What A Pretty - Let's Steal: How Bride Kidnapping Works

A life 2023

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What A Pretty - Let's Steal: How Bride Kidnapping Works
What A Pretty - Let's Steal: How Bride Kidnapping Works
Video: What A Pretty - Let's Steal: How Bride Kidnapping Works
Video: Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan 2023, February

In winter, it was published on YouTube video of the kidnapping of a girl at the entrance to a shopping center in Vladikavkaz: three guys throw a cloak over her and drag her to the car. On the way, the kidnapper drops the victim's head twice on the asphalt. The video caused a violent reaction on social networks: some worried about the girl's health, others blamed expensive wedding ceremonies for the growing popularity of thefts, and still others signed a petition addressed to the head of the republic demanding a ban on bride kidnapping and criminal punishment. In early May, the topic of bride kidnapping returned to the information space. Then in several Russian media there were reports that a deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Ingushetia had stolen a woman to force her to marry. He himself denies this and says that he married according to Muslim traditions without registering with a registry office.

In the North Caucasus, religious leaders publicly condemn this practice, and in some republics fines have been imposed for bride kidnapping. But it is unclear whether this solved the problem or whether it simply fades into the shadows: there are no exact statistics on the number of victims, and the topic remains poorly researched. We decided to find out where bride kidnapping is still relevant and why this violent practice has not yet been eradicated.

Text: Lera Shvets

From imitation to violence

Cholpon from Bishkek did not know her abductor, and he had seen her a couple of times before the theft. He spooled up the girl at the entrance, grabbed and dragged her to the car. “I didn't scream or swear,” Cholpon recalls. - I just asked where and why we were going. And they answered: "We stole you." I explained that my sister was waiting for me at the market and asked to warn her. I hoped she would help me. I promised that if they call her, I will drive in silence all the way. In the end, they agreed."

The abductors took Cholpon to the regional center two hours from Bishkek. Halfway through, she wanted to go to the toilet, and the men agreed to stop at a cafe on the sidelines. “In the toilet I met an apache (an elderly woman. - Approx. ed.) about seventy years old. “Apashka,” I tell her. - I was stolen. Can you please call my brother and tell me where they are taking me? But she said she would remember her brother's number. I didn't believe her much, but I don't think I was, and dictated the number. She offered to pick me up straight from the cafe, but I refused. The guys who stole me had three cars, ten guys. They wouldn't listen to older people."

When the men took Cholpon to the abductor's house, a crowd of people was already waiting for them in the street - the villagers. Cholpon says that she entered the house without a scandal and went into the room where brides usually sit. “They began to put on a headscarf for me (a white headscarf means that the girl agrees to become a bride. - Ed.). And I said: “Sorry, let's make an agreement first. I do not know you. All the more so for your son. " My family is also from a small village, but our brides are not forcibly left behind. Sometimes they try to persuade or talk to relatives. But those who kidnapped me didn't even call my parents,”she says.

Of all the post-Soviet countries in Kyrgyzstan, the problem of bride kidnapping is the most talked about. Although officially less than a hundred thefts of women are registered there annually, the UN refers to statistics of 10 thousand cases a year. The Open Line public foundation in Bishkek has been working with the problem of bride kidnapping since 2009. Representatives of the foundation develop materials to help victims, shoot information videos, cooperate with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and accompany girls at court sessions. According to the head of the fund, Munara Beknazarova, work ten years ago began with documentation in the regions. Then it was believed that all bride kidnapping occurs by agreement.Foundation employees decided to check whether this is so, and, having traveled around the country, collected and described 293 stories. Most of them were violent.

Munara explains that arranged marriages in Soviet times were concluded like this: "If a girl and a guy wanted to get married, he said: 'Be ready for such and such an hour, I will take you to your parents." It was an imitation of theft with the prior consent of the bride. At home, the groom prepared, invited guests, and the girl sent a letter to her parents that she was stolen, but she decided to stay. " After the collapse of the USSR, unemployment and crime increased - this led to a resurgence of violent practices. “When we went across the country in 2009 to document cases of ala-kachuu, we met different things,” recalls Munara. - Many cars travel through the Suusamyr valley from Bishkek to the south, to the city of Osh. On the pass they sell kumis, gasoline, food. The car stopped to refuel, and the two guys talk to each other: “Look, what a pretty girl. Let's steal. " She hears their conversation, runs away to the yurt, hides under the bed. They follow her, drag her by the hair, put her in a car and take her away. It was a shock for us ten years ago."


