Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia
Political Leader: President Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev
Predominant Religions: Islam 78.1%, Christianity 7.8%
Persecution Ranking: Not Ranked
Number of Terrorist Groups: 3
Acts of Terrorism: 13; Casualties: 27
Percent of Corruption: 78%
% of People in Poverty: 40%
The name Kyrgyz, both for the people as well as the nation, means “forty girls,” which is a reference to the epic legend of forty tribes uniting together in the ninth century to fight against the Mongols. A country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864 and was one of the first Russian republics to achieve independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991.
The Kyrgyz were first introduced to Islam during the seventeenth century, and within two hundred years, they had been completely converted to Islam. However, the conversion was superficial and influenced by earlier tribal customs. Today, most Kyrgyz still consider themselves to be Muslim, although in urban areas this is more a “cultural background” and less a firmly held belief. During a July 2007 interview, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of former president Askar Akayev, stated that Islam is increasingly taking root in Kyrgyzstan. She emphasized that many mosques have been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to the religion, which she noted is "not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society more moral, cleaner." Spiritism continues its grip on the Kyrgyz. Fear of the ‘evil eye,’ use of amulets, the occult, shaman priests, and demonization are widespread.
Bride kidnapping is widely perceived to be an ‘authentic Kyrgyz tradition.’ The practice has experienced a resurgence in popularity since the country’s separation from Russia in 1991. The young woman, usually below the age of 25, is forcibly taken from wherever she happens to be, sometimes by a complete stranger who saw and fancied her. The abduction can occur through force or deception, such as offering someone a ride home, then kidnapping them instead. At the home of the abductor, the groom, his friends, and his female relatives employ physical force and psychological coercion to compel the captured girl to agree to the marriage and submit to having the marriage scarf placed on her head – the sign that she consents to marry her abductor. If she resists, the process can last for hours or days. Sometimes she is raped prior to her consent in order to shame her to stay rather than go home disgraced.
Like trafficking victims, abducted brides are victims of force, fraud, and coercion – tightly and often brutally controlled by their husbands. Cultural traditions reinforce community acceptance of this sex crime. It is estimated that up to one-third of all ethnic Kyrgyz women in Kyrgyzstan have been wedded in non-consensual bride kidnappings.
The government of Kyrgyzstan takes a passive role in addressing this human rights violation, portraying bride-kidnapping as a harmless ritual and voluntary practice. Instead of attaining safety and access to justice, girls are encouraged to reconcile with their abusers. This failure to respond adequately to stop abduction for forced marriage constitutes a breach of the government’s obligations under various international human rights instruments.
- Pray for the basic right of freedom to be restored to the women of Kyrgyzstan, who are imprisoned by their culture’s traditions.
- Pray that more Kyrgyz will learn the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in turn share its light many times over with their friends and families.
- Pray that the dark spiritual forces that hold Kyrgyzstan in darkness will be banished.
- Pray for a strong Christian Church in Kyrgyzstan.
Human Rights Watch, Climbing for Christ, Bethany World Prayer Center’s Global 12 Project, United Nations Population Fund (heavily siting the International Journal of Central Asian Studies, Vol 8. 2003), The World Factbook