Yesterday Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister, was assassinated in Pakistan. She was one of the inspiring female politicians and working in a country full of conflict and actively speaking against severe abuse of women in her country. She was a person of great courage and thousands of women activists are mourning about this loss. Benazir had the courage to speak against Shariya laws in an Islamic country and against an abusive political regime in Pakistan. It’s amazing that she had so many supporters, it is rather unusual for Pakistan. She was the first woman ever to be in such a high position in an Islamic state.
There are comments in the blogosphere about the new parliament: now the parliament has more space, laptops and women… Was just watching evening news and realized that the 22 women in parliament remain invisible. The journalists continue to do close-ups of men and interview them only. The one woman who was mentioned in the news was former head of Constitutional Court Cholpon Baekova. I am so wishing for women who speak in the parliament. Can’t wait to see them in action. Hoping that they will realize how important their presence is for us, other women. 22 out of 90.
On the mono-party parliament, there are ten committees and mostly Ak Jol party members in them. The dominating party chose the new Prime Minister today. He is an ethnic Russian (I assume from the last name and looks) and a mathematician. President Bakiev approved the parliament’s choice. How surprising! Bakiev also said today that the political battles are over now and Kyrgyzstan is entering the new year with a new promising parliament.
Just to discuss the hypocrisy of interpretation of the concept of human rights in Kyrgyzstan. I was just watching Tursunbai Bakir uulu (who was Kyrgyz ombudsman for five years) on an ‘analytical’ program. He was talking about how flawed the elections wear and saying that the people in power in Kyrgyzstan do not fear God and do not prepare for their second life after death. At one point of the interview he took out a tiny Koran out of his pocket and said that he always carries one with him. During his speech he has not mentioned human rights a single time, yet religon was indeed the main topic of conversation. According to Bakir uulu, Kyrgyz people need to have an ideology which will be rooted in religion to replace the old communism ideology and not to have ‘vacuum’ in their heads. At some point he also said that he prays five times a day but does not even make his staff to do so in response to concern about his religiosity being an issue.
I can’t wait for the new ombudsman elections and actually need to ask around about the possibility of taking part in the elections process.
Just couple of days ago I wanted to join a protest called ‘I don’t believe’ in front of the Central Election Commission. The election process turned out very flawed and I do not believe that people voted in favor of a party they did not know much about. I did not go because of loads of work in the office and this very day found out that all the people who joined the protest were arrested. They received their sentences yesteday ranging from 500 soms (10 Euro) fines to 7 days incarceration. Strangely enough the wellknown activists received more drastic sentences. One of the people who is supposed to spend 7 days in jail is Mirsulzhan Namazaliev who is a youth activist and my fellow blogger.
These events reminded me about the arrests and bans on freedom of assembly during Akaev’s time. Is this history repeating?
Today is Kurman Bairam, a big Muslim religious holiday. It’s an official day off and according to the tradition you have to cook special ethnic meals today and visit your family and friends. Three people brought food from their homes to my organization’s office today. Meanwhile, I am thinking about gender and religion. Just to give a glimpse of what visual images I have of Islam. The picture shows a square full of praying men, this is the usual start of Muslim religious holidays in Kyrgyzstan. Women are not supposed to pray close to men. One of the reasons I know of is that the kneeling may expose parts of women’s bodies (because women are supposed to cover their ‘seductive’ ‘bodies completely, yet it does not save them from ‘revealing’ when they kneel as they are not supposed to wear trousers).
I am not a Muslim woman and I do not know how it feels not to be able to attend a funeral ceremony at the cemetery or pray at the same square with men on a religious holiday. What I do know is that some intepretations of Islam bring enournous harm to women. Read an article today about sexual relations in Iran, it is scary. 12-year-old women being married, rape in marriage being a common thing and of course a taboo issue. To name some other ways to control women’s bodies: virginity testing in state clinics, stoning for alleged adultery, honor killings of women who allegedly had premarital sex by their families, death sentence for same-sex affection.
It scares me that I see more women in Kyrgyzstan following religious traditions. More women wear head scarves, more men come to the square to pray on religious holidays, some state leaders are openly supported by states with Sharia law. I do not want women in Kyrgyzstan to experience what their sisters go through in Iran. I would not wish anyone to go through a virginity check or a rape.
Yesterday’s elections proved yet another point: the way Kyrgyz society is structured does not allow for diversity in the parliament. One pro-presidential party winning the elections with 47,43% of the votes (at least not 70%) and aiming at one-party parliament. So all-male system is now changing to one-party system with hopefully some representation of women, youth and non-Kyrgyz ethnic groups. As expected the party called the ‘New Power’ (Novaya Sila) won as little as 0,23% (a little bit over 4000) of the votes. The New Power included mostly women and young people and was not able to invest into a large-scale campaign involving mobile phone operators or popular artists. I don’t have their poster on the wall.
Somebody told me today that Kyrgyzstan is not ready for a party like that. Was it ready for a party established two months before the elections and directly linked to the president? By the way, the president himself said today that the parliament ‘will not be the same as the previous one despite the outcome of the elections’. He meant women, youth and different ethnic groups will be represented.
Sexual violence is a taboo issue, I started writing about it in October and was trying to collect information about it. As of now I still have not found available services for survivors. From personal conversations I know that quite a few women have been raped either by strangers or boyfriends or in marriage, yet the rapes go unreported. I personally know a dozen of women who were raped at some point of their lives, some by relatives. Only one of this dozen of cases was reported to the police with criminal charges following. I know a woman who was raped during the days of revolution by the looters. Given my in a way ‘privileged’ circle of communication, I would assume that there is a lot more out there.
What made me think about the issue today is the reported case of alleged rape by 41-year-old father of his 19-year-old daughter. The Ministry of Interior says that the father has been continuously drunk and raping his daughter since September 2007.