Substitution of traditions

Svetlana Anokhina, editor-in-chief of the Daptar portal, also says that the problem of bride kidnapping in Dagestan intensified in the post-Soviet years. Traditionally, bride kidnapping was not widespread in the region and took place in isolated villages where the practice was considered acceptable. “In the 90s, the rampant banditry had to be covered up with something - you can't just say: I am a rapist and do what I want. Therefore, violent practices were justified by old foundations, rituals and precepts of ancestors. They refer us to a culture where a man is a “brave warrior” and a “bearer of masculine dignity”. Of course, kidnapping a woman fits in well. Several years ago, a local representative of the diaspora came to Dagestan from Estonia. He was with his daughter to show her the noble land of his ancestors. And she was stolen. The bride's dad was a fairly wealthy person, it was a theft of the calculation: why woo for a long time, it is better to steal. There is money and position - the boy is settled”(student Aminat Makhmudova was eventually rescued from the kidnappers. - Approx. ed.).

The interlocutors of Wonderzine say that in order to save money, the theft can be arranged by agreement between the bride and groom. For example, Gaukhar from Kazakhstan and her fiancé imitated theft after parents postponed their wedding due to lack of money: “On the appointed day, I left the house as if to a store, and we left by car to him. When we arrived, we performed all the necessary ceremonies. We were betrothed by the mullah. " “Unfortunately, today bride theft is perceived as an alternative to a magnificent wedding,” muses the coordinator of weddings Madina Makoeva from Vladikavkaz in a conversation with Daptar journalists. - People believe that if they steal their chosen one, it will be economically beneficial for them. But we forget that the tradition of the Ossetian wedding ceremony is not in a restaurant for a thousand people, but in the fact that, according to custom, you take the girl from your father’s house”. The Ossetian philologist Tamerlan Kambolov agrees with Madina: “The Ossetian language itself evaluates this rite. There is an expression [which translates as] "to marry or bring a bride according to tradition, according to ritual, according to custom." Accordingly, otherwise, that is, by abduction, this is already outside the tradition."

Several years ago, a local representative of the diaspora with his daughter came to Dagestan from Estonia. And she was stolen. It was a theft of calculation: why woo for a long time, we'd rather steal it

According to Svetlana Anokhina, despite the fact that the spiritual leaders of Islam openly condemn the practice of bride kidnapping, the belief in customs is strong in society. The need for violent practices is still explained by “traditions”: “Recently, an English journalist and I discussed the topic of bride kidnapping, and I proposed to approach a group of young people and ask their opinion.One answered that everything went to dust and everyone forgot the traditions. " Earlier, he explained, if a man stole a girl and entered into a relationship with her, then she already belonged to him. And now, the young man was indignant, she takes it and returns to her parents - and they take her back home. “I looked at him like a piano speaking,” Svetlana recalls in a conversation. - The boy looked very modern, more like a hipster. He has a good speech, he is well dressed, we met him at a party place. Therefore, I could not imagine that he had such a terrible mess in his head. He seriously said that to accept back a daughter who had been stolen and dishonored is a fall in morals. Leaving a daughter in the kidnapper's family is the support of traditions."


Law and order

In 2013, local deputies in Kyrgyzstan passed a bill to toughen criminal penalties for bride kidnapping. Then the Open Line Foundation campaigned in the parliament building. The head of the fund, Munar Beknazarova, explains that the action deliberately addressed the deputies directly. “For the third decisive hearing, we have prepared a letter of appeal from a real victim of ala-kachuu. In a letter, she says that she was stolen and resisted for ten days. At some point, she froze and asked for something warm. She was given a dressing gown of her grandmother, in whose pocket there were medicines for diabetes mellitus - the grandmother, apparently, put them there so as not to forget to drink. The girl drank the entire package and fell into a coma. She says in her letter: “For three months I was between life and death, survived, but now I have a disability. And my kidnapper was not brought to justice. He got married and started a family. And I was deprived of all this. I give you my bride's flower, it will no longer be useful to me. Before you reject the bill, consider how many of these flowers you can get. " The letter was read out in parliament, and we presented each deputy with a bride's flower. They voted to toughen the criminal penalty up to ten years in prison."

Russian law does not specifically regulate bride kidnapping. There is an article of the Criminal Code on kidnapping, which presupposes that the kidnapper is relieved of responsibility upon the voluntary release of the victim, “if his actions do not contain a different corpus delicti”. In reality, it turns out that a woman forced into marriage often does not have any legal protection. According to the Ingush theologian and TV presenter Akhmed Tangiyev, it is the rare appeal to the authorities and the absence of further criminal punishment that prevents the final eradication of this violent practice. In an interview with the Dozhd TV channel, he explains that families often resolve the issue without contacting the police: “If a person has stolen, he must be given a time limit, let him sit. And according to custom, it often happens that he is simply forgiven. Influential people ask the family to forgive him, to resolve the issue peacefully. And people forgive."


