Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan


Uploaded by vice on 19.06.2012

Transcript:
[MUSIC PLAYING]
ANNOUNCER: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: All right.
Hi, it's Thomas.
We're in Bishkek.
I'm on a Kok Beru horse.
That's basically polo, but you play with a dead goat.
It is one of Kyrgystan's many fine traditions.
One of the other traditions, a little less fun, is kidnapping
women and making them your bride.
We're going to go out of Bishkek up into the hills and
see that happen.

Kyrgyzstan is a tiny landlocked country next to
China that spent most of the last century as part of the
Soviet Union.
Prior to that it was a wild, tribally ruled Conan land
known for it's people's horsemanship, the mythic hero
Manas, and for being the birthplace
of the black plague.
The Kyrgyz people celebrated the end of communism by
adopting Islam as the state religion and getting really
into their old national identity, some parts of which
jibed nicely with the modern times, others of which didn't.
BRIDE TO BE: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: Bride kidnapping is a traditional
way of getting married that supposedly dates back to the
horse days.
How it works is a guy wants to marry a girl, he gets a few of
his friends together, they grab the girl off the street,
then they drive her back to his place, and his mom and
aunts try to convince her that marrying their son is the
right move--
even if he's a total stranger.
We'd heard a young east Kyrgyz villager named Kubanti was in
the market for a bride.
So we offered up our services as wedding photographers.
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
[MUSIC PLAYING]
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: So far this is very similar
to a Western wedding.
You just have all the family together, favorite uncle kind
of holding court at the table, a lot of food.
It's hard to reconcile this hospitality with the kind of
potential violence that's about to happen.
BRIDE TO BE: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: Bride kidnapping is
not a fringe custom.
In rural areas, nearly half of all marriages result this way.
BRIDE TO BE: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: And while it's technically illegal to kidnap
your wife, not many Kyrgyz cops realize this, and even
fewer care.
BRIDE TO BE: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
FEMALE SPEAKER 1: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

RUSSELL KLEINBACH: There are two laws that
make kidnapping illegal.
And even in cases where the couple love each other.
I know a number of cases where the
woman said, I was kidnapped.
I loved the man.
I wanted to marry him, but I did not want to be kidnapped
because it's very humiliating to be physically captured and
forced into a car.
BRIDE TO BE: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
RUSSELL KLEINBACH: The majority of the police and
officials in the country don't even know it's illegal, or if
they do, they believe it's an old tradition.
TYNCHTYK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

ELMIRA: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

TYNCHTYK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

ELMIRA: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
TYNCHTYK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
ELMIRA: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
TYNCHTYK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
ELMIRA: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
TYNCHTYK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: Back at Kubanti's place, the groomsmen
pop a final squat to coordinate the snatch.
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: We're planning the kidnapping right now.
How long have you guys been planning this?
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: Who's the girl?
Is it somebody you've been friends with?
Somebody you know or is it somebody,
like, your family knows?
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

[SCREAMS AND MOANING]
THOMAS MORTON: While bride kidnapping is largely a rural
phenomenon, there's been a spike in
cities in recent years.
Generally attributed to the success of Ernest
Abdyjaparov's 2007
pro-kidnapping film, Boz Salkyn.
ERNEST: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

-[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
-[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
-[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
ERNEST: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

-[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
ERNEST: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]
MALE SPEAKER 1: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

RUSSELL KLEINBACH: Spousal abuse is higher
in kidnapped marriages.
Divorce rate is higher in kidnapped marriages.
There's a higher percentage of women who go through that
process who wind up rejected by families and going into
prostitution.
And suicide rates are higher among women who are kidnapped.
ABDYSHOVA ZYINAGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]


THOMAS MORTON: With the plan locked in place and the bridal
yurt set up for the reception, all that was left for Kubanti
and his pals was to go secure the bride.
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: Kubanti's uncle gave the boys one final good
luck blessing, and they all piled into the get-a-wife van.
Good luck, guys.
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: We're going to go to the, I guess the local
watering hole, like, literally watering hole.
That's where they've arranged for the friend of the bride to
be to capture her.
It's a little animal kingdom picking off your bride at the
watering spot.
[MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: I feel OK about this right now just because
this guy evidently knows her.
In this case, it's just kind of a weirder form of popping
the question, it feels like.
At the same time, it's an extremely troubling
institution.
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
[MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: So this is the girl's friend who's going to
help them lure out the bride.
They're negotiating with her right now.
They're just planning how to do it.
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: They're just going to grab her?
There's not like a blanket or anything?
MALE SPEAKER: No.
THOMAS MORTON: OK.
Pretty basic.

KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: Oh, my god.
That got very real in a hurry.
NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
[CRYING]
FEMALE SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: From here on, it's up to the women in the
family to get the girl to put on the bridal scarf and agree
to the wedding, a process that can go on for
hours or even days.
FEMALE SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: OK.
Thank you.
This is a very confusing scene.
FEMALE SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: I think the girl has
accepted what happened.
And I don't know if she was just putting up resistance
because that's what you're supposed to do, or if she was
genuinely freaked out.
She's eating cookies now though and accepted a candy.
Which I did too, which I don't know how I feel about that.
FEMALE SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
ERNEST: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

FEMALE SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: Well, everybody's all smiles.
I hope she likes her groom.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
THOMAS MORTON: Is this what a wedding is normally like
around here?
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: Well, why do they do that?
If the families already know each other and are fine with
it, why the kidnapping?
Where does that come from?
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

RUSSELL KLEINBACH: In Kyrgyzstan, tradition stands
even above religion, I think, in terms of importance, and
religion above law.
The old tradition of Kyrgyzstan is the Manas Epis.
Manasa is the authority.
It's a kin to being in the Midwest according to Bible.
If there's a Kyrgyz tradition, it should be in Manas.
Manas is Kyrgyz, Kyrgyz is Manas.
And there's no stories of kidnapping
in that oral tradition.
It's a violation of Islam.
It's a violation of the law.
And it's pretty clear that prior to the Soviet period, it
was very uncommon and was not an acceptable traditional
practice, even though it happened sometimes.
[MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: God.
Today just gets rougher and rougher.

So everything worked out?
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: OK.
It looked like she was fighting
pretty hard in the van.
I'm surprised you aren't, like, more beat up.
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: Did she know who she was marrying once she
got in the car?
Did she know it was you?
It could have been any of those guys, right?
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: It was clear.
I mean, you're clearly--
Also, you're wearing the nicest clothes.
And you knew her, and you'd been dating her.
So it makes sense.
What happens next?
Do you have to go get her family?
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: So the bride's been napped, sheep's been
slaughtered.
I guess we're really getting into the thick of the
wedding right now.
It kind of occurs to me that
compared to American groomsmen.
Kyrgyz groomsmen have a rough job.
All anybody ever complains about having to stage a
bachelor party or, you know, buy gifts, or wear a suit.
You don't have to kidnap a girl or cut open a sheep.
God knows what else is going to happen.

So you're the grill master here?
What is that furry part?
Is that lungs?
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: Stomach.
OK.
Could you have gotten in trouble for this?
I mean, if like a policeman or something had seen you, like,
could they have like stopped you?
GROOMSMAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: And then they'd be fine with it.
OK.
What's the best part of the sheep?

Those floppy ears--
Hey, you.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
THOMAS MORTON: Once the girl has finally said yes, the men
from the groom's family go over to the bride's house and
tell her parents, sorry, we kidnapped your daughter.
Is that OK?
Unsurprisingly, this process can also take a while.
The men bring tons of gifts and food to
smooth things over.
So hopefully the bride's family will think of it less
as losing a daughter and more as gaining a sheep.
This is the bride's family-- or bride to be.
So evidently they aren't allowed in
yet to see the family.
So what's happening right now?
Why do you have to wait?
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: OK.
That was short.
[MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: I'm starting to get a little suspicious that
the bride's family may have known about
this ahead of time.
This is a pretty nice spread to put out on,
like, an hour's notice.
MALE SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
FEMALE SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
JEKSHENBEK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
FEMALE SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

JEKSHENBEK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
FEMALE SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
JEKSHENBEK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

