You may not be familiar with the nation of Kyrgyzstan: the land-locked country of 6 million between China and Kazakhstan is not well-known, but it is undergoing a social movement right now.
The rights of women in Kyrgyzstan are not protected, and the country is among the world’s regressive countries in civil rights. Ala kachuu is an ancient tradition of bridal kidnapping, but even though it is illegal, it continues. This is because the government refuses to enforce the laws. Of course, such a system has unfathomable costs for the women of Kyrgyz society, but some women are fighting back.
Last week, 19-year-old Zere Asylbek shared a music video for her song “Кыз” / “Girl.” She goes against the conservative traditions of her country, singing in her native tongue, “Don’t tell me what to wear, don’t tell me how to behave.” She wears a bra and jacket in the video, which angered many traditional people in Kyrgyzstan. Other women have dyed hair or earrings, also taboo there. In the video, they frolic through their home country and yearn for freedom. Asylbek had this to say when speaking to Sheisnomad about the video:
“Almost all girls in our country are shamed on a daily basis. We constantly hear remarks and unsolicited advice. It is important not to drown in someone’s opinions and generally accepted standards, not to lose yourself.”
Since the release of the video, “Girl” and its calls for freedom and equality have been met with mixed reaction. The investigative journalist Christiaan Triebert described the “Girl” video as “the talk of the day in Kyrgyzstan” on Monday, with “both positive and negative feedback,” while local news agency 24.kg reports that Asylbek has received numerous death threats in the wake of the video. Some citizens criticized Zere’s father, too. He replied on Facebook: “I don’t impose my demands on my daughter only because I am her father .. she’s a free daughter in a free Kyrgyzstan.”
As for his daughter, she remains strong. “My video is my work,” she told 24.kg. “I also wrote the lyrics by myself. And I’m not afraid of threats, fear will not lead to anything and will not solve the problem. There is a reaction, and this is a norm…Most importantly, my family — parents and brothers — support me. This gives me confidence and strength.”
As the #metoo movement slows down in the Western world, it’s heartening to see social activism and art still go hand in hand in a country like Kyrgyzstan. These vestiges of change will propel through the world for years to come. Watch the video above.