Reactions to “Two Kyrgyz Women” and MORE stories

It just keeps getting better, I’ll be getting ten free copies of the book titled “Two Kyrgyz Women” to give out to my eager, Kazakh students. They are teachers and this can have a dramatic ripple effect with their colleagues and their young charges.  These teachers have a BIG heart for their own Kazakh students and yesterday we talked about what they read on the topic of this book which only produced more stories.

For example, someone started out saying they felt that the Kyrgyz were perhaps feeling jealous or envious of Kazakhstan for being endowed with all the material riches that comes with oil and minerals.  The Kyrgyz people may feel offended with the injustice of not having all that their northern neighbors has.  It is true, Kazakhstan is rich but I had to remind my students that there are many people in the countryside of Kazakhstan who are currently suffering the same fate as Kyrgyzstan.  The problem is human trafficking internally in Kazakhstan. What these two women from Kyrgyzstan have done by telling their story that got into book form is to make other people aware about the sad truth of trafficking.

What did NOT keep getting better is the whole hour that we sat and talked about this sordid topic, the stories poured forth from most of the members of the class.  Everyone had something to contribute, some were of their own personal experiences.  So the fact is that bride-kidnapping is part of a more recent tradition among the nomadic people of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, it didn’t used to be this way.  But those who profit in the human trafficking industry have preyed upon this Central Asian tradition. There were more sad stories that I heard about how some of my female students almost got taken in or they know of girls who were kidnapped.

One older student had heard on the news just recently about slavery where girls from southern Kazakhstan who were under 18 were victims of this criminal activity.  They lived on the ship just off from Turkey and they were used as prostitutes.  The problem with this is that a public servant from the Turkish government was the owner of this ship.  We were told by the person who heard this on the news that some of these girls earned much money and that they felt they were part of the elite.

Others have different opinions on this and know that many Kazakhs are afraid to talk about it.  I had written about Kazakhstan being a “shame-based” culture where once girls are freed from sex slavery they don’t talk about it. They are too ashamed to admit what they went through.  Someone else talked about an uncle in western Kazakhstan who struggled to uphold the policies to stop this sex trade from happening.  Apparently an influential person in the community helped him to uphold the law.  Pressures are everywhere in the fight against good and evil.

Another story about a girl from the U.S. who was sold in Ireland. This human trafficked victim escaped and the police found the man who took her. However there were no laws to enforce the crime he had committed.  Even if you know a lot of information, the police in other jurisdictions might side with the criminal and not with the victim.  [This reminded me of the Liam Neeson movie titled “Taken” That is a very tense story along the same theme.]

One student said that she had been eager to go abroad and there was a website based out of Canada promoting a job.  The administrator seemed to have an authentic signature and he wrote responses very well back to this student, she checked his English.  However, after a while checking with others in the community where she lived, the same responses came to other people, like a form letter.  She cautioned that you MUST find out a lot of information first before you sign up to go overseas.  She and others got took but because she was vigilant and started to get suspicious with the responses of not requiring letters of recommendation or other documents, they found out that the Canadian hotel site had been hacked and was used by a predator.

So, how can we as educators in Kazakhstan deal with this problem?  How can we influence changes?  Someone made the comment “We should be afraid of people who are not afraid.”  Those who are not afraid obviously do not know how much the victims suffer and how debilitating this is on the rest of society.  Often in Central Asia the victim suffers shame in silence for the rest of their lives.

Someone else made the distinction that there are differences between the hardened prostitutes and those unsuspecting people who are “taken” in human trafficking.  The latter have been drugged, kidnapped or fooled into thinking they were going to do one kind of job but tricked into doing a “job” against their morals.  Prostitutes have crossed over the line a long time ago and perhaps have no conscience.

Another student said they were shocked that this was a problem in Kazakhstan, she thought this was such a religious country that didn’t have these kinds of problems.  We talked about how this doesn’t happen necessarily because of poverty.  Some very good children are raised up to be good citizens despite the poverty.   Sometimes the film industry makes prostitutes look glamourous such as the movie titled “Pretty Woman.”  Young girls who are impressionable see that and think that prostitutes wear expensive clothes and have a wonderful life.  Regrettably the producers of such movies want their viewing audience to think that way.

Apparently two Russian girls who came from rich families went into the prostitution business on a lark.  They found that they hated their “clients” and had just wanted the adventure or experience of it.  They were not ashamed to talk about what they had done.  [You would not find Kazakh girls doing this, talking openly about this kind of “adventure.”]

This story reminded another of two sisters who were living near some place where prostitutes hung out.  Apparently one of the sisters was caught by a man who frequently used the prostitutes. Something tragic happened to the sister where she committed suicide afterwards.  The other sister looked and looked for this man who had defiled and shamed her sister.  Too many girls are naïve and so they go out on the street little thinking that they could be kidnapped.  Some don’t know that there is not much in today’s policies or laws to protect girls from this crime. Not much is going to change because this business brings in a lot of money to those who have no morals or values.

Apparently someone knew of a neighbor in Taras, southern Kazakhstan where an 18 year old girl back ten years ago who was going to the Kazakhstan National university in Almaty was kidnapped.  She was just going along the street. The kidnapper blindfolded her eyes and some time later she found herself in a dark room, like an animal cave with a lot of other girls who were crying.  Apparently they didn’t touch this girl and gave her delicious food but she was not given a mobile phone.  Somehow she escaped and she ran until she stopped in front of a big car.  When the driver stopped to help her in, she couldn’t stop crying to explain what had just happened to her.  She had tried to ask for help and finally the driver figured out to bring her back to Almaty where she was able to phone her parents.

The trouble with living in Kazakhstan is that you can’t move around without your documents and one of the sisters of one of my students had a story of something that could have happened to her sister.  Apparently the sister had been asked by this other girl to go to Atarau to work.  The sister opposed the idea but the other girl went and found herself in a flat with girls in a similar situation.  They had no clothes and no documents, I think I misunderstood but they were being used by the police. [I need to clarify this story]

One student finally said, there is nothing that can prevent this crime.  There is a demand for sex and without good laws they will find the girls or women to be the necessary supply for the demand.  Not to be defeated by this hopeless or sordid topic, another person piped up suggesting three things that can be done when going abroad to work:

1)   find out the place where you live, commit the address to memory

2)   find out the names and phone numbers of your host family immediately

3)   get all cell phone numbers of people you meet as soon as possible.

We heard the story of bride kidnapping in the village where the girl refused and she not only broke the nose of one of the guys of the kidnappers but she broke someone else’s leg.  Apparently after putting up a fight of not wanting to be in this marriage she did cave and got married.   Finally, we heard from someone who had just read in the newspaper that Kazakhstan is the top country to use other laborers from other countries.

Maybe I’ll continue on this topic another day when I find out more about labor exploitation…


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