Kidnapping or Stealing the BRIDE!!!

Ken and I met in Almaty Kazakhstan 14 years ago, in May of 1993.  In the fall of 1993, I taught at an upstart, westernized university in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and fortunately I still have my students’ old papers to remind me about their country’s customs and culture.  Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are very similar.   

What struck me as I read my students’ writings were their Muslim religious holidays and customs.  But I was most shocked to learn the old tradition of “Kidnapping or stealing of the bride.”  This practice is supposedly outlawed but many of my former students wrote of their aunts or own mothers being subjected to forced labor in her mother-in-law’s yurta.  Not a good way to start a marriage where the selfishness of the new husband is shown, not caring for the young bride’s feelings.  Western women’s libbers could have a field day with the treatment of women in the outback of Kazakhstan.  One student wrote that some women were still forced to follow the old traditions of Islam and wear paranja.  They are too afraid to assert their rights as women. 

Not all Central Asian traditions are obsolete or outmoded, some are happy especially with naming a newborn baby.  According to custom, “an old man in the village or the grandfather names the baby.  They connect this name with the baby’s future.”  The student who wrote about this had four brothers and their names were “Aman, Esen, Bolot and Beren.”  In English it meant “they will be happy, healthy and sound.”  

Happy was the woman who was able to bear boy babies for her family.  According to one of my students, this is “because every family felt obligated to have a son.  He would continue the name, be a continuer of the tribe.  Husbands made their wives get pregnant until there was a boy.  Sometimes families had more than ten children.  However, if the wife could not give birth to a boy, then the husband would leave his wife.”  Fortunately, one enduring GOOD trait in Kazakhstan is that young men respect their elders.  “Showing respect to an older person shows your level of being cultured in word and being well bred.”  Another student appreciated the older person’s perspective and that old sayings played an important role in the villages.  They wrote “sayings are like a small island of philosophy.  It opens all sides of life and gives advice on how we can overcome problems…They are like a little summary to help us live life.” 

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