06/02/2021, 15.39
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The influence of Kyrgyz and Kazakh women is growing

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In Kyrgyzstan many women hold office in local government. One of them is Meerim Moldalieva, a disabled former policewoman, now an elected official. Gulbar Samsalieva is involved in social projects. In Kazakhstan, the Feminita movement is fighting for the rights of women and LGBT people.


Moscow (AsiaNews) – Women in Central Asia are traditionally very quiet and submissive, but now they are beginning to make their voices heard. In Kyrgyzstan many have been elected to office; in Kazakhstan, feminists protest without fear against male violence.

For the first time in Kyrgyz history, women won nearly 40 per cent of seats in last April's local elections, Current Time TV[*] reported.

The result was achieved thanks also to a law that guarantees them at least a third of seats. However, most winners attribute their success first and foremost to their own merits rather than the women’s quota imposed by law.

To talk about the vote, Current Time TV  interviewed Meerim Moldalieva (picture 2), a 27-year-old ex-policewoman, who saw her life change after a serious accident.

“I was paralyzed for a year, I didn't want to live anymore,” she said. “After a year, I learnt to sit in wheelchair, and then I thought: Why should I sit? The chair is not for me, I am strong, I can and must walk!”

Moldalieva was elected and heads the council in her native village in the Naryn region. She explains that she was greatly helped by her experience of working with people, as well as by her education.

Leading her campaign almost entirely from home, using social media, she had to compete with men who got the vote of relatives.

Gulbar Samsalieva (picture 1) also took part in the April 11 election, winning at her first attempt. A former nurse, Gulbar believes her success was due to her preparation.

Two years ago, she organised a women’s council in her village. While male candidates were promoting football, she was involved in social projects, helping the poor during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, feminists in Kazakhstan took to the streets of various cities last weekend (29-30 May) to protest against threats and pressure. Unidentified people attacked and beat members of the Feminita movement, with police later detaining without cause the victims of the violence.

One of the activists, Zhanar Sekerbaeva (picture 3), has bruises on her hands and abrasions, in an interview, she described the terror experienced during the protests.

Together with a friend, Gulzada Serzhan, she organised a meeting for last Saturday with a group of women in the city of Shymkent to talk about the rights of the LGBT community.

Instead, scores of men stormed the hotel where they were supposed to meet. In addition to using violence, the attackers demanded the two women leave the city immediately. Police eventually moved in to arrest the two activists.

After the incident Zhanar and Gulzada, on police advice, left Shymkent, but continued to receive threats on social media.

Undaunted, Zhanar plans to return to the city from where she was kicked out to discuss women's issues. “The attacks on the rights of women and LGBT people show that it is more necessary than ever to talk about it in an open way,” she said.

“I want to send a message: You will not stop us. Even if you kill us, there will be other women who will take our place. We are not afraid of you, and we will speak even louder about our issues.”

[*] Настоящее Время.

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