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Kyrgyz Mother Describes Sit-In For Justice At Moscow Airport

  • RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

Moscow's bustling Sheremetyevo Airport might seem like an odd choice for a sit-in.

But 52-year-old Gulkan, a Kyrgyz national who declines to give her full name, and her teenage daughter have been there for three months and say they'll remain camped out on the tandem seats of Terminal D until justice is done.

They claim a Tajik man living in the Russian capital promised to marry the girl, Ular, before absconding with their bank card and thousands of dollars' worth of savings.

"He turned out to be a thief, a fraudster," Gulkan says of the August incident.

They are among the many Central Asian migrants who travel to Russia -- legally or undocumented -- in hopes of building a nest egg on the ruble-based economy.

"We worked in Moscow and collected about 150,000 rubles ($2,600)," Gulkan says of her efforts before both returned to their home in the village of Kok-Bel in the Osh region of southern Kyrgyzstan. "[Then] my daughter communicated with a young man via the Odnoklassniki social network. He asked her to lend him money. She agreed. He came to Osh, took our Sberbank card, and disappeared."

"We know him. He's a Tajik citizen. We have his passport data and number, and we also know his address," she says.

Belongings In Plastic Bags

Gulkan says she returned to Moscow, filed a complaint with the Krylatskoye district police, and appealed to the Kyrgyz Embassy for help.

"[Russian] police told us that they had launched an investigation. Now we're waiting," she says. "When they find the thief and our money, we'll go home."

So with their belongings piled in plastic bags and stacked on baggage carts among the travelers, Gulkan and her daughter maintain a makeshift home in the departures hall where they eat, sleep, and wait in their desperate bid for justice.

Gulkan, a widow, says she gets some help from her son, who is working in Russia.

"He sends us money so that we can buy bread and tea," she says. "He is a contractor; he doesn't have a permanent job. I couldn't ask him to take care of us because he himself has no ability to do so."

She also says their relatives in Kyrgyzstan are aware of the situation but "they have their own families" to take care of.

The Russian language and other ties among former Soviet states have contributed to decades of labor migration by Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Kazakhs to Russia, although there have been periodic crackdowns by Russian authorities to stem undocumented labor alongside new visa regulations.

Gulkan and Ular are known among the Kyrgyz taxi drivers working out of the airport.

One of them, nicknamed Cadet, says the drivers offered to help their two compatriots buy plane tickets to return to Kyrgyzstan but the offer was declined. "I don't know how to help them," he says. "I wanted to give some money to buy a ticket and send them to Osh, but they do not want to leave."

"We're not living in this airport because we want to," Gulkan says. "We hope to leave after we receive our money. We won't go anywhere before that."

Written by Antoine Blua based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
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