An attempt was made to impose a legislative ban on bride kidnapping in Ingushetia in 2017. Then the local parliament submitted to the State Duma a bill on criminal punishment for this violent practice - but it was rejected. So far, a fine of 200 thousand rubles has been introduced in the republic. In neighboring Chechnya, the penalty for stealing a bride is also in the form of a fine, but there it is significantly higher - a million rubles. Ramzan Kadyrov introduced this measure in 2010 - and in 2016 announced that the practice had been eradicated in the republic.

Irina Kosterina, gender researcher and program coordinator of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia, says that theft has become much less common in both republics due to fines. “If a girl from an influential family, who can come into conflict with the kidnapper's relatives, the girl can be handed over without any consequences or the kidnapper will pay an informal fine to her family,” she says. At the same time, it is difficult to track the statistics of thefts, according to Kosterina.After all, even violent cases, when both the girl and her relatives are against, are not necessarily registered: bride kidnapping is rooted in the local culture and the police may not see corpus delicti in this.


From generation to generation

The Sezim Crisis Center in Bishkek has existed for 21 years. Its history is closely intertwined with the women's movement in Kyrgyzstan: employees of the center are engaged in protection from gender and family violence and human trafficking. “Women come to us with the consequences of ala-kachuu. These are women in crisis after domestic violence,”explains Meerim Kadyrkulova, the center's program coordinator. - We receive them in a shelter or in a transit-social house and then we discover that the family was formed as a result of theft. That is, the woman was kidnapped, stayed, started a family with the kidnapper, and subsequently became a victim of domestic violence. Everyone who turns to us at the crisis center for help - after the ala-kachuu, everyone ended up with domestic violence, both physical and psychological."

“For many years I have lived between two fires. It was a shame to return to my parents, they drove me back, and life in my husband's family cannot be called sweet,”recalls Akzer, a resident of Kazakhstan, who was stolen by a friend of her acquaintance. - Every day in the house there were screams, quarrels, mother-in-law and elder sister of my husband did not give me life. Both my husband and his parents, and the pharmacy (older sister. - Ed. Note) raised a hand against me."

Meerim Kadyrkulova believes that the main reason for the violent thefts is the continuing orientation towards a subordinate position of women. And the tradition, in her opinion, is supported not only by men: “Women often reassure a stolen girl by the fact that they, too, were once kidnapped, but they have many children and are happy. They have experienced violence, but they support this practice themselves and pass it on to the next generation. " According to Meerim, in Kyrgyzstan, the mother-in-law and other women from the kidnapper's family play one of the key roles in this violent practice: “Mother-in-law, aunts, sisters - all of them are directly involved in the abduction. The men bring the stolen girl home, but then the women are involved. Until the girl sat down in a headscarf, it is believed that she is not yet a bride. The headscarf symbolizes that the girl remains in the house and becomes a wife. When by persuasion, and when screaming, they put this scarf on her. It can take hours."

The stolen girl was waiting for her mother in the hope that she would take her back home. And my mother conveyed through her relatives that it was worth staying: the house and family are good, the people are wealthy and promised to pay for their studies.

Cholpon, who was stolen in Bishkek and brought to the village three hours from the capital, was tortured by the kidnapper's relatives for six hours. “At first, my mother tried to put on a scarf on me. They forcibly held my hand, but I didn’t give in. Then the neighbors tried it and some other relatives. Then they wanted to put on the robe, held my hands on both sides and pulled it over me. I am an educated person, with a diploma, I tell them: “I’m not a thing, just to take me and take me home”. The neighbors began to be indignant: “Don't let her talk. She must obey. " In the morning I didn’t have time for breakfast. I was hungry and thirsty. But the Kyrgyz have a custom - if you are not going to stay in this house, then you should not try anything. They offered me food, I said I didn't want to. They brought water, I also refused it. I kept repeating: “Now is the modern world, democracy. Now everyone has to fight for their own destiny. " And the women answered me: “We all went through this. This is how I came to this family, and so did she. So what? We live normally. " “Who will think of me?” I asked in response,”she says.

