Stolen Voices: Firsthand Stories of Women Abducted for Forced Marriage in Kyrgyzstan
Full Report Press Release
The use of force in bride-kidnapping
"I tried to fight them off, but the men were strong"
He wanted to elope and I didn't want to without my mother around. My mother didn't agree to the marriage…. He kidnapped me. He always used to take me home and that night he didn't. I didn't want to, both our mothers objected. We'd dated a long time. He said, "OK," because I said I didn't want to get married…. We went to the house and his grandmother came out with the scarf; she tried to put the scarf on my head and the men forced me out of the car and put me in the house and locked me in. I cried and screamed. In the car, I tried to fight them off, but the men were strong. They brought the wedding clothes and I tried to fight them off. They tried to convince me. His grandmother lay over the threshold; if you cross over her, you'll have a terrible life. Then I cried. Then he came and tried to convince me… I had to marry him. My girlfriend tried to convince me also. The first day, they waited for my agreement. The second day, they brought my mother. She said, "Well, you've already been there a day so there's nothing else to do." They called the mullah and the wedding took place and that was that.
Kidnapping by a stranger
"The man who kidnapped me was a total stranger"
The man who kidnapped me was a total stranger. I had a boyfriend back then. When he heard I was kidnapped he wrote me a letter and said, "If it's bad with him, you can run away and come to me, even if you're not a virgin." I didn't get the letter, my husband did and he beat me because of it. It's hard to think about it.
Peer pressure to kidnap
"He told his friends to stop the car because I didn't agree [to the abduction], but they refused, they said, 'We got her for you and now be quiet..'"
I was kidnapped. A classmate invited me to a party, but it was a trick. He drove me home and then took another turn. When I asked why, he explained I was being kidnapped. I said I didn't agree to this, he became rude. He told his friends to stop the car because I didn't agree [to the abduction], but they refused, they said, "We got her for you and now be quiet…" They took me to the house, his friends talked him up and then relatives came and then they brought my girlfriend. They called my parents, friends and told them that he "brought" me, not that I was taken, so there would be social pressure if I spent the night, I'd be considered spoiled. I sent my girlfriend to my house, my parents came and got me. My mother tried to convince me to stay, even though she's pretty modern. His parents wouldn't let me go when I wanted to leave. It looks bad for the family [of the man] if the woman leaves. They curse her. I felt really insulted that he had kidnapped me. I didn't like him using such violent means and lies. I was also angry that his family tried to force me to stay and used such force.
A date that ends in abduction
"I got in his car but instead of taking me to my house he took me to his family's house"
Three years ago, in 2002, when I was 18 years old I was kidnapped…. This guy liked me and decided to steal me. He is the brother of one of my friends whom I studied with. She told me that her brother liked me, and so she introduced us. When I first saw him I didn't like the way he looked, and I said that I didn't want to date him. But then I went on one date with him, but I still didn't like him. On the second date he proposed to me. I said no. He argued a bit, but then he seemed to give in and said, "OK. I won't date you, I won't try to convince you." But he said that he wanted to give me a ride home. I said no, but he insisted. So I got in his car but instead of taking me to my house he took me to his family's house…. The night that my husband kidnapped me, he took me home to his house at about 6 p.m. They put me in a room in the corner with the curtain for the bride. I cried, I resisted, I asked them not to force me, because I was still so young. This resistance went on until five the next morning. And all that time they couldn't get me to calm down. There were numerous female relatives from my husband's family: his mother's brothers' wives, and his father's best friends' wives. They were all older, all around fifty-five. They sat with me, trying to convince me. They said, "He's a good boy, he doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, won't beat you, he is very gentle. If you go now, you don't know who you'll eventually marry."
I begged them to give me the telephone so that I could call my parents but they wouldn't let me call. They feared that my parents would come and take me. There is a tradition that the bride should write a letter that she "willingly agrees" to the marriage and this letter will be given to the bride's parents. They pressured me to do this. I didn't want to do it, but in the end, I did. I thought that if my parents came they would still take me home with them, even if I wrote this letter. I just wanted my parents to come. My mom's best friend came to the house to convince me to stay. We have this belief that once a girl has crossed the threshold, she can't turn back, or else she will have trouble all of her life. She told me that everyone she knows who left a marriage after kidnapping was unhappy. She said that I won't be happy, I won't get married, I won't have children. So I told her, "If you think I should stay, then tell me to stay, and I'll stay." But she didn't want to take this responsibility on herself. So she called my uncle. He is my friend, we are close. He was the one who convinced me. He said, "You'll get used to it all. This is a good home." So, in the end, I agreed. I figured, I'll have to get married anyway one day. The moldo [local cleric] came and performed the marriage ceremony.
