title:Unholy Matrimony – Kyrgyzstan
name:Noriko Hayashi (Panos Pictures)


Female relatives of the kidnapper Tyhchtykbek (26) took Farida (20) into his home after she was kidnapped. University student, Faridawas suddenly kidnapped in Naryn, a city in southern Kyrgyzstan, while she was taking a walk with her friend.


Dinara (22) struggles as an elderly relative of the man who kidnapped her tries to force a white scarf, a symbol of the bride, onto her head. It is common in Kyrgyzstan for female relatives of the kidnapper to try and convince the women to marry him. Dinara told her parents that she was kidnapped, and her parents told her to marry him. The next day, she got married to the man who kidnapped her.


Tyhchtybek (26) talks to Farida (20) at his home. He is trying to convince her to marry him after he kidnapped her from the street in Naryn. She asks why he kidnapped her, and reminds him that that she has a fiancé. She says it is a waste of time to try and convince her, and that she won’t stay in this place.


Farida is covered with a white scarf, a symbol of the bride. Tyhchtybek holds her hand and tells her that he will make her happy. She turns her back to him. She says that even if they married, there would be no love between them. She continues to refuse. Female relatives of Tyhchtybek continue attempts to persuade her, telling her she put a scarf on her head already, so she should get married, and that it is shame to leave the house.


10 hours after Farida was kidnapped, her older brother arrived to rescue her from Tyhchtybek, her kidnapper. Right after she was kidnapped, Farida called her home and told them where Tyhchtybek was. Her brother says that if his sister wants to stay here, he won’t stop her. He asks them to recognize that she is crying and saying she doesn’t want to marry, so he will take her back home. Eventually, Farida went home with her brother. When they left, they signed a contract stating they wouldn’t report the incident to police. It is rare for a kidnapped woman who refuses to marry to be returned home after the kidnapping.


Residential district in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Naryn, where kidnappings occur frequently. Many apartments remain from the Soviet era. Each year about 15,000 women are kidnapped and married in Kyrgyzstan.


Cholpon (18) sits behind a curtain waiting for her weddings guests to arrive. No guests, and no men can see behind the curtain, except for the husband. Traditionally, recently married brides spend most of their time behind this curtain. Just two days earlier, she was kidnapped by Aman. She resisted for 6 hours, and eventually she accepted to marry him.


Cholpon (18) and Aman (24) are having an Islamic wedding ceremony in a traditional portable dwelling yurt of Kyrgyzstan. Aman kidnapped Cholpon two days ago. Cholpon says that for Kyrgyz women, once they enter a man’s house, it is considered a shame to leave. She says she accepted the marriage because she doesn’t want to bring shame to her parents. 


Aitilek (18) was kidnapped and taken to her kidnapper’s home. She is covered by a white scarf, a symbol of the bride, and sits in a corner in a room. Her mobile phone has no coverage here, and so she cannot call her family. Aitilek says that she will accept this marriage and will try to live here.


One and a half months later, Aitilek was suffering from domestic violence. She was wearing the scarf that regular housewives wear, instead of white one which brides use. She ran away from home once, but her husband brought her back. He destroyed her cell phone, and she has not been able to see her family since she got married. She was crying, and says that she wants to get out of this place. She says she doesn’t know why she accepted this marriage before. 


Elvira (26) was kidnapped by a stranger on September 23, 2004. She ran away to her parents’ home with her child in spring of 2012 due to domestic violence. She took a taxi to go to her brother’s birthday party and she was kidnapped by the taxi driver.


Seitbek (34) who is a kidnapper, sit in handcuffs during a trial in a court. He ambush and kidnapped a 19 year-old university student, Urus, near her house, on June 8, 2012. He took her to his home and raped her and forced her to marry him. 3 days later, Urus hanged herself. Seitbek was sentenced to be imprisoned for 6 years for the crime of kidnapping a woman and rape. Kidnappers are not be charged with crimes unless their victims commit suicide or are raped, such as in this case.


Dinarkul holds a photograph of her 19-year old daughter, Urus Kasymbay, who committed suicide three days after she was kidnapped and forced into marriage. Urus was raped right after she was kidnapped, and there are bruises on her arms and thighs. She had a fiancé, and they were supposed to get married in September, 2012.


The mother (right), sister (center), and fiancé Oybek (left), mourn at the grave of Urus, a victim of kidnapping marriage, who committed suicide. They visited her grave after the trial of the kidnapper, Seitbek. Oybek says that the two were dating for 2 years and they would be married by now if she were alive. He says it is wrong to force women into marriage by kidnapping.


In the country towns and villages, it is not rare to see men consulting each other with their family and friends if they should propose to, or kidnap, the women they are interested in. After sunset, there are men talking about plans for kidnapping. The man on the far right proposed to a woman whom he fell in love with at first sight, but she rejected him. His parents told him it’s better for him to kidnap her. In Kyrgyzstan, when men kidnap women, they take several of their friends with them by car.