According to Meerim Kadyrkulova, if a girl resists strongly, the oldest woman lies down across the threshold and says that she will curse if she steps over her. “This symbolic gesture scares many girls. I know of few cases when a girl was able to step over an elderly woman.But if she leaves, it will have a strong resonance in the local community,”Kadyrkulova said. Munara Beknazarova confirms that there are much fewer girls who are not afraid of curses than those who are under the influence of imposed stereotypes: “If you live in a village, you have no examples when a girl dared to leave her kidnapper. On the contrary, you see that, as a rule, the girls stay with him, the whole village supports it, goes to the wedding, brings gifts and congratulates the kidnapper as a real horseman who “conquered” her."

The girl's relatives often play a decisive role: the older generation, as a rule, does not want publicity and invites her to stay. “My parents arrived only for lunch the next day. When they entered the house, they told me that everyone in our village already knew about the abduction. If I came home, it would be a shame for my family. Even in the future, I would not have been able to get married because of this stigma,”recalls the abduction of Gulmira from Kazakhstan. - There would be rumors, and the family of the future groom would not like it. And I decided to stay so as not to embarrass my family. Yes, I was under pressure and it was a lot of stress. Of course, I was scared. But I resigned myself."

Munara talks about a case from Jalal-Abad: a kidnapped girl was waiting for her mother in the hope that she would take her back home. And my mother conveyed through her relatives that she should stay: the house and family are good, the people are wealthy and they promised to pay for their studies. “The girl wrote on the social network that she could not bring herself to stay and that she would commit suicide if she was not taken away. As a result, her friends and activists contacted us, and we contacted the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The task force on duty took her away from the abductor and brought her to the station. The investigator invited her mother for questioning: “The girl says that she does not know the kidnapper and does not want to stay with him.” And the mother replies that this is not so: the daughter knew the kidnapper and went to see him herself,”says Munara.

The girl was shocked that her mother gave false testimony, she was confused and did not understand where to go. For some time she lived with her friends, and then the foundation helped her move to Bishkek - first she was placed in a crisis center, and then in a social home. “She was depressed. Before that, she had her usual circle, and so she dropped out of society, - explains Munara. - The society in which she lived condemns leaving the kidnapper. She cannot stay with them and accept their values, but she is not used to living alone either. When discussing the departure of the victim, it is important to remember that, on the one hand, stereotypes press on the girl - you must be silent and not contradict your elders. On the other hand, they were not taught to live independently. We have few crisis centers that could accept girls for a long time and help them with socialization."

There are also situations when the rite of abduction is accompanied by sexual violence - and humiliation also puts pressure on women. Munara Beknazarova explains that the kidnappers also use the stereotype that a girl must remain a virgin until she gets married: “Many men think that if the wedding night takes place, the girl will not go anywhere. It is believed that her status will immediately change and, most likely, no one else will marry her. In our practice, there was such a case. The girl was finishing her fifth year at university when a boyfriend stole her. He first raped her, and then brought her home. With the words "Now you won't go anywhere" I went to bed. The girl was able to escape and went to another region to her sister. But all the time after the violence, she told herself that she had no right to marry a guy who was not married, because now she herself has a “divorced” status. She programmed herself so and married a widower with two children. She agreed with him that she would look after his children and do homework, and he would never remind her that he took her as a non-virgin. He promised her this, but she told us that in the end the reproaches were constant."

Unlike the others, Cholpon's story ended well.Towards evening, when she already thought that she would have to stay with the kidnapper, police officers entered the house and took her out into the street. “Nobody said anything across them. Not a single guy was left on the street, only elderly people were standing. Already in the car on the way to the police station, they told me that my grandmother, whom I met on the way to the cafe, remembered my brother's number and called him. She wrote down all the numbers of the cars and said to which village they were taking me. The brothers immediately left for me, and at the local office they wrote a statement about the theft of a person. But I asked that these guys not be imprisoned, but simply taught a lesson so that they know that it is impossible to treat a person this way. When I got home, I called that grandmother and thanked her. And my kidnapper turned out to be an acquaintance of my cousin, who was waiting for me at the market. She told him my home address. Since then, I have not communicated with her. He himself was detained and put in the police station, but not for long. He gave a bribe, it seems to me, and left. After this story, the brothers took turns taking me away from work: I was afraid of revenge for not staying in that house and writing a statement. If my boyfriend stole me, my family would probably ask me if I agree. And if this is a guy I've never met, then, of course, they are totally against it. All my brothers got married as normal people - they talked, were friends for a long time and got married."

Photos: Wikipedia (1, 2), Flickr / Evgeni Zotov, Getty Images

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