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Though how it came about is less clear. There is no mention of it in the epic poem of Manas , a legendary figure revered in Kyrgyz tradition, which academics say is quite telling.

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Today, bride kidnapping is illegal by Kyrgyz law, Islamic law — the predominant religion in the country — and international law. With data suggesting the practice rose in recent decades along with post-Soviet Kyrgyz nationalism, Babaiarova, 38, is trying to re-educate her country village by village via her Kyz Korgon Institute. Still, Babaiarova escaped. She was lucky. Her dad held strong and demanded to hear from his daughter directly.

As one of 11 children in rural Kyrgyzstan, Babaiarova and her sisters were not forced to wear headscarves, and the family emphasized higher education. Kleinbach co-founded the Institute in with Babaiarova after working on a university project together. Their research, published in , found that their methods reduced non-consensual kidnapping some people stage kidnappings for pageantry and to save on marriage costs from 51 percent to 27 percent of their interviewees.

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Kyrgyzstan's kidnapped brides use fashion and flags to end marriage taboo - Reuters

But for Kyrgyzstan to experience its MeToo moment and fully squelch the practice will take a major cultural shift. But refining the Kyz Korgon curriculum and reaching more people requires more international money, and the group lives from grant to grant. She seems to have an urgent need to be useful and spends her free time learning languages. Babaiarova would like to continue working in human rights and perhaps become a lawyer, and she would consider returning to her homeland one day.

Now as MeToo has spread around the globe, women are speaking out more, not just on bride kidnapping but the scourge of domestic violence and harassment in Kyrgyzstan. But the practice remains stubbornly pervasive. The most recent data from the United Nations Development Program finds that They found that children born to kidnapped brides weighed 80 to grams less than infants born in arranged marriages.

Lower birthweights have also been linked to greater risk of disease. Some defend bride kidnapping, pointing to its long tradition in Kyrgyz society, said Becker, who has worked in Kyrgyzstan for the Asian Development Bank and the American University of Central Asia. Clearly there are. Other researchers have found similarly lower birthweights among babies whose mothers were assaulted during pregnancy.


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Few researchers have attempted to measure the damage wrought by forced marriage. However, brides in forced marriages have previously reported high rates of depression, self-harm and even suicide. Bride kidnapping once extended across much of the world, and has since vanished from most countries.

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The authors focused on Kyrgyzstan, a country of about 5. During Soviet times, bride kidnapping was banned, but in the past decade, the old tradition has revived, especially in rural areas. Jumankul, 19, is under pressure from his parents to marry and bring home a wife who can help work on the family farm. Jumankul tells Petr and Fatima that he's seen a girl in Osh whom he likes and plans to drive to the city in a few hours to kidnap her.

THE KIDNAPPED BRIDE

But when they get to Osh, Jumankul can't find the girl. The group drops by a vodka stand to try to find out where she lives, but the girl working there suspects a kidnapping and refuses to tell Jumankul's brother, Ulan, the address of the girl. Not wanting to return home empty-handed, Jumankul and his friends decide to change plans and kidnap the girl in the vodka bar. Her name is Ainagul, and by the time Petr and Fatima return to Jumankul's village outside of Osh, she has been resisting a room full of women for more than ten hours.

Though Jumankul's older brother claims her family has already agreed to the kidnapping, Ainagul stands in a corner of the room, crying, and continuing to fend off the women who take turns trying to put the wedding scarf on her head. After the oldest woman in the village makes a final attempt, telling Ainagul to stay or she will be unhappy, the women give up.


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  • Her ordeal over, Ainagul is free to go. Once she has left, the women sit outside Jumankul's home and curse the departed girl. They say that her child will be a drunk and that her mother-in-law will be cruel. Jumankul, too, is upset and worries that he will never find a bride who will stay. Petr and Fatima catch up with Ainagul two weeks later in Osh, where she is living with relatives.

    Brides by Force. Marriage by kidnapping pushes Kyrgyz women to suicide

    She is still shaken from the experience, looking down while she speaks. You build your own future.

    The Kidnapped Bride

    Follow others, you'll be unhappy. I'd have lived in the mountains and tended sheep. I'd be a sheep too.