I am Jamilia
Project info

"He liked me, the man who kidnapped me, but I did not like him. I could not imagine myself with him. And here is the result; I took some pills, I felt in a coma, and I became an invalid. I want to ask him - How is your life going? My life is broken. I am lonely. Sick", writes a woman from Kyrgyzstan who became a victim of the custom Ala Kachuu, which means roughly translated "grab and run." Bride kidnapping appears not only in rural parts of the country. Nowadays around 12.000 to 15.000 women are kidnapped annually for marriage according to the latest available data. Statistically, every 40 minutes, one woman in Kyrgyzstan is kidnapped.
“He liked me, the man who kidnapped me, but I DID NOT like him. I could not imagine myself with him.
And here is the result. I took some pills, I felt in a coma, and I became an invalid.
I want to ask him - How is your life going? My life is broken…
I am lonely. Sick“

Since 2018 I am portraying women of different ages and from different parts of Kyrgyzstan. All victims described the brutality of this practice. Often a group of young men grabs a young woman in broad daylight on the street. They take her violently into a car and drive away. Once abducted, the woman is taken immediately to the waiting family of the would-be groom and subjected to psychological pressure by his female relatives. In many cases, the groom rapes his kidnapped bride to prevent her from returning home due to shame.

Bride kidnapping appears not only in Kyrgyzstan but also in other former Soviet states. Since Kyrgyzstan gained its independence in 1991, Ala Kachuu became a massive problem, although it was outlawed in 2013. But laws on the books mean nothing if they are rarely implemented. The story of the 20-year old medical student Burulaj that occurred in May 2018 shows the tragedy of Ala Kachuu. Her abductor stabbed her to death in a police station, where she came to file a report against him and seek protection.

I found a quote from Aida Kasymalieva, deputy speaker of the Supreme Council: "When people hear that a girl is committing suicide or the bride and groom are separating, no one believes the problem lies in the tradition of bride kidnapping. Many people believe other factors influence the problem. But the Burulaj tragedy opened the eyes to all of us and has shown what a terrible crime bride kidnapping is."

According to psychologist Asamat, it remains urgent to continue talking about this sensitive issue, with undercurrents of culture, tradition, patriarchy, and modernity. Ala Kachuu opens terrible doors of violence and repression against women and their children.

'A good marriage starts with tears,' says a famous Kyrgyz proverb. I see a glimmer of hope for a new interpretation if it for the new generation: tears of love.