Sunlight poured in through the hotel window, it was a 7am start today. The villagers in Karakol had some of the best views of the snow peaked mountains in Krygyzstan. This sublime beauty set the tone for the day ahead which was one of the toughest and most emotionally poignant.

Our trip to Karakol was a significant part of this investigative journey for RestlessBeings. The itinerary of the day included meetings with victims, the family of a suicide victim who had ended her life because of non consensual ala kachuu and other members of the community. Our day began with a meeting with the principal of a local college. We were keen to establish a contact with some of the colleges and universities throughout the country; those educating the future, and to hear their thoughts and views on non consensual ala kachuu. The principle was keen to express the developments both in the college and the local community and how attitudes to bride kidnapping, were gradually shifting. This was a positive not which drastically changed when we met two recent non consensual ala kachuu victims.

Both girls were students at the college, and had been kidnapped and forced to marry strangers at the age of seventeen. This interview was quite a challenge for the team, as both broke down as they spoke about their pain. A stark difference to the positive angle the principle was very keen to assert. Both students had lost a lot of hope and now insecure about their future, the way the community will perceive them, the isolation from peers at the college and so on. It was quite shocking to hear that sadly many students at the university had grown so accustomed to Ala Kachuu, that albeit it being non consensual, they felt that just agreeing to it would avoid communal shame etc?

A male student, who was a close friend of these two young victims, sat by them throughout the interview quietly. We finally interviewed him, and this conversation became the highlight of the day. He had set up a youth team within the college with other male students to prevent and support all their female friends who were prone to non consensual Ala Kachuu. His defiant words were an inspiration and reminded us once more, that tangible change is not impossible.

Rahima, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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