BOZAI GUMBAZ, Afghanistan — As the pickup truck bounced toward a remote village deep in northeastern Afghanistan, the young woman was told by her companions that she could toss her burqa aside.
“It’s free here,” said the woman, Zarmina Nazaria, a 26-year-old nurse. She slipped off her powder-blue burqa and laid it on the rear seat.
The rules that apply to the rest of Afghanistan are often irrelevant in the Wakhan Corridor, a frigid, finger-shaped stretch of land squeezed between Tajikistan, Pakistan and China that is cut off from the Afghan heartland by the icy ramparts of the Hindu Kush. Here, the one constant of life for most Afghans — war — is as distant as a tropical wind.
From the Soviet invasion to the civil war to the Taliban takeover to the anti-Taliban resistance, the Wakhan has remained largely free of strife. No Taliban show their faces here, nor do American soldiers. Villagers train to be wildlife rangers, not army rangers. The prevalent brand of Islam, Ismailism, is moderate; its spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, is a billionaire society figure in Paris.