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AR Articles on Curious Customs and Beliefs

White Might, Black Fright (Feb. 1994)

Liver of Darkness (Dec. 2003)

African Angst (Sep. 2001)

The Voodoo Defense (Feb. 1998)

African Plea Bargain (Aug. 1993)

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Craig S. Smith, New York Times, Apr. 30

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — When Ainur Tairova realized she was on her way to her wedding, she started choking the driver.

Her marriage was intended to be to a man she had met only the day before, and briefly at that. Several of his friends had duped her into getting into a car; they picked up the would-be groom and then headed for his home.

Once there, she knew, her chances of leaving before nightfall would be slim, and by daybreak, according to local custom, she would have to submit to being his wife or leave as a tainted woman.

“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.

Recent surveys suggest that the rate of abductions has steadily grown in the last 50 years and that at least a third of Kyrgyzstan’s brides are now taken against their will.


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.

A 2004 documentary by the Canadian filmmaker Petr Lom records a Kyrgyz family — men and women — discussing a planned abduction as if they were preparing to snatch an unruly mare. The film follows the men of the family as they wander through town hunting for the girl they had planned to kidnap. When they do not find her, they grab one they meet by chance.

Talant Bakchiev, 34, a graduate student at the university in Bishkek, the capital, said he helped kidnap a bride for his brother not long ago. “Men steal women to show that they are men,” he said, revealing a row of gold-capped teeth with his smile.

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.

The practice has technically been illegal for years, first under the Soviet Union and more recently under the 1994 Kyrgyz criminal code, but the law rarely has been enforced.

“Most people don’t know it’s illegal,” said Russell Kleinbach, a sociology professor at American University in Bishkek whose studies of the practice have helped spur a national debate.


Read the rest of this story here.

(Posted on May 2, 2005)

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I believe these people are Asian. Isn't Asian culture wonderful?

Posted by Drew at 7:22 PM on May 2

Don't make ridiculous generalizations about Asian culture because some backward mixed race Asians do something wrong. There are plenty of white cultures that engage in all kind of disgusting practices, and you can find that just here in the US. It's just ignorant to even lump all Asians together when they are such a varied and diverse group of people, and also of distinct races just like whites.

Posted by P Yeerum at 11:20 PM on May 2

Sounds like a good system. The divorce rate in Khyrgyzstan is negligible.

They must be doing SOMETHING right.

Posted by bigcasino at 11:51 PM on May 2

P Yeerum:

I guess I shouldn't generalize about the "Native Americans." You know, the people of Asian decent who "came across the land bridge." Lets cross them off the generalization list.

I guess I should not make generalizations about the elite Japanese. Just because many of the officers in their army practiced slicing off white POWs' heads with their swords in WWII.

Speaking of the elite Japanese, I believe a number of the officers in WWII engaged in the practice of consuming the body parts of their enemies. Now, where have I heard about this practice before. Oops! I'm starting to generalize again.

Posted by Drew at 5:01 AM on May 3

Just a bit more sophisticated than the standard aboriginal/caveman method of "bonk her over head then drag her to cave by hair"

Posted by Brendan at 3:33 PM on May 3

You all ought to check out the original article.

"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"

The people in the pictures look pretty similar to Chinese, so I would expect they have a fairly decent IQs. Being Muslim, of course, is going to set them back hundreds of years as far as civil rights for women, but this - this violates the rights of the girls families too.

Think about it - every single family in the country raising a girl has to just hope that her girl doesn't end up being snatched by a wife beater with an IQ of 70 that already has a couple of wives.

Under the traditional arranged marriage system, at least a girl's father got to try to see that his girl married a man with with some means, and sometimes they would worry about whether the couple would be happy.

With this, every single girl lives in fear, starting from age 16. I am sure a lot of girls marry at age 16 to at least have some say in the matter.

They can't figure out how to end this??????? Try enforcing the law!

The writer seems to put a happy spin on the practice. Most of the abductees say they are happy now, and there are a couple of pictures of smiling families.

Bigcasino- I hope you are either kidding or are just a really lonely guy that's fantasizing about how the even the worst of the losers can get a wife in Kyrgyzstan. If you are not kidding, I strongly suggest you go there. After all it is such a nice place, with it's low divorce rate and all...

Posted by Kansas Mom at 8:58 PM on May 3

Musings about marriages.

Under the traditional arranged marriage system, at least a girl's father got to try to see that his girl married a man with with some means, and sometimes they would worry about whether the couple would be happy.

I don't think that an arranged marriage is a disaster per default. For e.g., one of my colleagues, who is an intelligent and quite beautiful woman (with more talents for family life than for science I would say) has such a dreadful taste in men she dated and later married, that almost any decent man chosen by her father would have been a better catch. Basically she has invariably chosen the types who treated her as a doormat. Her parents looked on the wedding photos more like on the funeral photos.

I belive to some extent that many of the abductees are happy or find the situation bearable. Why not? When our completely freely entered marriages have such a bad divorce outcome, it can hardly be worse. Sometimes I think that when the divorce wasn't an option, people maybe tried more to get along. Who would willingly work on making his marital life a living hell when it's expected to be lifelong.

Posted by EW at 12:17 PM on May 4

EW, you ahv got some good points.
Arrainged marriages have a lot going for them. If the west returned to them it might do a lot to
a) reduce the illegitimacy rate
b) more fully utilize marriage as a civilizing effect on men, which would reduce crime, venereal disease, etc.
c) reduce the problem of more intelligent people not having enough kids by getting all kids paired up at a more uniform age.

And yes, most marriages can be made to be happy if both spouses are committed to the marriage. (In most of the muslim world this never applies because the husband has the sole power to continue or end the marriage. The wife is stuck even if she is horribly beaten or loaned out as a prostitute.)

I guess I can imagine that some of the women that submit end up relieved if their husband turns out to be an relatively OK guy. But this system sounds like an absolutely horrid deal for everybody except young male losers who can't get a wife any other way.

I find it fascinating and repugnant that this has held over from the time of warring tribes. You would expect the practice would end when the battles did, that the abductions would be scrapped in favor of arrainged marriage pacts. I would hazard a guess that these folk have DNA handed straight down from Ghengis Khan, and so it's in their genes, somehow.

Back to US and the west: It's a tragedy that marriages can be broken by one partner these days without proof of cruelty, abuse, addiction, etc. This puts all the power in the hands of the person that wants out. I wish we could raise the divorce standard back to where it was in the 60's, at least when there are kids in the picture. (The Broken Hearth by Bennett is a good resource on this issue). Also every couple entering marriage should get some good education on what to expect as the years go on. I understand a large number of newlyweds actually expect stay infatuated for the rest of their lives!

Posted by Kansas Mom at 10:55 PM on May 4

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