I am Jamilia

“He liked me, the man who kidnapped me, but I DID NOT like him. I could not imagine me with him, couldn’t imagine at all. And I blame my cousin, she wanted me to get married. I could not imagine my life there and with him. And here is the result. After (the kidnapping) I took some pills, I felt in coma and I became an invalid (chronically emotional distress). I want to ask him - How is your life going? My life is broken… I am lonely… Sick... “ writes a 37-year-old woman from Kyrgyzstan who became a victim of the practice “Ala Kachuu” more than a decade ago. And this practice is still ongoing. “Alu Kachuu” (in Kyrgyz “to take and run away”) means bride kidnapping. It appears particularly in rural parts of the country although Kyrgyzstan outlawed it in 2013. Nowadays 13,8 per cent of women aged under 24 married through some forms of coercion according to the latest available data in Kyrgyzstan. `I am Jamilia` portraits different women of different ages and from different parts of Kyrgyzstan. Each women has her own story. But all of them have one in common: they all have been kidnapped to get married. `I am Jamilia` represents just a few women with this experience. Mainly in rural areas bride kidnapping still appears to be socially legitimized and surrounded by a culture of silence and impunity. `I am Jamilia` shall not only give voice to those women who became victims of bride kidnapping furthermore it shall emphasis on the glimmer of hope for a change. Despite the stories of tragedy all these women found their own way how they continued life after being kidnapped. Nonetheless all of them did not loose hope that bride kidnapping will one day belong to the past of Kyrgyzstan.

Irina Unruh

From German ancestors born in Kyrgyzstan, in a small village close to the capital Bishkek, Irina Unruh always kept intense memories of her childhood during the Soviet Union time. In 1988 at the age of 9 years her family immigrated to Germany. There she fnished her school and university education. After university she went several times abroad and worked mostly as a German teacher in diferent countries. For fve years she used to live and work in Rome until August 2018. There she began to expand her passion for photography and started to develop seriously in the feld of documentary photography and participated in courses with well-known photojournalists, including Monika Bulaj.Over the time she returned regularly to Kyrgyzstan, to fnd out more about this fascinating and unknown country, with the eyes of an adult. Since 2015, Irina Unruh started to portray it photographically and to work on two long-term projects.