(See? I told you it was going to be a series. This is not such a directly Jewlicious story, but I figured the series started here, it should continue here…)
Today’s reason why I’m not married (and please G-d let there not be one reason each day): Because I don’t live in Kyrgyzstan. In this land of less conventional English vowels, about a third of all Kyrgyzstani brides are now taken against their will. Often the families are complicit in the abductions, which sometimes become violent and harm the bride-to-be.
“I told him I didn’t want to date anyone,” said Ms. Tairova, 28. “So he decided to kidnap me the next day.” Such abductions are common here. More than half of Kyrgyzstan’s married women were snatched from the street by their husbands in a custom known as “ala kachuu,” which translates roughly as “grab and run.” In its most benign form, it is a kind of elopement, in which a man whisks away a willing girlfriend. But often it is something more violent.
The custom predates the arrival of Islam in the 12th century and appears to have its roots in the region’s once-marauding tribes, which periodically stole horses and women from rivals when supplies ran low. It is practiced in varying degrees across Central Asia but is most prevalent here in Kyrgyzstan, a poor, mountainous land that for decades was a backwater of the Soviet Union and has recently undergone political turmoil in which mass protests forced the president to resign.
Kyrgyz men say they snatch women because it is easier than courtship and cheaper than paying the standard “bride price,” which can be as much as $800 plus a cow. Family or friends often press a reluctant groom, lubricated with vodka and beer, into carrying out an abduction.
Once a woman has been taken to a man’s home, her future in-laws try to calm her down and get a white wedding shawl onto her head. The shawl, called a jooluk, is a symbol of her submission. Many women fight fiercely, but about 80 percent of those kidnapped eventually relent, often at the urging of their own parents.
Brutal as the custom is, it is widely perceived as practical. “Every good marriage begins in tears,” a Kyrgyz saying goes.
It’s also illegal, but according to the article, “the law rarely has been enforced.” In any case, it makes JDate look like a picnic with Zach Braff by a lovely stream on a breezy, but warm summer’s day. Heck, it makes shtetl-style Yenta-ing look like a slice of heaven.
(I saw the article in the NY Times over the weekend, but Phoebe blogged about it before I could. So hat tip goes to her.)