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In Kyrgyzstan, a bride was kidnapped and killed right in the police building

In Bishkek, sentenced in a high-profile case of the abduction of the bride. 30-year-old Mars Bodoshev was sentenced to 20 years in a high-security penal colony with confiscation of property for murder and kidnapping in order to force him to marry.

Photo: Shutterstock

The court found that the fault of Bodoshev was fully proven. His accomplice in the abduction of Akmat Seitov received seven years in prison for complicity, writes with the BBC.

Kyrgyzstan is accused of insufficient efforts to combat this custom: according to the UN, 20% of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan are made by stealing a bride.

This year the name of Burulay became a common noun for Kyrgyzstanis. 19-year-old girl died in May at the hands of the man who stole her. He wanted to marry her. Recently, on the wall of the building of the medical college in the center of Bishkek, where the girl studied, her portrait appeared as a symbol of the fight against bride theft.

Burulai Turdaaly kyzy is one of thousands of girls in Kyrgyzstan who are stolen every year to force them into marriage. The human rights organization Freedom House estimates the number of such girls from 8 thousand to 12 thousand annually.

However, the most high-profile incident was the death of Burulai: the girl was killed by her captor right at the police station.

27 May Mars Bodoshev with his friend and classmate Akmat Seitov stole Burulai when she bought kefir in a kiosk near the house. Her parents immediately went to the police; a car with the kidnappers and a girl was detained at a traffic police post in 70 km from the capital.

"Bride kidnapping can lead to tragedy"

At the police station reception, where all three had been brought, the abductor locked the door from inside and, while the police broke out the door, stabbed Burulai and tried to kill himself.

Both were admitted to hospital in serious condition, Burulai could not be saved, and her captor left the hospital and is now convicted of murder.

23 of the internal affairs agencies, including the traffic police and the police station where Burulay was killed, were subject to disciplinary action; a criminal case was filed against five of them under the article on negligence.

“The death of Burulai could have been prevented, so let her case become a lesson for all Kyrgyzstanis - bride kidnapping can lead to tragedy. Young people should marry by mutual desire, and fathers should not bury their children, ”says Turdaaly Kozhonaliev, Burulai's father.

Parents of the girl were sued for seven months to prove that she was killed with extreme cruelty. They also accuse the police officers of having left the girl alone with their captor for such a long time.

They also expressed doubts about the accuracy of the results of the forensic medical examination, as they claim that the inscription “H + B” was carved on the girl's chest with a knife - from the capital letters of the name Burulai and her fiancé, with whom she became engaged shortly before the abduction.

Parents filed a lawsuit demanding 2 million soms (about 40 thousand dollars) as moral compensation. They demanded that the kidnapper's daughter be sentenced to life imprisonment and sought to ensure that Bodoshev would not be granted amnesty.

The court partially satisfied their demands: the Bodosheva family will pay thousands of soms to the injured party of 800 for material and moral damage. Burulai's parents say they feel their own guilt for not saving their daughter.

A month earlier, Mars Bodoshev had abducted this girl, but returned her home at the insistence of his relatives. Then the girl's parents did not file a petition with the police, not wanting, according to them, to wash dirty linen from the hut. Now they regret that they did not go to the police after the first attempt at abduction.

Parents of Burulai are supported by numerous human rights organizations, lawyers who work for free, and the public closely watching the process.

In court, Bodosheva’s defense tried to prove that Burulai had been kidnapped with her consent. Lawyers argued that young people had previously met. However, the court took into account the testimony of witnesses who saw the girl kidnapped.

"Happy Victim"

The bride kidnapping rite (in Kyrgyzstan it is called “ala kachuu”) is common in many countries with strong patriarchal traditions, including the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In Kyrgyzstan, this ritual, according to some sources, served as a means of marriage between representatives of different social groups, when the young could not obtain blessings from their parents or the groom could not pay a ransom for the bride.

According to Kyrgyz traditions, the potential bridegroom and his friends bring the stolen girl to their parents' house, where his relatives persuade her to put on a white headscarf as a sign of consent to become a bride.

Often in such cases, in order to convince a girl, women refer to themselves as a “lucky victim” who managed to create a prosperous family with their abductor.

