Posts tagged Osh

Kyrgyzstan terms from “Two Kyrgyz Women”

On Friday I had my composition students download the free version of the book titled “Two Kyrgyz Women” by Marinka Franulovic. About five years ago, I had had my ten Kazakh students read this book in hard copy that I had been gifted with from Marinka.  Now I am glad I can have my American students read the free e-book version. Here it is:

I think it is always a good idea for the teacher to read or do whatever assignment he or she is giving to their students.  I’ve read this book several times before but now I see it with fresh eyes after what I have learned much more about modern day slavery. Actually this book helped to jump start me on this path as an educator to inform others about this great evil. In any case, I will quiz my students on Wednesday whether or not they have read the first story about the first Kyrgyz woman who was in slavery in a tobacco plantation in Kazakhstan.

On p. 24, the first slave named Ainura revealed a little bit about her husband who had become an alcoholic and didn’t help support the family with their two children.  He would often tell Ainura, “Nobody is getting rich by working.”  This was according to the Kyrgyz Post-Soviet moral relativism that pervaded the country soon after the fall of the USSR.  When my American students read this part, it will go against everything they have been taught by their parents and grandparents who worked hard to own their farm or run their business.  My students have a high cultural value of believing in hard work or having a good work ethic. Most of my students value hard work and they had better because I am going to work them hard in the next ten weeks of this semester.

Interesting to read on p. 29 “Some of the world’s most spectacular architectural treasures were built by slaves, and no one is embarrassed to appreciate them.”  Immediately I think of the Great Wall in China and KNOW that there were thousands of slaves who died creating that monster structure which can be seen from outer space, maybe even from the moon.  Marinka, the author, further wrote: “Some of these new land owners in Kazakhstan may earn money by using foreign workers for free, and they do not seem embarrassed by this either.”

On p. 32 the slaves were reminded by their “owner” to NOT speak in Kyrgyz if they met anyone who was a stranger to the farm.  These Kyrgyz slaves who had been brought up to their northern neighboring country didn’t have the right documents. The manager put more fear into these “slaves” that they may be beaten or imprisoned if the Kazakh police found them without proper IDs on the farm.  Apparently on the next page, one girl who was from the Krygyz city Osh and not used to rural life spoke a different kind of Kyrgyz.  As it turns out, Altanay was much more educated than the other slaves and she just did not know how to work quickly like they did.  The masters dubbed her with the name “White Hand.”  She did NOT last long under their abusive jokes and shaming techniques. Actually she was only on the farm for two weeks before she disappeared.

I have seen the movie “Nefarious: Merchants of Souls” and will probably go again next month to another screening of this 1 1/2 hour documentary of slavery in our modern 21st century.  Nothing is new under the sun and the unfortunate like Altanay who was called “White Hand” probably ended up as a sex slave. Many young girls are picked off who do not come from a loving home where the father protects but rather assaults his own daughter. According to this documentary, some mothers in other lands sell their daughters off to be sex slaves.  The question was asked, how can a loving mother do this?  Some of their responses were that they love their daughters enough to sell them to local dealers and not to dealers in some place far off.

These two Kyrgyz women were mothers who happened to be married to selfish and uncaring husbands.  I found out from Marinka that the two women ended up going back to their family and their husbands because what they had been through as a slave did NOT compare to what they thought was a bad home life. They were desperate enough to believe a lie about getting a job in Kazakhstan to support their family.  Little did they know they could have died under the conditions they were subjected to.  In their shelters they were separately told to NOT tell anyone in their family what they had gone through with slavery, they would have been ostracized by the very people they needed to love them.

Anyway, I hope to have some spirited conversations with my students on Wednesday when they come back to our class after a LONG weekend. Today is President’s Day so we have the day off.  Good thing, I could use the break as I know my students can too.  However, reading this 150 page book will open their eyes to the depravity of man.  It is NOT just in Kazakhstan, it is all over the world and slavery is going on right at our doorstep.


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Met Author of “Two Kyrgyz Women” at Book Club

Yesterday was a busy day for me, but rewarding.  First, at work, there was a birthday party for a 23-year-old male, and we all trundled down to the conference room to help celebrate with three cakes and other food. Then I went to the Book Club meeting, then I took another taxi to meet my ten students at the American Embassy Resource Center.  The highlight of the day for me was to meet Marinka, with about 10 other international women. She is the author of the book “Two Kyrgyz Women.” However, the highlight for my students was to see the wealth of books (about 800 volumes) and magazines at the Resource Center.

*Much misery is all around us that more westerners should be awakened to if only they cared about their fellow human beings!!!

