Kyrgyz civil rights rally to be held in Bishkek

A peaceful rally organised by Bishkek resident Arstanbek Tyulebaev against government authorities will take place today in Ala-Too Square. The

Kyrgyz protester arrested at a womens rally in March

EPA-EFE/Igor Kovalenko

A peaceful rally organised by Bishkek resident Arstanbek Tyulebaev against government authorities will take place today in Ala-Too Square.

The protest follows recent controversy surrounding the peaceful International Women’s Day (IWD) march in the Kyrgyz capital on March 8, during which dozens of mostly female activists were detained for hours after being attacked by a mob of masked men.

Kyrgyzstan’s government has long been criticised for corruption and inadequate protection of its female population. Despite a recently revamped domestic violence law, researchers at Human Rights Watch have cited persistent instances of forced marriage, kidnapping, murder, denial of access to legal defence and political rejections of social justice. It has been suggested that the court ruling that prohibited the IWD rally on the grounds of COVID-19 prevention was effectively a smokescreen to halt the event on principle, as Kyrgyzstan had no reported cases at the time.

Expect the events in Ala-Too square to add to the lengthy canon of troubled and constrained activism in Kyrgyzstan. The long-standing roots of violent radical-chauvinist groups could very well spark further attacks by counter-protesters and allegations of police abuse at today’s rally, as well as fresh protests down the line. The government will likely continue to employ the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification for denying the right to assemble.

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