Then the mullah comes to the house, performing a religious wedding ceremony, after which the relatives of the groom go to the girl’s family to report her marriage.

In Soviet times, this custom was practically eradicated, but with the collapse of the Union, it began to gain popularity again due to the economic instability in the country. At the same time, instead of staging the abduction of the bride - a ceremony that takes place with the consent of the girl - they often began to kidnap unfamiliar or unfamiliar girls.

According to the Kyrgyz State Penitentiary Service (GSIN), in just the past five years, only 895 women applied to the law enforcement agencies for the abduction and coercion to marry, more than 80% of the applications were withdrawn.

As a result, a criminal case was filed with 161, and only 73 people under the article for the theft of girls serve their sentences conditionally. As reported by the State Bureau of Punishment, at the 2018 year in prisons there is not a single person serving a term for abduction and forced marriage.

The fact that very few of the abducted brides apply to the police about forced marriage. This is due to the lack of support. If a girl decides to file an application, she often faces condemnation from relatives and society.

“The problem is that girls and their loved ones do not know their rights. And even if they declare the fact of abduction, the investigators often do not want to open a case, persuading the victim to remain the daughter-in-law in the house. If, nevertheless, it was possible to bring the case to court, the judges are already putting pressure on the victim, and so the circle closes. The problem lies in the public conscience, ”says Munara Beknazarova, head of the Open Line Foundation, which provides assistance to victims of such abductions.

Why is the law not working?

Abduction of girls in order to force them to marry was considered a crime in Kyrgyzstan in 1994. In 2013, by the efforts of dozens of human rights organizations, criminal punishment for this was toughened: the thieves now face threats from 7 to 10 years in prison.

However, after this abduction of girls did not stop. The problem also lies in the fact that kidnappers and victims often perceive theft as custom and not a crime.

At the same time, ineffective methods of fighting this tradition damage the reputation of Kyrgyzstan in the international arena.

After the killing of Burulai, the UN agencies in Kyrgyzstan and Amnesty International called on the authorities to take all the necessary measures to stop such practices and implement the laws and international treaties to which the country had previously joined.

So far, only human rights defenders are actively fighting this practice in Kyrgyzstan. The Open Line Foundation has been working with kidnapping victims for nine years. It all started with documenting the cases of the kidnapping of girls, says Munara Beknazarova.

“When we started touring the regions, we realized that these egregious crimes are happening because the public sees it through a false lens. It is believed that there is nothing wrong with this if a guy falls in love with a girl - after all, this is about high feelings, ”she says.

However, in practice, abduction often ends in rape, after which the girl is forced to become the wife of her abductor and rapist due to social stigma.

In the regions, ala-kachuu happen twice as often as in the capital - mainly due to the girls' ignorance of their rights and the uncertainty that after being kidnapped they will be accepted in their own family.

Open Line told the story of one of these girls to government deputies ahead of a 2012 meeting on tougher punishment for kidnapping women.

Gulmira (name changed) for ten days fought off rape attempts by her kidnapper, before attempting suicide.

She was returned to her parental home in a state of coma, in which she stayed for three months, after which she remained disabled. Now she can not work and lives on a disability pension. As a result, deputies adopted amendments toughening penalties for bride theft.

Now, Munara, together with other human rights activists, is working to ensure that Kyrgyzstanis, especially in the regions, know more about their rights and the punishment for bride kidnapping.

A hotline and an application have been launched that allow citizens to report incidents of violence. Sometimes it bears fruit: once an 13-year-old teenager reacted to the bride theft.

“He reported the kidnapping of a tenth-grade girl in the north of the country. I reported to the police, and within half an hour the girl was rescued, ”says Munara.

The death of Burulai shocked the Kyrgyz people, but they are still not ready to speak openly about the problem of bride kidnapping in the country. TV presenter Aliya Suranova appealed to celebrities and public figures of Kyrgyzstan with an appeal to speak out against the abduction of girls - only a few responded.

“People don't want to talk about someone else's grief. But the grief is not someone else's, and if the state does not cope, the public should take the initiative and raise these topics so that ala-kachuu becomes a taboo in our society, ”says Aliya Suranova.

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