I’ve looked back a week ago to when I blogged about the eloquence of Marinka’s  writing. She was just as articulate and passionate in speaking on this topic of human trafficking yesterday.  She started talking about internal trafficking that was inside of Kazakhstan.  Many of the saunas that are in the suburbs of Astana really serve as brothels.  Because of the huge gap between the famously wealthy people in Almaty and Astana and everyone outside in the villages or what is referred to as “regions,” Kazakh girls are lied to, thinking they are going to the big city to make some money.  Instead, they are fooled into being victims of sexual exploitation.  Some girls may be at bars where something is dropped into their drinks and they wake up to find themselves in this terrible, compromised situation.

Not only is there sex trafficking happening in epidemic proportions in Central Asia but there is labor exploitation as well.  Many men from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan who can’t find a job in their own country will try to find work in Kazakhstan only to find they are virtual slaves working long hours for very low pay — like $50 a month.  Some are illegal immigrants. Without papers, they are defenseless against the system but they are so desperate to send home money to their families.

Marinka had interviewed one Kyrgyz man who had been virtually a slave in Russia for 3 years.  He was working at a construction site and was with other illegal immigrants who were housed in a barn with animals. These men were barely fed and when he finally returned home to his wife and children, he looked 20 years older.  So, the men we see in busses who are carted around the city from one construction site to another don’t look happy.  One obvious reason would be especially when it starts getting very cold in Astana, they are in harm’s way with not only being malnourished but freezing in the cruel winters of the north.  They are closely guarded property, as if on a chain gang, because whoever hires them extracts much labor without having to pay what they are worth.

Because Central Asian countries are shame-based societies, whether those trafficked people are men or women, once they DO gain freedom and return to their families, they will rarely speak up what tragic ordeals they went through.  Those are the fortunate few who do re-enter their old world of poverty.  For many, that is what got them involved in unwittingly becoming slaves in the first place.  Sadly, deep prejudice goes against those girls who have been sexually exploited so they especially will never say anything about being in the sex industry. A self-perpetuating problem because of the silence.

(to be continued)

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Red Cross Talks: People Quakes and Earth Quakes

My husband and I went to a AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) meeting the other night and heard two different speakers from Red Cross talk on Central Asian issues. Lots of facts and figures were put up on the powerpoint that we witnessed once Drina Karahasanovic was introduced.  From my notes I gathered the following:

186 countries have National Red Cross and Red Crescent

1919 was when the Intl. Federation of Red Cross was formed (wondering if this is a result of the one million Armenians who had been killed in a genocide in 1915 or if a direct result of WWI?)

Drina focused her talk on what happened in southern Kyrgyzstan after early April when the interim government was still settling in after the Talas and Bishkek violence.

June 10 – interethnic tensions

June 12 – Uzbek border opened (90,000 passed through)

June 14 – new Kyrgyz government requested international support

June 17 – 75,000 were registered by Uzbek government and put in 50 different locations

June 25 – referendum

Aug. 10 – Kyrgyzstan lifted state of emergency

What are the needs of 375,000 IDPs and refugees still after the summer problems in Osh?

1)   psycho-social needs for adults and children who witnessed the violence

2)   food and non-food items – shelter, safe water

3)   promoting social inclusion and culture of non-violence and peace

So far, 30,000 IDPS have been assisted

Many Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan are wondering how they will make it through the winter without houses and lack of food

Even though Red Cross had their “ear to the ground” and knew the Ferghana Valley has much racial tension, they were surprised at the magnitude of the problem, how it escalated so quickly.  That is a hot spot to keep watching

To know more about what the Red Cross Intl. does in other hot spots, check out or

Next, a representative for the American Red Cross (ARC) was a man of Pakistani origin named Augustine Gill.  He touched a bit on the flood in Pakistan but focused more on the problems in Central Asia related to earthquakes.  Augustine said that for every $2-3 spent on prevention it could save $7-10 in relief.  The obvious result of politicians not agreeing on locations and thus not spending money on dams that were needed, it created many homeless people.  22 million have been affected by the indecision of government and 2,000 people died as a result.  He mentioned something about “Restoring Family Links” which is something about reuniting families after a catastrophe when they are seprated.

The point was well taken that Central Asia has many major cities that are in the earthquake zone.  How much money could be spent NOW to make sure buildings are up to code so that lives and structures are not lost when the eventual earthquake hits.  They predict in the next 10-15 years.  Almaty and Bishkek are two cities high on the list of risk levels.

I know from when I first arrived and  lived Bishkek in 1993, there were standing some non-structurally sound buildings.  Where the first Peace Corps building housed their office was in a vacated hotel that had been damaged by an earthquake which had happened maybe 10-15 years earlier.  In Almaty there was a HUGE concrete walls built to stop mudslides coming down to the city. I can’t remember when but maybe in the 1960s a whole town was demolished close to Almaty due to a tremor and mountain mudslide.  I know I wrote in my blog several years ago about that.

