I am Jamilia

15 images Created 1 Aug 2019

(ongoing)
‘A good marriage starts with tears,’ says an famous Kyrgyz proverb.
Although I am originally from Kyrgyzstan, I only began to understand the violence behind this famous Kyrgyz proverb and the depth of the wounded souls they often leave when I met Jamilia. She is named after the main character from the worldwide known novel "Jamilia" of Chingiz Aitmatov. A story of two young lovers who leave their village and break a strong tradition to be able to live together. A story which tells with melancholy and full of tenderness the power of love that overrides everything. But countless stories of Kyrgyz women are stories of violence and tears. There is, for example, Samira. She is only one of around 12.000 to 15.000 annually for marriage kidnapped women according to the latest available data in Kyrgyzstan. She summed up in her handwriting: "He liked me, the man who kidnapped me, but I DID NOT like him. I could not imagine me with him, couldn't imagine it at all. And here is the result. After the kidnapping, I took some pills, I felt in a coma, and I became an invalid (chronically emotional distress). I want to ask him - How is your life going? My life is broken. I am lonely… Sick... "
Samira survived her suicide attempt after she became a victim of the custom Ala Kachuu which means roughly translated "grab and run."
"I am Jamilia" focuces on women of different ages and from different parts of Kyrgyzstan. Each woman has her own story. But all of them have one thing in common: they all have been kidnapped to get married. Some victims described the brutality of this practice. Often a group of young men grab a young woman or even a high school student in broad daylight, taking her violently into a car and driving away no matter if she is in panic, struggling, screaming and weeping. Once abducted, the young woman is taken immediately to the family of the would-be groom and subjected to psychological pressure by his female relatives. In too many cases, the groom will rape his kidnapped bride to prevent her from returning to her family due to shame. Bride kidnapping is a custom with deep roots, it raised and got a massive problem after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But there is an increasing reflection also on the psychological implications of those affected. Especially women who suffered lifelong under their traumatic experience being kidnapped want a different start into a marriage for their own children, both for their daughters and for their sons.
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