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The Kurdish Bride (Editing)
By Mike
08 Feb 2017

Texts and photographs by Michele Cirillo and Emanuela Laurenti.



Only scratched the surface by the passing of time, by the Islamic conquest and other foreign dominations, the Kurdish culture is now in danger of being forgotten, or worse, losing its true identity, confused in recent years with the Muslim or Turkish tradition. Put through to the Ottoman Empire and then divided by the Western powers in the four states of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, in the last ninety years, the Kurds have been victims of persecutions and slaughters that occurred with greater ferocity in Turkey, where a regime of forced repression resented every expression of their cultural identity. “Mountain Turks”. As Turks called Kurdish people. But in those mountains, dominated by the great Ararat, unquestionably still persist the flavors of ancient and specific traditions, traces of a thousand-years old past, vestiges of a precise and recognizable identity. Among those mountains, the first days of the wedding of Sükran and Samet took place, a symbolic union, especially because of their origins and historical events: Sükran is Kurdish, Samet is Turkish. Our journey starts here. In August 2014, at Xarik place as first, in Eastern Anatolia, and at Yozgat then, in Central Anatolia.

The Wedding

In the social structure Kurdish family is considered an inseparable unit: it is the core on which dipend the whole society and its importance is manifested on the occasion of a marriage. Specifically, the Sükran and Samet wedding party lasted five days: the first part of the celebrations was held in the bride family home, in the altitudes of Xarik, with sober characters although colored. The remaining four days of celebrations, took place, with the most sumptuous atmospheres, in the groom's family house. In Yozgat, a Turkish small town. The criteria that direct the marriage of two young people often depend on the relationship between their families. Even if there is not anymore the custom to give in marriage young girls, young men have some freedom of choice, young women even less, waiting for a sincere marriage proposal. The history of Sükran and Samet, fortunately, is a different story.

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Intermarriage in Lebanon
Gemayze, Lebanon
By Cherine Yazbeck
05 Jan 2015

In 2015, intermarriage in Lebanon is still a problematic issue. While the Lebanese state has recognized civil marriages contracted outside Lebanon since 1936, efforts to legalize civil marriage in Lebanon itself have been to no avail, despite having begun in the 1950s. In 1998, then President Elias Hrawi drafted a bill proposing optional civil marriage. The bill was approved by the Cabinet only to be shelved due to opposition from then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and many of the country’s religious authorities.Intermittent attempts to legalize civil marriage have since fallen on deaf ears.
With the exception of Muslim men being allowed to marry non-Muslim women, the current legal system obliges citizens to convert in order to marry members of other faiths. Organizations such as Civil Marriage in Lebanon point out that the failure to implement civil marriage constitutes a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Lebanon is a signatory, as well as Article C of the Lebanese Constitution’s Preamble.
Youmna Makhlouf, a lawyer specialized in intermarriage and 6 Lebanese citizens address the issue in a vox pop.

1 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Youmna Makhlouf, lawyer
  (00:00) We do not have official statistics. There is a difficulty in obtaining statistics due to the various authorities before whom the Lebanese can conduct a marriage contract. Lebanese people have many options to get married; they can go to any country in the world, and decide to get married before the country’s authorities.   Regarding children, the laws of the country law where the parents got married determine their situation. If the parents decide to get married in Lebanon before any religious authority, the law of this specific sect is implemented on the children when it comes to custody. 

If a couple conduct two marriage contracts, a religious marriage and a civil one, whether the sectarian marriage occurs before or after the civil one, the law of this sect is implemented according to current jurisprudence in Lebanon. The Lebanese law considers that, if a couple get married before religious authorities, even if they conduct a civil marriage contract, in a way or another they want to subject their marriage to the law of the chosen sect when it comes to custody and other matters.

Civil marriage held in foreign countries takes into consideration the children’s higher interest; it means that it does not take the age of the children as a criterion as the case is in Lebanon. In Lebanon, each sect has set an age for the children at which the mother takes custody over them. There is an idea that a young child needs the care of his mother, and at an older age, the child is given to the father. But the children’s higher interests are increasingly being taken into consideration because there has been a lot of progress and work done on this issue.

Of course, during the divorce, the religious issue appears again. The family of the person getting a divorce gains more power since it supports that person, and the religious standards reappear more strongly. And of course if there is a problem concerning the custody or guardianship over the children, the religious element will appear again. The father can ask for the custody over the children before the religious court if the mother is from a different sect, saying that the children need a religious education. We all know that the religious authorities take into consideration this issue as a principal criterion to make decisions about custody.

A negative element in the relationship is when it comes to organizing things. They have to take care of things more than other couples do.  
For example, they ask a lawyer about issues such as inheritance, since a Muslim cannot inherit for a Christian and vice versa, and this question can cause a problem for the couple, that might lead to an end for the relationship before marriage.

If a woman is Christian and the husband is Muslim, the biggest problem the couple would face is the parents. The parents sometimes accept interreligious marriage, but on the condition of holding a religious ceremony. In case of a Muslim woman, it is very difficult, because the husband has to declare that he embraces Islam, even if the religious ceremony was only symbolic for her. This causes another obstacle they need to overcome. So now, in case the family accepts the idea that people from different religious backgrounds are getting married, the family always insists on a symbolic religious celebration. This will also cause problems because it results in legal consequences later on. The majority of the people think that if they do a civil marriage and a religious ceremony that they consider symbolic, the religious law does not apply and the religious courts do not have any power, which is wrong. When you hold a religious wedding before or after the civil one, the Court of Cassation currently states that the sectarian law applies (04:37)

2 Various of lawyer Youmna Makhlouf reading legal documents

3 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Youmna Makhlouf, lawyer
  (05:11) Because there are obstacles in dissolving the marriage for Christian sects, because a marriage is not dissolved unless by the will of God, not by the will of a person and even the agreement of the two persons, the husband sometimes decides to convert to Islam and get married again, even if his case with his first Christian wife was not regulated before the religious courts. He might do that and we know that the Court of Cassation considers the second marriage is valid, and in case the husband dies, the second wife inherits the same way as the first wife. This is a problem for women who were married in the Church and their husband decides to convert to Islam to dissolve the bond that joins them and be married again (06:13).

4 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Mona Hamdan

(06:14) Of course I am with interreligious marriage, since Lebanon is a country that has different sects. It is normal to find this in Lebanon. My mother is Christian and my father is Muslim – a Shiite and I am married to a Sunni man, so our family is mixed. Even my cousin is married to a Christian man, so it is not only my parents; many members of my family have married from different sects. They do not have a problem with that.

This is the good part especially here in Lebanon because we celebrate all the religious holidays; on Christmas we dine with my mother’s family, on Easter too. On the Fitr Holiday, we celebrate with my father’s family and during Ramadan we [break the fast] with my husband’s family. We live and celebrate all the holidays, it is normal. 

I could not have a civil marriage, because in Lebanon civil marriage is prohibited, and when we did our calculations, we figured out it will cost us more than 3,000 USD and we could not afford it, so we were obliged to get married here. For me, it is only a paper, it does not matter who writes it. I would have preferred to have a civil marriage, but it is fine, I do not have this problem (07:28).

  5 SOUNDBITE (English, Man) Youssef Zbib

(07:28) I am definitely for intermarriage because I think individuals should have the freedom to choose their own partners, they should not fear any pressure from the society or their families into choosing a partner from a particular community just because they want to satisfy someone.

I am personally going to marry someone from a different faith, I was born a Shia and she was born a Maronite, and we are going to be married next month.

We are going to have a religious ceremony for the family, but we will not register that contract. Instead, we will go to Cyprus, we will have a civil contract and then hopefully, this will be the marriage contract that we registered.

Personally, I do not celebrate religious holidays, unless I am invited to a particular party or gathering, but otherwise, I do not make it a purpose to celebrate a religious holiday (08:21).

6 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Souheil Abou Saleh

(08:22) Of Course I am with interreligious marriage. I think there is no difference among religions in our society. I do not think people still care about religions. We live in these regions together, Muslims and Christians, and we do not ask about others’ religions. So if two people from different sects love each other, felt comfortable together and decide to get married, it is fine, it is not a problem at all. I think that religions are only a mode of life for people, old customs that are imposed on us now. This should not cause any differences at all (09:06).  

7 SOUNDBITE (English, Woman) Nayla Nader

(09:06) Yes I am. It depends. It depends on the two persons because it has to be such a love, because it is not easy, but it could be very rich as an experience, enriching yes. And it will give a lot, but they will have to face some problems. People, society, even the parents. You know there are traditions, there are old fashioned ways to rule the world, and then they have to try to face and to fight all this. And if the wedding is strong, it can work and it will be really something.

I know people and friends, and some have very nice life and they are living happily and peacefully, and others unfortunately got divorced.

It has, maybe because of religion or because of traditions that are because of religion, and because maybe of the parents too (10:08).

8 SOUNDBITE (English, Man) Antoine Haddad

(10:09) I am split between the two actually, part of me is pro, part of me is anti. Somehow I am pro because religion does not really mean much to me, I do not practice any kind of religion so it does not really affect my opinion from this stand point. I am against because there is certain baggage that comes with religion at least in the Levant, since it is an integral part of the way of living of the people.

So in a way, it affects their thinking and their habits and their way of doing things.

Normally, it is about risk mitigation. And in order to mitigate risk, you have to practically tap into the same social background in order to make a marriage succeed or not, and even at this, there is no outraged guarantee that if you marry in same religion it will succeed more than it will if you marry in different religions.

Not so far. It looks like in the future there is a couple yes.

I do not practice and I do not celebrate any of these. It is just a social event more than it is a religious event (11:35).

9 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Alexi Gebeiri

(11:36) There is no problem of course, because this decision is the person’s decision only, not his religion. At the end you are marrying a person not his family or religion. You agreed with that person, and there is respect between you two. 

I know many people [who have married across religious boundaries], but in Lebanon, it is not really taken into consideration because the society is oriental, so they prefer to marry someone from their own religions so problems would not occur later. Of course, if the married couple were in agreement, their parents would not be 

[The other person would not be] not from your sect, you will face problems with your children’s names and upbringing.  

I have a lot of Muslim friends, and I do not have any problem with them (12:30). 

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New Economy Changing the Face of Chin...
By Phil Behan
11 Nov 2014

Over the past 7 to 10 years Chinese society has undergone rapid transformation socially, economically and politically. The face of this change is best seen in China’s youth. They are the people who are moving China forward. Many youth find themselves caught between tradition and modernity as they try to find their sense of identity and place in an ever changing society. 

Some of the changes in Chinese society can be seen in the weddings and marriage customs of young Chinese newlyweds. Zheng Ying met her husband through a mutual friend and they now live together in their new home in Guangzhou. Old Chinese traditions often saw newly married couples move directly into the groom's home, but now, with China's economic growth, couples are becoming wealthier and more independent and many are buying their own homes and abandoning old traditions.

Modern Chinese wedding ceremonies often infuse Western style opulence alongside ancient Chinese traditions. With a massive surge in the disposable income available to Chinese citizens, no expense is spared in making the ceremonies as lavish as possible. In a country where image and stature are of great importance, the typical Chinese family is spending great amounts of money on their child's wedding.

These photos explore the rapid cultural and economic changes taking place in China through the wedding ceremonies of young Chinese couples. 


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Tajik Kitchen Stories
By karolinasamborska
29 Sep 2014

The best meetings are always in the kitchen, because they are most intimate and sincere. There are no unasked questions, but only timid responses. In the kitchen people talk about life, about men, about dresses, love stories, and unrequited loves. There are no cultural or religious differences. Tajiks, including Yaghnobi people, are Sunni, where a woman’s position is often discriminated against. Pamiris are Ismailis, they practice a progressive Islam often earning them the label heretic through this progress.

"Here in the Pamir Mountains, women are free, they are not like other muslims who live only for cooking and cleaning. They go to school and then go to college in Khorog.” Ismaili women, who can be considered Islamic feminists are educated, some of them even work. Their position in society may have its differences, but could be looked on as equal to that of men. Most marriages in Sunni Tajikistan are arranged. Polygamy is permitted up to a maximum of four wives. Tajiks get engaged at 18 and then marry two years later. In European culture, the young become very quickly independent from their families and young couples live on their own. Tajikistan is different. Because of a difficult economic situation, one's mate comes to live in the new family circle, so the decision of who is to live under a common roof is also a family decision. Love between married couples is considered not as important as loyalty to blood relations. A man’s world and that of a woman are clearly divided here. Women take care of the household and raise children. It is instinctive. Men, if they have a chance to work, they work, but certainly never refuse a glass of vodka. When they drink they become rash, harsh, mirroring their surrounding word. They know that drinking, and the behavior it prompts is bad, so they keep their families out of this world. Maybe it’s why the worlds between men and women remain distant. The kitchen is a woman’s world.

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North Korea in Color 017
By Ulrik Pedersen
06 Jun 2014

A couple's marriage photoshoot in rural Hamhung.

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North Korea in Color 021
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

A newlywed couple have a marriage photo shoot at the new war museum in Pyongyang.

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Another Sky: An Uruguayan journey 28
Maldonado, Uruguay
By Francesco Pistilli
26 Jan 2014

Franco (18) and Helena Maria (2) came from poor rural families to be adopted by Daniel M. (52) and Walter MA (38), activists in the LGBT community who have been adopting underprivileged children at the biological parents' behest.

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Another Sky: An Uruguayan journey 29
Maldonado, Uruguay
By Francesco Pistilli
26 Jan 2014

Daniel M. (52) and Walter MA (38) have the biggest homosexual family in Latin America. After 20 years as a couple, they have adopted four children: Franco, Mayara, Maria Pia and Helena Maria. The children arrived from poor families where they couldn't survive. In these last 20 years, desperate mothers have asked to Walter and Daniel to adopt their children. "They're not Desaparecidos!" Daniel says, "they have constant contact with their biological families". Daniel and Walter have been active in the LGBT community in Latin America for 25 years. Today, adoption by same-sex couples is legal in 16 countries, including Uruguay.

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Underage marriage in Yemen.
By Alaa Al-Eryani
22 Oct 2013

Video about : One of underage girls tells her suffering with her mother, that want that married her in spite of a little old.

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Mary & Salome: polygamy in Kenya (4 o...
Lamuru, Kenya
By Celeste Hibbert
14 Sep 2013

The first picture taken of both wives together. Salome (left) married Peter who was already married to Mary (right). If I came from a wealthy family, I would have to be the first and only wife. I would want to be the only love of my husband,” says Salome.

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Mary & Salome: polygamy in Kenya (2 ...
Lamuru, Kenya
By Celeste Hibbert
14 Sep 2013

Currently, according to Kenyan law, polygamy is not recognized between the union of Christians and the second wife is not entitled to inheritance. The new Bill is trying to equalize all partners and ensure polygamy is recognized under customary law, which would legally protect all wives and prevent a man from marrying two women without prior consent.

However, Peter says the new Bill would not affect his household. “It can be very precarious for a man to marry two women. A man has to control the amount of love he has equally between both women, or they can become jealous and bitter. That is why I share everything and they are happy,” he says.

As seen above, both women have their own house just meters away from each other.

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Mary & Salome: polygamy in Kenya (3 o...
Limuru, Kenya
By Celeste Hibbert
14 Sep 2013

Mary and Salome have lots in common. They share the same land, eat the same food, go to the same church and look after the same children. They are also married to the same man.

They all live on the same small farm in rural Kenya, growing maize, spinach, beans and avocados. A long thin hedge marking Mary’s side and Salome’s side carefully divides the land. Each wife has her own single-bedroom house, vegetable garden and cow for producing milk. Their husband, Peter, shares his time between the two women. However, as seen here, they all eat and cook together.

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Mary and Salome - Polygamy in Kenya
Limuru, Kenya
By Loujain Rabbat
14 Sep 2013

Photos and Text by Celeste Hibbert.

A long hedge passes through Peter’s land, separating his wives’s houses. Mary and Salome share many things like cooking, taking care of the same kids, and being married to the same man.

It is estimated that 8 percent of Kenyan women are currently in polygamous marriages. The numbers, however, are decreasing due to the increasing expenses of providing for two women. Moreover, Kenya’s law does not recognize polygamous unions between Christians, and excludes the second spouse from the husband’s inheritance.

Kenya’s Marriage Bill 2013 is working on legitimizing polygamy under customary law to legally protect the women and ensure they are treated equally by their spouse.
Kenyan women of poor status view polygamy as practical and, to them, “Money and security will always take precedent over monogamous love.”

To Read Article:

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Not Quite a Virgin
Beirut, Lebanon
By Ali Zein
01 Sep 2013

When dominated by a patriarchal society, girls end up being the victims sometimes. Certain extremes are taken in order to protect oneself from the shame and disgrace of society. Hymen Reconstruction surgeries are one of those extremes girls seek in order to appear as virgins to their future husbands and society. Is it ethical? Is it justifiable? This documentary aims to present several points of views around this issue, leaving it up to the audience to decide what is right and what is wrong in hopes of encouraging change.

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Immigrant Single Mothers, Invisible R...
Bangkok, Thailand
By Biel Calderon
06 Jun 2013

Muna (random name), 39, lost the favour of her family after marrying a man from another tribal clan in Somalia. When her husband disappeared in 2010 both her family and her husband´s family tried to kill her. She fled in July 2011 and travelled to Bangkok but she had to leave her four children in her country. As a refugee, she started the process to be resettled.

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Anti-Gay Marriage Demonstration
Paris, France
By tipilakota
26 May 2013

Tens of thousands of people protested against France's new gay marriage law in central Paris on Sunday.
The law came into force over a week ago, but organizers decided to go ahead with the long-planned demonstration to show their continued opposition as well as their frustration with President Francois Hollande, who had made legalizing gay marriage one of his keynote campaign pledges in last year's election.
Marchers set off from three separate points across Paris, and by early evening they filled the Invalides esplanade just across the Seine River from the Champs Elysees.

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Scenes From North Korea
Pyongyang, North Korea
By U.S. Editor
31 Mar 2013

Dancing children, newlyweds and the North Korean military.

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Stolen Brides: Syrian Refugee Women i...
Al Mafraq, Jordan
By Sharron Ward
29 Mar 2013

An exclusive powerful film exposing the sexual exploitation and abuse of Syrian refugee women who are subjected to "pleasure marriages," rape, kidnapping and sexual harassment in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan.
Duration: 10 minutes
Format: HD 16:9 1080i 1920 x 1080 25 fps, Apple Pro Res HQ 422 PAL
Viewing format: 4:3 low res version

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Zaatari Refugee Camp: Love Conquers A...
Mafraq, Jordan
By Melissa Tabeek
29 Oct 2012

Zana, 26 married Abdu, 24, both from Dara’a, Syria, stand inside their new home the day after their wedding on October 29, 2012. Though some like Abdu’s brother opt to wait until they go back to Syria to marry, many have decided to start their lives in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp. For Zana, though it was difficult for her to have a small wedding without her family on hand, she said that all that matters is that she found her husband. “I have my love. Love conquers all,” Zana said.

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Female Genital Mutilation Interventio...
Moroto, Tapac, Uganda
By Francis Bahene Tumwekwasize
25 Oct 2012

Kiyonga Sarah (third right) with her fellow Surgeons (mutilators) holding knives they use when carrying out female genital mutilation attending the Tepeth culture day on 26th October 2012. Vowing not to continue with cutting girls after promising them some incentives and alternative source of their livelihood.

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Tajik kitchen stories 13
Istravashan, Tajikistan
By karolinasamborska
21 Aug 2011

Tajiks get engaged at 18, and then get married two years later. Most marriages in Sunni Tajikistan are arranged, and polygamy is permitted up to a maximum of four wives. Her husband is rich, so she is his second wife.

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The Kidnapped Brides of Kyrgyzstan
By Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza
31 Jan 2011

Text and photos by Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza


Although there are no reliable statistics, it is estimated that one in three women in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped and married against their will. Young women are often forced to marry the men who abduct them, in many cases complete strangers, and sometimes violently.

When Bermet left her home in the morning, nothing made her suspect that by the end of that day; she would be a married woman. Bermet, 19, was abducted by a stranger in Bishkek as she was coming back from her college philology class. She was violently forced into her captor's car, where she spent more than three hours fighting her abduction on the way to a house in Cholpon-Ata, in a remote village hundreds of kilometres far from her place at Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital city. Exhausted by her efforts, she decided to quit. “I decided stop fighting because I was exhausted and I was nearly to faint”, she narrates now, at her mother-in-law's house. She was isolated in a room and after passing a night there she was forced to get married. She eventually got pregnant by her kidnapper. Today, her husband.

Elmira Elimsolova, a woman nearing fifty-years-old, and her daughter were both married against their will.

"I was kidnapped when I was young and I have had seven children and a good husband,” she said. “Two of my four daughters have been kidnapped too. I cried a lot, I did not want that for them, but now they are happy."

Although bride kidnapping is against Kyrgyz law and officially prosecuted, few kidnappers have been condemned. In fact, during the last 20 years there have been only two resolutions.

The most recent sentence it was, a year ago, by the end of October 2013. A 30 year-old man who had raped twice a 17-years old teen. It took place on the region of Bakai-Ata. He attempted to kidnap her in three failed occasions.

The first time he tried to abduct her was on August 27, 2012; but her parents went on time to rescue and release her. The same evening, just few hours after the first attempt, he, unsuccessfully, tried to kidnap her again. During the following weeks, he threatened her via sms texting in order to make her keep silent about the sexual aggression. Because of shame, She never told to her parents. But on September 9th 2012, he abducted the young girl again. This time, the kidnaper was able to retain his potential bride a couple of days in a cottage thanks to the collaboration of the family of the supposed groom. He raped her again. This is a usual way to sustain the forced marriage, arguing that it has been consummated, obviously by force. But, the insistence of the parents of the girl and their efforts for her release were filled at the midnight of Sept 11th 2012 when a local Police squad entered at the captor’s house, arrested him and freed the girl.

During the trial of this case, the judge –a lady, not a man– asked to the accused: “Would you be disposed to apologize to the victim and marry her?”. Or even worst, during the trial, the victim was asked to not continue the process: “They are offering to you a wealthy family, a good mother in law, a handsome husband, why are you doing that? Why do you need to continue with this process?”

Munara Beknazarova, a women rights activist and head of Open Line Foundation, who has been following this case and its long and bizarre process at the Court says that this is a clear example of how socially accepted is this practice on the Kyrgyz people. Finally the perpetrator of the kidnap and aggression was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. But he only was charged of kidnapping. The medical examiners were never able to probe the sexual aggression.

While the practice remains prevalent in many regions of Kyrgyzstan, everyday citizens, activists and professionals are now speaking out against the practice of kidnapping women for marriage.

Kuban Kurmanbekovich, 32, is a nomadic shepherd from Talastan, near the Kochkor region. Although they now live in a remote area, he met his wife Elnura Amasilieva, 32, at college. They have three children: Arsen, Adelina and Esen. During the USSR era, Kuban studied Agricultural Engineering, while Elnura studied Economics. They met in a disco, fell in love and married.

"I do not want anyone to kidnap my daughter. Kidnapping is not a Kyrgyz tradition. It's just a pretext made by evil people", he says.

Dr. Turganbubu Orunbaeva, a medical doctor and feminist activist, has spent the last twenty years on the vanguard of eradicating the bride kidnapping tradition in her region. She conducts training sessions and conferences for teens, the Islamic authorities, police and abducted women. She also offers her support to women who have been victims of any kind of vulnerable situation or gender violence through her association called 'Bakubat,' which means 'comfort' in the Kyrgyz language.

Professor Kleinbach, an emeritus doctor from the University of Philadelphia, has been investigating bride kidnapping for the last twenty years. He says that even some of his students at the university fear being kidnapped. Some of the young ladies wear false wedding rings as a safeguard against abduction, arguing that they are already married.

However, some creative couples have used the practice to their advantage. One young man even kidnapped his bride at her behest.

After several years dating Mariam, Solo was still not able to save enough money for their wedding. The dowry set by Mariam’s father was simply too expensive for him to afford. A few weeks before their marriage, Solo kidnapped Mariam at her request in order to avoid paying the dowry. “We were in love,” the two said. “This was the only way for us to overcome Mariam’s father’s price on his daughter’s hand in marriage.”