"they [the man's family] had given me the wrong address so my mother never came. She wanted to come to see if I was okay."
In February 2005, a friend of mine invited me to her house for her son's birthday…. That night, they kidnapped me. They put me in a car. I cried and tried to refuse. I didn't want to marry her [the friend's] brother… I'd never met him before. A week later I called my mom and she said she'd come [to see me], but they [the man's family] had given me the wrong address so my mother never came. She wanted to come to see if I was okay. They forced me to stay, using force and psychological pressure. They tried to convince me to stay, so I agreed and tried to make the best of it….They should have informed my mother, they should have paid kalym [the bride price]. They forced me to stay, convinced me to stay. I didn't agree to have sex with him that night, but I was so tired of fighting.
Rape as part of the abduction
"he forced himself on me and raped me"
In 1999 I finished school and I was kidnapped. The men who took me were acquaintances of my father…. It was evening and the men had seen me earlier for a while and they went to my parents and said they wanted to marry me with someone. My parents said, "No, she's still young." The men ignored that. They told me that my parents needed to see me and they'd take me to them, so I got in the car. Then it was already late at night and we came to a house and they said, "Come in for tea." I said no. They forced me out of the car and I sat in the house. They brought the scarf [the traditional scarf signifying a woman's consent to marry]. I fought them off. They used physical force and violently put it on me. I was in shock, I had never seen this man before and I didn't want to marry him. I didn't like it and I said, "I don't want to live with you and I don't know you." They said, "No this is the way with all women. Everything will be normal." I didn't like the man they made me marry. I was behind the curtain. They forced me behind it and they grabbed me by my wrists and ankles and forced me onto the floor. I cried, I was in shock. Later they forced me to write to my parents to say it was voluntary.
He forced me to have sex with him the first night. A woman came to say that they'd prepare my bed; I thought I'd be alone. I lay down to sleep, then he came in and he forced himself on me and raped me. I was saying no and he still did it. I cried and screamed. I still have psychological problems because of that incident. There were other times too when he raped me. I didn't want to ever go to sleep. I'd fight him off and try to sleep and he'd fight with me and hit me and force me. He especially hit me at night. I didn't want to have sex with him, but he forced me. I told my mother-in-law that I didn't want to live with him, but she just said I needed to stay, she said, "It happened to me also and I lived through it and so should you."
I was there for a year-and-a-half. I saw my parents only two times…. I told them I was unhappy and that he was treating me badly and was not a good man. My mother said she wanted to take me home, but my mother-in-law promised to tell my husband not to beat me. My mother believed them and left me there. Later, I told my parents I would die from it. Then my father said to wait a few more months and he would write a letter and ask me to come home for an urgent visit. [When the letter came] I told my mother-in-law, so they let me go and I got home. I was ill, psychologically, and had heart problems. I was not able to sleep. My parents took me to the doctor, who gave me medicine. When my mother-in-law came for me, they refused to give me to her. She yelled at my parents. She said I was lying about the way he treated me…. I am still afraid; afraid that it will happen again. I won't talk to any men. I am afraid of everything now. I don't talk to anyone…. I was seventeen years old when they took me.
Pressure to relent
"I saw him and thought he looked OK and so I decided to give up fighting and to stay"
I was kidnapped from the sovkhoz [collective farm] by a group of men. I was working in the shed, I was the guard. There were five or six men who grabbed me and forced me into a car…. The men were all drunk. I didn't know a single one of them. I didn't have a choice, there were so many of them and I didn't have the strength to fight them off. They dragged me to the house and I sat in the corner, the traditional place where women are placed when they are kidnapped and brought to a home. For two days I tried to escape…. The old women forced me to stay there….I was 17 years old. For two days I waited for my relatives, for my parents to come. My husband's parents didn't inform my parents that they had kidnapped me.… I didn't know anyone in this village and I was two hours from my home. I only saw my husband on the fourth day after being kidnapped. I saw him and thought he looked OK and so I decided to give up fighting and to stay.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Ainura A., November 2005.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza N., October 2005.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005. The marriage ended up being an unhappy one and Shoira S. attempted suicide four months later. Her parents then agreed to take her back and she obtained a divorce.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.