03/09/2021, 12.50
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Kyrgyz and Kazakh women take to the streets

by Vladimir Rozanskij

International Women's Day saw rallies in defence of women's rights and against gender-based violence. Attacks on women in Kyrgyzstan are on the increase. Protesters called for the release of Kazakh women detained for membership in banned organisations”. For some, “feminism will save Kazakhstan.”


Moscow (AsiaNews) – Kyrgyz and Kazakhs took to the streets yesterday, International Women's Day, in defence of women's rights. In Kyrgyzstan, rallies were held in Biskek and Osh; in Kazakhstan, in the former capital Almaty.

In the Kyrgyz capital, protesters gathered at the national parliament building (Jogorku Keņesh or Supreme Council) in front of the monument to Urkuya Salieva, the first legendary Kyrgyz Komsomol activist. Under the Bolsheviks, she became the first woman to head a kolkhoz, a collective farm.

During the rally, women discussed the issue of 'women's happiness', equal rights in all areas of society, and the fight against gender-based violence.

Last year in Bishkek, the women's march was interrupted by a group of outsiders. Instead of arresting the attackers, the police took into custody the organisers of the demonstration.

The head of the city's law enforcement agency stated at the time that “the march was not authorised, and the police had to prevent clashes.”

Many protesters were fined 3,000 soms (about US$ 36), but they refused to pay and went to court. In November 2020, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court came out in favour of protesters and ruled that the police action was not legal.

In Osh, one of Kyrgyzstan’s most important Islamic centres, marchers crossed downtown streets converging on the Mothers’ Tears monument.

Located near the offices of the municipality, the memorial commemorates the tragic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in 2010-2011. Last year too, the women's march was attacked by strangers, with police standing idly by.

According to official statistics, 727 incidents of domestic violence against women were reported in Kyrgyzstan in the first two months of 2021; last year saw an increase of 65 per cent of this kind of violence.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov sent his official wish to all of the country’s women, noting that “women in Kyrgyz society have always been revered, and their role in the social and political life of the nation has been very high”.

Japarov added that upcoming local council (Keņesh) elections will have quotas. “For the first time, 30 per cent [of seats] will be reserved for women, who can therefore have much more influence on politics, at least at the local level”.

In Almaty, hundreds of men and women gathered in the city's central park, at the monument dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, to express their opposition to violence and support for gender equality in Kazakhstan.

People carried placards and banners calling for the release of women detained under Article 405 of the Penal Code, which punishes membership in banned organisations.

Some called for the elimination of SNT, supplementary taxes on alcohol and many imported products, a measure introduced by the government in December 2020.

According to a slogan shouted during the demonstration, “feminism will save Kazakhstan”. On 27 February, a bill on domestic violence was tabled in the Kazakh Parliament (Majilis), sparking a heated controversy. It was eventually put on hold until it was reviewed.

Yesterday's protest was the first in the post-Soviet period allowed by local authorities to celebrate 8 March.

Under Communism, Women's Day was very solemn and celebrated by everyone as a public holiday, in remembrance of the women who started the Russian Revolution with the “bread revolt” of 8 March 1917 in Petrograd (St Petersburg).

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