Protestors take to streets in Kyrgyzstan to demand ban against 'bride kidnapping' after young woman murdered by her captor
The practice, also known as 'bridenapping,' used to be a widespread phenomenon in the Caucasus and in several Asian nations. Nowadays, most abductions are purely ceremonial and a tribute to previous tradition. However, in Kyrgyzstan, there are still some cases where the bride has not consented.
On April 5, a 27-year-old woman named Aizada Kanatbekova was kidnapped by a group of unknown assailants. Following an investigation, the police quickly identified the would-be groom as Zamirbek Tenizbayev. Later that evening, they reached Tenizbayev by phone, who replied that he intended to marry Kanatbekova. He then turned off the device, and the police failed to find him.
Two days later, the bodies of Kanatbekova and her captor were found in a field near Bishkek in the suspect's car. According to the local cops, Tenizbayev strangled her because of a verbal altercation, after which he committed suicide.
A video of the moment she was captured was later published online, showing three men wrestle her into a car while passers-by ignore the crime.
A day later, following the news that the kidnapped woman had been killed, about 300 people protested outside the Interior Ministry in the capital, demanding that the law be changed and that the tradition – known locally as 'ala kachuu' – be made illegal. According to the media, the demonstrators chanted slogans such as "resign," "shame," and "how many of us have to die to stop kidnapping us?"
In response, recently-elected president Sadyr Japarov said that he would take the Kanatbekova case under his personal control. The country's interior ministry revealed that 43 police officers have been disciplined due to the negligent investigation, with the capital's police chief and deputy head being fired.
Four accomplices of the apparent killer have been detained.
In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases of bride kidnapping, causing some to demand a complete end to the practice. According to political analyst Azhdar Kurtov, the capture of women on the street has become more common in the years since Kyrgyz independence.
"In Kyrgyzstan, in conditions of extreme poverty and rampant nationalism, many customs from the past have received a new life," he told the newspaper Izvestia.
During the Soviet Union, when local traditions were repressed in favor of a pan-soviet identity, bride abduction was far less common. When the USSR collapsed, the countries began to regain their national characteristics.
According to Mikhail Romanenko, a specialist in the culture of the Caucasus, the tradition has persisted until the modern-day because of 'kalym,' a ransom payment given by the groom to the bride's parents, similar to a dowry.
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