FEMALE SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: How are you feeling about all this?
SOIROGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: The custom, the taking her up off the street,
is that how people got married when you were little?
SABIRA: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]
THOMAS MORTON: Everyone kept telling us how old and
hallowed the practice of bride kidnapping was.
But if it's not even in Manas, the country's national epic,
how old actually is it?
RUSSELL KLEINBACH: If we go back to the 19th century, when
you had tribal groups, they would go through villages, and
they would steal horses, and cattle, and women.
So there is a tradition of stealing.
But it would produce a real conflict between tribes and
was not an acceptable traditional practice.
And all the evidence shows that kidnapping was on an
increase from the latter period of the Soviet period.
And then it continued to increase at the end of the
Soviet period.
The Soviets said, first of all, we're going to stop
marriages of young girls before the age of 15 or so.
We're going to now send both boys and girls to high school
and college.
We collectivized the wealth so there's no money for bride
price and a dowry.
So now the young people are getting older
before they get married.
They go off to the university.
And they may come back and say, I found
someone I'd like to marry.
And the parents say no, we're arranging a marriage for you
in the village.
So she might go back to the university, or he, talk to the
boyfriend or girlfriend and says, is there any legitimate
way we can get married against our parents wishes.
You say, well, I will kidnap you, take you to my home, keep
you overnight.
Then they will consider you an unclean girl, and so they will
have to let you marry me.
And I think strangely enough, kidnapping is a response to
the Soviets bringing about more
equality for men and women.

UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

FEMALE SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
FEMALE SPEAKER 4: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

JEKSHENBEK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

FEMALE SPEAKER 4: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

JEKSHENBEK: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

FEMALE SPEAKER 4: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: While we were busy doing vodka shots with
mayonnaise chasers, the local imam stopped by the wedding
yurt to make the marriage official.

Did you know you were about to get married?
NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: How do you feel right now?
NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: Did you want to marry him?
NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: You accepted this scarf very quickly.
Like, why didn't you fight more?
NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: You're still in school, right?
Are you going to finish school?
NURGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

IMAM: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

FEMALE SPEAKER 5: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]
THOMAS MORTON: Ah.
It's got kind of a Western flair to it.
Wow.
That's very shiny.
The wedding itself was yesterday.
But the celebration is today.
I feel we're going to class ourselves up a little bit.
Yeah.
Suits here are very shiny, though.
I think this might be the winner.
Minimally shiny, still shiny enough to go to a wedding in.
I think I found my suit.
We were really getting into the spirit of the festivities,
which was kind of unsettling considering we had just seen a
girl get abducted off the street.
Yeah.
Yeah.
This is definitely it.
BUBUSARA RYSKULOVA: [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

THOMAS MORTON: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: How are you doing?
Hi.
We got some cooking ware for the bride to be.
And then for Uncle Sultan, we got some smokes.
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: Yeah.
You're welcome.
Very welcome.
Everybody's in t-shirts and jeans.
I just bought this suit.
OK.
Hey.
KUBANTI: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: This is for you and your wife.
KUBANTI: Thank you.
THOMAS MORTON: Yeah, of course.
Working on the intestines there.
[FOREIGN LANGUAGE].

THOMAS MORTON: Last night we stayed up late with the
bride's family.
We drank a lot.
We ate probably all of a sheep.
And now we're back to drinking and eating fried bread.
Oh, I'm sorry.
[FOREIGN LANGUAGE].
Uncle Sultan brought us into the yurt, and we kind of
suspected this was why.
UNCLE SULTAN: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
THOMAS MORTON: More vodka.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
THOMAS MORTON: So right over my left shoulder is the sheet
from their wedding night, basically.
If she's a virgin, she's going to bleed on the sheet.
And then they take it out.
And that's proof to everybody.
And they hang it.
It's kind of weird.
You know, everybody put sort of a premium on virginity.
I never really got that shit.
But there it is, bride is a virgin.
Double good happiness for the bride and the groom.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
SABIRA: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

THOMAS MORTON: Traditionally, the day after a Kyrgyz
wedding, the bride has to prove yourself to her new
family, especially the women.
So it's kind of like a hazing, sort of, almost of women.
Still kind of not sure how to feel about this whole thing.
I kind of get the impression it might be the case of one
family not having lost a daughter so much as another
gaining a scullery maid.
She seems happy, says she's happy.
NAZGUL: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

SABIRA: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

FEMALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]
THOMAS MORTON: We're not going to pretend to be experts on
Manas or the finer points of Islam.
But for all the justifications we heard, it seems like the
real reason men kidnapped women in Kyrgyzstan is the
same reason they do questionable stuff anywhere,
the same reason a dog licks its balls--
because they can.
Which of course, is the oldest and shittiest
reason in the world.
Congratulations.
[INAUDIBLE].
Thank you.
[FOREIGN LANGUAGE].
I appreciate it.
[FOREIGN LANGUAGE], thank you.
[MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]