Frontline World

KYRGYZSTAN - The Kidnapped Bride, March 2004

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "The Kidnapped Bride"

Marriage by Abduction

On the Roof of the World

Economy, Government, Bride Kidnapping

Society and Culture, Women's Rights/Human Rights


Should the international community intervene when cultural traditions clash with modern notions of women's rights?


Links and Resources

• General Background
• Society and Culture
• Bride Kidnapping
• Women's Rights/Human Rights
• Media Resources

General Background

BBC News Country Profile: Kyrgyzstan
The BBC profile of Kyrgyzstan offers information on the country's political landscape and media resources and a timeline of key events shaping the country.

Lonely Planet World Guide: Kyrgyzstan
The travel guide series says that Kyrgyzstan "is perhaps the most accessible and welcoming of the Central Asian republics." The Web site contains a slideshow, demographic facts about the country and lists of places to see. The site also contains important cultural information on the country.

The Kyrgyzstan Freenet
The Kyrgyzstan Freenet is an Internet portal operating out of Kyrgyzstan. It claims to be the first of its kind in the nation. In addition to offering Yellow Pages-type information on Kyrgyzstan and country-specific links grouped under headings like "Business, Market Reform and Corruption," the site also contains Central Asian news bulletins and links to NGOs operating in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.

Eurasianet: The Kyrgyzstan Resource Page
Eurasianet is the online arm of the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute. The site provides information and analysis about political, economic, environmental and social developments in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Eurasianet's resources include daily Kyrgyzstan coverage from international news agencies, human rights information, and international and U.S. policy information regarding Kyrgyzstan.

"Kyrgyzstan faces post Akayev future"
When candidates loyal to President Askar Akayev won an overwhelming majority in the country's parliament in March 2005, Western governments and the opposition in Kyrgyzstan said the elections had been fixed. Protesters took to the streets, occupied government buildings and forced Akeyev to resign. Information about Kyrgyzstan under interim President Kurmanbek Bakiev, the opposition leader who stepped in to head the country until elections in June, can be found on the BBC News Web site.

"Kyrgyz presidential race narrows"
With presidential elections scheduled for July 2005, politics heat up in Kyrgyzstan.

"Kyrgyzstan's new leaders"
This article from the BBC News sheds light on who's who in Kyrgyzstan's presidential race.

"Uzbeks seek refuge in Kyrgyzstan"
In the wake of the killings of protestors in Uzbekistan, refugees headed into neighboring Kyrgyzstan, according to this BBC News report.

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Society and Culture

"Incursions in Central Asia"
This December 2003 article from Time Asia Magazine provides a lighthearted snapshot of where to find "a little R. and R." in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. It mentions TsUM, the city's only department store, and nightclubs with such names as Zeppelin, Fatboys and SoHo.

Images by Jonathan Barth
Kyrgyzstan.htm Freelance photographer Jonathan Barth spent two years in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, for the Peace Corps, teaching English at a journalism training center. His photo portfolio on Kyrgyzstan contains images of traditional Kyrgyz society and culture, including photos of a game of Central Asian polo in which a goat or calf carcass is used in place of a ball. Accompanying captions provide insight into Kyrgyz dress, customs and daily life. Pictures from a refugee village inside Kyrgyzstan are also included.

UNESCO Culture Sector: Kyrgyzstan
UNESCO is sponsoring an ecotourism project in Kyrgyzstan in conjunction with the Novinomad Ecotourism Development Company. According to UNESCO, tourism in Kyrgyzstan is growing at an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent, with visitors attracted to the nation's Tien Shan mountain range and Lake Issyk-Kul, the second-largest high-altitude lake in the world. Read more about UNESCO's ecotourist activities, including yurt building, visiting nomads' homes and hunting with birds of prey.

"Military rivalry in Kyrgyzstan"
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas visits the U.S. and Russian military bases in Kyrgyzstan, which operate within 19 miles (30 km) of one another. (BBC News, October 25, 2003)

Kyrgyzstan Development Gateway
Kyrgyzstan Development Gateway, a private Internet portal, features a Web page that provides a good overview of Kyrgyz culture. A sidebar features links to information about Kyrgyz folk music, the national art museum, luminaries of Kyrgyz literature, and the Maria Callas of Kyrgyzstan, operatic great Kaiyrgul Sartbaeva.

American University-Central Asia
The American University-Central Asia, in Bishkek, was founded in 1997, in part with grants from George Soros' Open Institute and the U.S. State Department. Roughly 240 students enroll each year. Information about academic programs, student life and alumni news can be found at the site.

