Posts tagged one child policy

“Of GODS and MEN” and Kazakhstan

Last night my husband and I watched a French movie titled “Of Gods and Men” with English subtitles.  We learned many of the Catholic rituals that were followed by eight monks in the two hours of viewing.  They were living in Algeria back in the mid 1990s. Before what the rest of the world now knows after 9/11 about Muslim extremists and terrorists.  These priests made the tough decision to stay on for the benefit of the villagers who they cared for rather than leave to save their own skins.

Earlier we saw how the Croatians at a work site were slashed in their throats by the extremists.  The warning on imdb.com was that “Of Gods and Men” was a volatile, extremely violent movie.  I was ready for the end to see all eight monks slashed to death because we knew that they would be martyred for their Christian faith.  Didn’t happen quite the way we thought but I don’t want this to be a spoiler for those who have NOT seen this slow-moving but good movie.  I recommend it highly.

How does it relate to Kazakhstan? I think you have foreign people who have gained the trust of the Kazakhs and Kazakhstanis by learning the language (Kazakh and Russian). They live in Almaty or Astana sacrificing what could be an easier, “better” life in U.K. or the U.S. or other western countries. (Not many I know of are actually living in the countryside beside Peace Corps volunteers) However, people I know are following a higher calling. That is what keeps them living beside those who are struggling to make ends meet, those who are chaffing under tyrannical laws that make no sense whatsoever.

BUT, for all the complaining there might be about the Kazakh haves and the have-nots, the standard of living being so high in the cities while Kazakh people suffer in the rural areas due to high unemployment or alcoholism, they still have their freedom.  As we saw in the movie, women were brutalized for not wearing the full garments covering all of their body. Women were not able to have an education.  They were twisted up in fear about whether their children would survive because the Muslims terrorists who ruled the area wanted them to be afraid, very afraid.  The ongoing battle was against the corrupt, government armed forces against the terrorists.  The armed forces wanted the priests to join sides with them in their brutality against the terrorists.  They would have none of it.  So, the Christians were caught in the middle wanting peace. Turns out that the French people LOVED this movie because they are all about freedom.

That brings me to another movie we watched during the 4th of July weekend.  “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson. What is it about Mel and violence and blood?  I had to cover my eyes more than once because it was so brutal and terribly bloody.  Of course, war is all of that but Gibson took it to the next extreme level with some good principles in place. The French helped the early American settlers to gain their freedom from the British imperialists.  French are all about liberty, as are Americans!

Maybe that is what Kazakhstan needs to sort out. Who will really help them get out from under the former Communist past and to stay ahead or away from the terrorist element that would LOVE to come in to strike fear in the people.  Not to mention the other threat to the east, a very big country that is burgeoning with many young males who are a product of the “One Child” policy.  Kazakhstan is the country to watch to see how they can stay afloat in wanting peace.  That is what the eight priests in “Of Gods and Men” wanted but they were martyred for their faith.  What is Kazakhstan’s faith?  Is it in themselves and their past? Is it really Muslim? Is it materialism and a reaction against communism?  Time will tell…

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Photos of Kazakh Red Carpets and Women’s Issues

My American friend Julia in Almaty has a real passion to learn as much as she can about the traditional patterns of the Kazakh carpets.  For me, this might be a “women’s issue” but  I believe it is also tied in with failed communist policy from days gone by.  According to Julia, at some point the carpets were banned during the Soviet Union, maybe in the 1970s.  However, in Central Asia each soon-to-be bride was expected to make a carpet to have in her dowry before she got married.  Each carpet had her own symbols and story to tell along with the year it was done and the woman’s name woven in.  No different than our American quilts that show patterns and have stories attached to it.  These red carpets were created as pieces of art in happier, more bucolic times in Central Asia.

On a related note with women’s issues, I just got an e-mail from an American friend of mine, Elaine, who lived in Nepal for a semester.  She has an anthropology background and her riveting accounts reveal what she experienced in Nepal, no easy life.  What’s so amazing about Elaine is that she is in her late 70s but still going strong. Here’s what she wrote in her e-mail to me…

“…although at some point I do want to record what I learned about the ongoing tragedy of widows in both Nepal and India.  Although they’re no longer required to join their husband’s funeral pyre, they often opt to do so, only because the alternative of no status, no financial resources appears worse to them.  Enough!”

When I lived and taught in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 1993-1994, I first learned about bride kidnapping from my Kyrgyz students.  Many of their aunts or even the Kyrgyz students’ mothers had been kidnapped as brides.  However, kidnapping was against the law back in the early 1990s but during the Soviet period I think it was commonplace to avoid taxation or maybe to avoid having to make the carpets that took at least a year to accomplish. I think there might be a strong connection with not making the traditional Kyrgyz or Kazakh carpets because the USSR deemed it as too culturally bound and the other issue of bridekidnapping.  The newly minted Soviet women probably didn’t have the time to make carpets because they were too busy in the collective farms or in the industrial factories. It could be a real research question for someone in anthropology to find out the correlation between the Soviet edict of NO more carpets and when the bride kidnapping started or WHY it became commonplace.  Too many questions, not enough answers!!!

I suspect that those westerners who are INTO women’s issues and may even major in Women’s Studies would find out that there are numerous failed policies in many different countries that work against women.  However, these same purported “scholars” who are mixed up with Marxist dogma in western university would never want to reveal that former communist states or current communist countries propagate very contemptible laws that work against women.  Really, American women have NOTHING to complain about when it comes to their rights.  Oh, should I also mention women’s issues in China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan’s neighbor? Why are so many girl babies killed in China with their “one child policy?”

What we need is honest inquiry into what is happening to women in other countries.  I haven’t even brought up the issue of the sex trafficking that happens all too frequently in Krygyzstan or other former Soviet Union countries.  Read a riveting account titled “Two Kyrgyz Women” if you want to know more about the plight of what is happening in Krygyzstan. If the Kyrgyz men of that small nation are angry, it is because their women folk are being brutalized and used.  They are desperate to preserve their honor and the honor of their nation.

But this blog was about Central Asian carpets right?  Please look at the photos that I took in the Independence Hall in Astana and think about the Central Asian women who created them. Many of these women are soooo far away from being independent, it breaks my heart.  Please think about Kyrgyzstan as the numbers of deaths continue to increase in southern Kyrgyzstan.

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