Demonstrations have broken out in Kyrgyzstan after the bodies of a young woman and her suspected abductor have been discovered after a two-day search that appears to highlight the ongoing — but banned — practice of “bride kidnapping.”
One of the bodies, found in a car near a remote field in the Chui region on April 7, showed signs of strangulation and the other had knife wounds.
Authorities said they suspect a murder-suicide.
WATCH: Live stream of the protests from RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service
Civil society groups and other Kyrgyz have responded with urgent calls for authorities and society to crack down on the persistent practice of such kidnappings.
Demonstrators assembled in several cities on April 8, including in front of the Interior Ministry in the capital, Bishkek, and outside a police station in the southern city of Osh.
In the capital, protesters are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Ulan Niyazbekov.
Police said the car at the center of a search since 27-year-old Aizada Kanatbekova was abducted by several people on the streets of Bishkek on April 5 was found by a shepherd.
“A local shepherd saw the car on April 5 and 6 and thought it was stuck in the mud,” police said. “Only on April 7 did he approach the car and see the corpses of a woman and a man in the cabin, after which he immediately reported it to the police.”
The suspect who hoped to press her into marriage is reported to have been 31 years old.
Kyrgyzstan sees thousands of bride kidnappings each year despite its criminalization in 2013.
Activists say the practice often leads to marital rape, domestic violence, and other traumas.
The UN Development Program estimated in 2019 that about 14 percent of Kyrgyz women under the age of 24 were married under some form of coercion.