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'Snatched Brides' Stunned, Overwhelmed In Kazakh Videos

  • Merhat Sharipzhan

The woman (center) vigorously resists as a group of people try to force her to wear a head scarf.

The woman (center) vigorously resists as a group of people try to force her to wear a head scarf.

A video showing a devastated young woman during an apparent bride-snatching in Kazakhstan has gone viral.

A correspondent for Kazakhstan's Khabar news agency, Baurzhan Orda, posted the clip to his Facebook account on June 10 and solicited opinions on its contents.

It shows a group of people forcing a head scarf on an unidentified woman, a presumed sign of betrothal, despite her protestations. She appears to be in her teens or perhaps early 20s.

Orda told Russian Dozhd TV that he received the video via mobile messenger WhatsApp and does not know either the place or time of the incident.

"Let me go! I won't put it on!" she screams as her apparent kidnappers, who include an older woman and a young man, hold her on the floor in a sparsely furnished room. At one point, the young woman curses them.

She eventually stops fighting long enough for the older woman to put the head scarf on her head. She then lies speechless with her head on the woman's lap.

"You blame us like that only because you are angry," the woman tells the traumatized girl, adding, "We are not offended."

Another woman says, "Bring her some water."

A young man orders someone to "put the holy Koran on the threshold -- if she steps out over it, then let her go."

The older woman tries to convince the exhausted young lady to stay: "We know your parents; we know you. Arai, we are not some strangers. You know us. We knew you would act this way. Not just you, but everyone else is being bride-snatched. There is nothing to fear. You will be our daughter."

Young men are heard to add, "Yes, everyone is bride-snatched. It's fine."

Throughout much of Central Asia, the wearing of a head scarf denotes married status, and the placement of a head scarf on a young woman by a young man's mother suggests that she accepts her as a daughter-in-law. If a young lady spurns the family by leaving the house immediately after such a ritual, she might well be expected to leave the town, village, or region under a perceived cloud of shame.

But while Kyrgyzstan, for instance, has felt obliged to legislate against such traditions, they are not widely practiced in the majority of Kazakhstan's regions and therefore not legislated against.

The journalist who posted the video, Orda, placed a similar video on his Facebook account later on June 10.

In that video, taken by an unidentified woman, a young woman is carried from a car and onto a white carpet, where a head scarf is forced on her. She screams and tries to resist, but two young men grab her and force her into the house with the help of another young woman. Small children are among those watching the scene, with sweets being thrown in Kazakh wedding fashion as a romantic Kazakh song about a young girl joining the family of her future husband blares in the background.

As in the first video, it is unclear when or where the footage is shot.

Virtually all of the comments on Orda's Facebook page condemn the videos:​

Some call for a proper and thorough investigation of the "crime."

"They are parents themselves," another says. "Don't they realize that they may face the same situation?"

"Oh, my God! This is torture! Rapists!" charges another.

"A probe must be launched."

"Stop savagery!"

"They belong in prison!"

"My heart is aching, poor girl. What do they think they are?"

"How are they going to live as a family after this?"

"Thank the Lord, we do not have anything like this."

While it's not widespread in Kazakhstan, evidence occasionally emerges of bride-snatching in the southern regions of Shymkent, Zhambyl, and Qyzyl-Orda, for instance. Reliable estimates of its frequency are hard to come by, but cases appeared to have been reported more openly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Many Kazakhs reject the notion that bride-snatching is traditional in their country. Formerly, young men who lacked the resources to pay qalym -- the traditional bride price -- are thought to have "snatched" consenting brides to elope.

Rights activists say about 12,000 women and girls in neighboring Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped and forced into marriage every year, and that number is thought to have been increasing in recent years.

The Kyrgyz government introduced a special article establishing the punishment for bride-snatching, then launched a public campaign against the practice and increased the potential penalty to up to 10 years in prison.

Kazakhstan has no specific article in its criminal code about bride-snatching.