Jamila and the strength of Kyrgyz women

Over ten years ago, for my birthday, my childhood friend Piero gave me as a present the book the “White steamboat” from Chyngyz Aitmatov. In handing me over the present he explained that the author was the most famous Kyrgyz writer. Truly I didn’t know Aitmatov before that day and the book seemed to me a great opportunity to learn more about the land of the Kyrgyz Republic, which I had already admired in its beauty in some photographic reportages.

I must confess I read the story in one day and was totally fascinated by the fantastic description of the landscape, the nature and the most humane story of the main character. The lake of Issyk Kul then became one of my dream locations to visit. Enchanted by the story, I decided to read more works of Aitmatov and came across the novel Jamila which, if possible, moved by imagination even more.  The plot, construed in a perfectly harmonious manner, allows the author to powerfully describe the moral and physical strength, as well as the beauty of the protagonist Jamila. I will not give any spoiler of the story and invite everybody to read the book. To my mind Kyrgyz Republic became the land of natural beauty accompanied by very courageous and brave women.

Years after receiving Aitmatov’s book as present I had the possibility to work in the Kyrgyz Republic for the United Nations. In my heart I didn’t hesitate for a second and the first images that came to my mind were the ones of the lake of Issyk Kul and the strength of Jamila.

For over two years now Kyrgyzstan has become my new home, where I moved with my family and where every day I enjoy the privilege of being surrounded with such a beautiful nature and people.  While I truly enjoy living in this country, I am very much saddened by the still ongoing practice of bride kidnapping and early marriages. Statistics report a figure as high as 32 bride kidnapping a day.

In my daily work which is to support the state efforts in improving the rule of law of the country I am very pleased to see some tangible progress in this field yet the realization is still not easy to come. However, I truly feel that the biggest change should not happen through laws and Courts but through the national pride and powerful historical heritage. Early marriages and bride kidnappings should be indeed sanctioned through legislative measures but first of all they should be prevented by using the powerful example of Jamila so powerfully and immortally described by Chyngyz Aitmatov.

Lucio Valerio Sarandrea (CTA on Rule of Law, Kyrgyz Republic) lucio.sarandrea@undp.org,
Photo Credit: www.kino-teatr.ru Natalia Arynbasarova (Actress), “Zhamilia”, 1968, Producer: Irina Poplavskaya, “Mosfilm”.

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