned reputation as fierce warriors with an aversion to outside interference in the affairs of the region. Many Nuristanis trace their lineage back to the time of Alexander, though the Nuristani language is of Indo-Persian derivation. While the mythology of Nuristanis tracing their lineage directly to Alexander and the Greeks persists, it is more likely that the migration of the people that now occupy Nuristan originated in either India or Persia.

In 2011, Time Magazine’s Julius Cavenish detailed the Taliban’s plan for incorporating the takeover of Nuristan in their strategic pursuit of asserting control over all of Afghanistan. Cavenish writes:

…for the first time in almost a decade the Taliban are administering an Afghan district unmolested. In fact, Waygal has been almost completely abandoned by NATO for the past three years. For the insurgents — and their non-Afghan militant allies from Pakistan and Arabic-speaking countries — it is the most visible step in a longer term strategy to turn Nuristan, itself virtually given up by the alliance since 2009, into a militant hub and a staging post for attacks on strategic targets, including the capital, Kabul. (Cavenish, Time Magazine, June 1, 2011)

Recently, this vision of eroded security and assertive control over Nuristan has been most evident in the eastern districts of Barg-i-Matal and Kamdesh. Some reports state that up to 70% of the province is under the control of insurgents:

70 percent of Nuristan province is under the control of Taliban insurgents, who cut off to the provincial capital, an official said Monday, warning of a humanitarian disaster if the government does not act soon.
The lack of security has raised concerns of Nuristan inhabitants who said security forces weakness, poor management of local authorities and intervention of intelligence agencies of the neighboring countries are the reason for insecurities in the province. (ATN News, August 25)

Another report places the peril that Nuristanis are now facing into more stark terms, stating that the entire province is on the verge of collapse: