Saturday, February 04, 2006

How Ainara got Stolen

During a recent visit of an Osh staff member to Bishkek, I heard more about how Ainara got stolen. Her coworker, Katya, told me that she hadn’t been dating this guy, but that he had been a friend.

Together with a group of friends, they were supposed to go somewhere. This guy said that he wanted to change clothes first and they stopped by his house. All the friends somehow left. He asked Ainara to come up to his apartment with him. She told Katya that at that moment she had the thought that he could try to steal her, but then told herself that it couldn’t happen. She went with him.

And when she got to his house or apartment, his relatives were there waiting. They cornered Ainara in a room and put the scarf on her, which according to tradition makes a woman married.

“How did Ainara react?” I asked Katya.

“She was screaming and crying, but they got the scarf on her,” she said.

“And how did her parents react?”

“At first her mother was against it, but then they talked her into it,” she said.

Among the women I know who’ve been stolen, I have known Ainara the longest and the best. It bothered me so much to hear about it that I even woke up dreaming about it one night. I wished there was something I could have done to protect her. And I wonder how parents possibly deal with the fear, the responsibility and the guilt. How can they possibly protect their young adult daughters, at all times, in all places?

A few days ago I was talking to a female government employee in Bishkek. She commented on the late ages of marriage in the U.S.

“Here people get married in their late teens and early 20s,” she said. “One of my distant relatives was recently stolen and she was only 16. She’s still a high school student and she’s married already.”

“In Bishkek?” I asked surprised. I didn’t think that stealings happened very often in Bishkek.


“Did she stay with him?”

“Yes, she stayed with him of her own accord. We talked her into it.” Again, my stomach rolled. The next 60 years of this woman’s life determined by the violent action of one man and the community’s support of him.

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