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For centuries, Kyrgyzstan was a remote, mountainous outpost along the Silk Road to China. Under Soviet rule, few Westerners ventured here. But since the country gained independence, Kyrgyzstan is slowly opening to the West.
“Women should be beaten every day," says Kamilla,* repeating the grim words of her deceased sister’s husband. At 19, he forcibly kidnapped her sister Kulipa for marriage. “The marriage was a nightmare,” recalls Kamilla, trembling from the memory of her sister’s suffering.The practice of bride kidnapping is widespread in Kyrgyzstan and is still considered by some as a valuable tradition.
A wedding in Kyrgyzstan is a huge celebration. For most girls it is an event they await from their birth. Parents spend a great amount of money preparing the dowry and the feast. However, there is one moment that can ruin not only the outcome of the event and the fate of the bride, but also tarnish the family honor - the display of the first night bed sheet. A great disgrace befalls a woman whose sheet remains clean. Ironically, at the same time it is expected that the man should have had a sexual experience before the marriage, and it is a great shame for him to be a virgin at his wedding. These traditional views vividly display that women in Kyrgyzstan not only lack sexual rights, but are even stigmatized for their choices.
When Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva was selected to be President of Kyrgyzstan, she became the first woman head of state in the predominantly Muslim Central Asian region. And she also took on a mission. Her mission is to pave the way for parliamentary democracy in a country that was formerly a part of the Soviet Union. Her first task was to stabilise the situation arising out of the ethnic clashes in the southern city of Osh, which is her hometown. Her next job will be to conduct free and fair parliamentary elections, and then clear the way for her people to elect a new president.
Often called the Switzerland of Central Asia, mountainous and ethnically diverse Kyrgyzstan was once touted as a success case for peaceful coexistence. Now, following violent clashes in June between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, ethnic tension is threatening to topple the stability of the entire region. But, a well-organized and thriving women's movement could pull Kyrgzstan back from the brink.
Human rights defenders Ms Tolekan Ismailova and Ms Aziza Abdirasulova have been subjected to interrogation and intimidation in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, following their activities monitoring the human rights situation in southern Kyrgyzstan in the wake of inter-ethnic fighting.
La situation se stabilisait lentement mardi dans le sud du Kirghizstan, a indiqué un responsable de la région d'Och, après quatre jours de violences interethniques qui ont fait au moins 170 morts et plus de 1 700 blessés."La nuit dernière a été plus ou moins calme dans la région par rapport à la nuit précédente. De nombreux membres des forces de l'ordre (...) assurent la sécurité et le passage de convois humanitaires", a déclaré un responsable du ministère de l'intérieur."Le grand problème reste la propagation parmi la population de rumeurs provocatrices qui créent la panique et attisent les tensions", a-t-il poursuivi.
A group of UN human rights experts* today expressed their alarm and deep concern about ethnic tensions that have erupted into violence in the south of Kyrgyzstan, including the cities of Osh and Jalalabad. The violence has reportedly claimed the lives of over one hundred and left many hundreds more injured. A state of emergency has been declared in the region following the outbreak of violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. The situation has dramatically deteriorated since 11 June with reports of continuing killings and the burning of residences, shops and other properties.
The appointment of Roza Otunbaeva as head of state for a transition period of a year and a half is an attempt to ensure Kyrgyzstan has a strong hand on the tiller until the planned political reforms have taken root. The reasons for elevating Otunbaeva, named as acting prime minister in the administration that came to power in early April, are understandable. There are, however, also a number of problems and potential pitfalls associated with the decision. The interim government took control following the popular unrest of April 6 and 7, which swept former president Kurmanbek Bakiev from power.