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Bride Kidnapping

"Frequency of Non-Consensual Bride Kidnapping in the Kyrgyz Republic" This 2003 paper originally appeared in the International Journal of Central Asian Studies and purports to be the first study to formally quantify the incidence of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan. The author, sociologist Russ L. Kleinbach, suggests that one in three Kyrgyz women may be married as a result of bride kidnapping, which is defined here as "the act of abducting a woman to marry her and includes actions ranging from consensual marriage to kidnapping, rape and forced marriage."

"International Human Rights Law and Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan," Part 2 Lori Handrahan spent two years living in Kyrgyzstan, working on her dissertation on ethnicity and gender relations in the country and raising awareness of human rights issues, including bride kidnapping. The first part of her series provides a cultural and historical context for bride kidnapping; the second part explores actions against the practice.

"Kyrgyz bride theft goes awry"
In 1999, BBC correspondent Sue Lloyd-Roberts traveled to Kyrgyzstan, where she witnessed the reaction of an unsuspecting young woman as the women of the would-be groom's house tried to place a headscarf on her head, thereby sealing her fate. Through intervention by Lloyd-Roberts and her translator, the girl's mother soon arrived and rescued her daughter. Streaming video of the correspondent's report can also be found here. (BBC News, "From our own correspondent -- Kyrgyz bride theft goes awry," March 22, 1999)

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Women's Rights/Human Rights

"Foundations for Gender Equality Firmly Established in Kyrgyzstan, According to Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee"
This January 2004 United Nations press release summarizes the findings of meetings called by the international Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to discuss the status of the Kyrgyz government's efforts to end various forms of violence and discrimination against women, including bride kidnapping.

"Kyrgyz Women Tell U.N. They Lack Basic Rights"
In January 2004, seven NGOs in Kyrgyzstan presented a report on the condition of women to the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women at the United Nations. According to the NGOs' representative, the Kyrgyz government has failed to substantively meet its obligations under the U.N.'s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, providing little more than lip service to the promotion of gender equality in the country. (Women's E-News, Ginger Adams Otis, January 18, 2004)

Human Rights Watch: Kyrgyzstan
Although Kyrgyzstan has enjoyed a reputation as being the most liberal of the five Central Asian republics, government actions taken against NGOs and media organizations as well as the increasing power consolidations under former President Askar Akaev alarmed many human rights watchdogs. Human Rights Watch's Kyrgyzstan Web page is replete with information about the state of human rights in the country. It includes the organization's entreaties to the government that replaced Akaev after citizens protesting a suspect parliamentary election forced him to resign.

Association of Crisis Centers in Kyrgyzstan
Founded in 2001, the Association of Crisis Centers in Kyrgyzstan (ACCK) is an NGO striving to promote a civil society free of violence and discrimination, particularly toward women. ACCK has eight centers in the country, provides training workshops, and lobbies the government for the better enforcement and expansion of legislation protecting women's rights.

Congress of Women of Kyrgyzstan
The Congress of Women of Kyrgyzstan (CWK) is an NGO supporting the advancement of women through education, business and increased political participation. It offers job and computer skills training and seminars on foreign languages and entrepreneurship. The organization also has partnered with the justice and agriculture ministries, the former assisting in the creation of a legal aid center at CWK and the latter assisting women in the acquisition of farm machinery.

Open Society Institute's Central Eurasia Initiatives
Billionaire philanthropist George Soros' Open Society Institute is a grant-making foundation whose affiliated network of organizations promote open societies by bringing about improvements in public health, human rights and economic reform in more than 50 countries. The Open Society Institute has several initiatives to advance human and women's rights in Central Asia through the Central Eurasia Project and grants to NGOs active in promoting human rights in Central Asia.

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Media Resources

Vecherny Bishkek
Operating for more than 28 years, the privately owned Vecherny Bishkek claims to be the largest-circulation daily newspaper in Central Asia. The paper's Web site is accessible in English, Russian and Kyrgyz.

Times of Central Asia
Online since 1999, the Times of Central Asia Web site offers regularly updated stories, published in English, from the five Central Asian republics and Afghanistan.

Accessible in English, Russian and Kyrgyz, Kabar is a state-run publication of the Kyrgyz National News Agency that presents daily news reports, official publications of domestic relevance and story-specific information. A sidebar feature showcases photos, mostly of a political nature.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Funded by the U.S. Congress, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty provides radio broadcasts and online news reports to 35 million people from Central Europe to Central Asia, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. The international news service broadcasts in 28 languages, including Kyrgyz.

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