Kyrgyzstan called to explain women’s protest arrests
The activists gathered for an International Women’s Day march in a main square in the capital, Bishkek.
Men, mostly with their faces covered, attacked protesters who were condemning violence against Kyrgyz women.
Eggs were thrown at the demonstrators, they were dragged to the ground and their banners were destroyed, according to observers.
The police then forced demonstrators on to a bus and took them to a police station.
“People should be protected not penalised when exercising their right to assemble and protest peacefully,” said Hillary Margolis, an HRW women’s specialist. “Instead, on a day meant to celebrate women’s rights, these activists were doubly punished – first by an angry mob and then by the police.”
MPs in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament questioned representatives from the Interior Ministry and the General Prosecutors’ office. The deputy information minister, Nurzhigit Kadyrbekov, said the marchers wanted to “create a stir and to create a sensation” and “hype”.
HRW called on the authorities to investigate the arrests and attacks on the activists.
The marchers were voicing their opposition to domestic violence, forced marriage and other forms of discrimination. Females face the threat of violence and discrimination in Kyrgyzstan despite a revamped domestic violence law.
At least four women have died during domestic abuse this year, HRW said.
“You are waiting for protection from the law enforcement, but suddenly it turns out that you are being detained and it is not even clear why,” an anonymous detained protester reportedly said. “Any confidence and a sense of security are lost. I don’t feel I live in a law-abiding country anymore.”
There has been a pattern of disruption to events promoting women’s rights. A nationalist organisation objected to depictions of nudity at a November 2019 exhibit at the National Art Museum in Bishkek, saying the artists were “perverting young people”. The museum’s art director resigned after verbal abuse and rape threats.
The International Women’s Day protest in Bishkek last year led to threats of violence when a nationalist group and MPs objected to the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists at the event.
Picture credit: Flickr