So, there needs to be behavorial change issues that have to happen.  The Ministries of Emergency in each country need to be prepared with escape plans and food and water preparations for those people affected by earthquakes.

Now that I live in the safety of Astana, I’m thinking with all the empty apartment buildings that keep going up and being filled with hard working young people, if an earthquake happens in Almaty…well there would be homes and office buildings ready to take those who move BEFORE the big one happens.  After the earthquake that is bound to hit, then Astana will be a bustling, busy city.

I talked yesterday to an older woman from Taras who still has property in Almaty, but she has moved up to Astana to work at the new university.  She said wryly like a died-in-the-wool Californian might say, “Yeah, they are always talking about the next BIG one…”  She doesn’t believe it will happen and thinks it is just a scare tactic.  Hm…talk to those people in Japan or Turkey or China about earthquakes.  I’m just saying…

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Photos of Kazakh Red Carpets (Part II)

This blue pattern is not a carpet but tape used in a traditional Kazakh pattern. An art piece about 2 meters square shown at the Pyramid. Yesterday I wrote about some issues that have been brewing for a while, I have more questions than answers.  Since I don’t know the Kazakh language I have to rely on my Kazakh students who know English to fill me in on their traditional values and their culture.  Kazakhstan is no different than many Central Asian nations, they have 1,000s of years of history but are trying to come to terms with present day reality. As a nation, they have some of the same Soviet baggage that Kyrgyzstan is trying to lose.  How does a leader of a nation guide his or her people to salvage from the past traditions and embrace from the 21st century what should be in place in order to compete with the rest of the world.  I don’t envy the interim president’s job in Kyrgyzstan, she has an uphill battle with what has happened lately in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan, in Osh.

What are the true numbers of deaths and those wounded?  The health care facilities are not that great to begin with, I can’t even imagine how the hospitals and doctors are coping right now. Also, how are the survivors or families of those victims who perished last week, what are they doing to memorialize their loved ones?  I don’t know that much about the Uzbek people who are caught in the middle.  They probably were born in Kyrgyzstan but are ethnic Uzbek while the country of Uzbekistan doesn’t want these refugees fleeing from Kyrgyzstan to feed and support, they have their own fragile economy trying to support their own.

For lack of anything else to write because I have no answers or solutions and can only grieve for those stuck in the middle of this terrible power play, I am showing more Kazakh carpets. These are photos I took several weeks ago at Indepedence Hall in Astana.

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Soviet Union’s Map Decisions Contributed to Unrest in Central Asia

I have watched very closely what is happening in southern Kyrgyzstan, in Osh particularly. I can’t remain silent too long without blogging about the ethnic unrest.  I have American friends in Bishkek who have friends in Osh and it is of great concern to them what is happening.  (Coincidentally, and totally off topic, one of my Am. friends living in Bishkek who I have known since 1993  when I lived there also has a niece competing this weekend in the Miss Minnesota pageant, it truly is a small world.  Of course I’ll be rooting for my niece Aja!!!).

Back to the sad news that has many Central Asians and those of us who live close to this violence in Kazakhstan wanting to know what will happen next to the nation south of us.  Living in northern Astana, close to the Russian border, we are much farther away from the instability that has happened since April 7th.  Naturally there was MUCH under the surface we didn’t know about.  It has taken years for it to reach this point so it leaves us wondering how did this unrest begin.  The following is from an article written by Radio Free Europe titled “Ten Things You Need to Know about the Ethnic Unrest in Kyrgyzstan.”

How are the effects of the Soviet Union’s demarcation of the region still being felt today?

That’s probably the biggest contributor to the problems today because traditionally the Central Asians were divided between sedentary (Uzbeks) and nomadic (Kyrgyz) peoples. That changed a little over the course of time, and there were two khanates and an emirate that would have included representatives of all the peoples, but no one would have recognized themselves as being Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Kazakh, or Tajik. They would more have identified themselves as being from Kokand Khanate or the Emirate of Bukhara, or something.

So, when the Soviet mapmakers came along between 1917 and the mid-1930s and redrew all the maps, they really had no meaning. But since the fall of the Soviet Union, those lines they drew on maps 80 years ago have suddenly taken on great significance. And people really do recognize that there is a border of a Kyrgyzstan, of an Uzbekistan, whereas until 1991 or ’92 that had almost no meaning at all. And traditionally the people — and by traditionally I mean hundreds and thousands of years — would have just wandered freely from one place to another without recognizing any borders or without there having ever been any borders there.

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