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Woman’s Brutal Assault Highlights Police Failures in Kyrgyzstan

Authorities Should Step Up Domestic Violence Protections


 Women march marking the International Women's Day in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, March 8, 2023. © 2023 Vladimir Voronin/AP Photo

On Wednesday morning, Bermet (not her real name), a 36-year-old Kyrgyz woman, was found drenched in blood at her home in the Bishkek suburbs, with her nose and ears cut off and multiple knife wounds on her face and arms. Her attacker, Bermet’s former husband and father to their two children, assaulted the officers as he fled, but they apprehended him. Their youngest child, a 10-year-old boy, was at home during the assault.

After nearly eight hours of surgery, Bermet is in critical but stable condition, though more surgery lies ahead.

The media has reported that since their separation five years ago, Bermet’s ex-husband had repeatedly attacked her, beating, raping, and even attempting to kill her.

Over the past two years, Bermet had reported attacks by her ex-husband to police, including rape and physical abuse. Although police detained him and opened at least two criminal investigations, Bermet withdrew her complaints. Police released him each time, at least once on probationary supervision. According to her sister, Bermet’s ex-husband’s family pressured her to drop the complaints in exchange for his relinquishing parental rights.

Because Bermet withdrew her claims, police considered the situation resolved via “reconciliation,” which the domestic violence law allows as grounds for dismissing charges.

Despite Bermet’s family providing photographic documentation of her ex-husband’s assaults, police said repeatedly that they would not act unless he killed her – a response familiar to women experiencing domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan. Three days before the assault, Bermet asked district police for protection, as her ex-husband had been stalking her for a week, waiting outside her house and threatening her.

Her ex-husband is now charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm, punishable with up to eight years in prison. Two members of Kyrgyz parliament raised the case in parliament on Thursday, calling for harsher measures to tackle domestic violence. In Kyrgyzstan, only 2,709 of 6,580 registered domestic violence cases went to trial in 2022. Human Rights Watch and other groups have repeatedly urged Kyrgyz’s authorities to investigatedomestic violence reports, issue and enforce protection orders, abstain from pressuring survivors to reconcile with their attackers, and bring perpetrators to justice. 

This case shows, yet again, that authorities’ failure to act putswomen at risk of injury or even death. Kyrgyz authorities must stop relegating domestic violence to an afterthought and recognize it as the crisis it is.

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