She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “I prefer to work with the people, giving them real help and support. Our activity is not restricted to the borders of our Republic. All those who need our help, will get it”.
Kyrgyzstan: Domestic Violence, Tradition Or Crime? by Bermet Egemberdieva, June 20, 2006. At least 17 women have died in Kyrgyzstan in the past two years at the hands of physically abusive husbands. It is a sad reminder that many Kyrgyz women are unable to escape the horrors of domestic violence. Statistics from the country’s crisis shelters — where many of the most serious cases end up — suggest that 80 to 90 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s victims of domestic violence are women.
Byubyusara Ryskulova – Kyrgyzstan
She works for the Psychological Crisis Center for Women and Families SEZIM. (Website in russian).
Byubyusara Ryskulova is a human rights activist dedicated to preventing domestic abuse and protecting those who have been victimized. She founded the first domestic violence prevention center in Kyrgyzstan. This organization is committed to assisting and rehabilitating abused women, providing protection for victims, researching the roots of violence within the Kyrgyz society, and the education of rights. Byubyusara gives hope to many people. She carries out her mission against violence through peaceful measures including seminars, campaigns, advocacy, protests, and education.
Byubyusara Ryskulova is Director of the Psychological Crisis Center for Women and Families “Sezim” in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is from the village of Belogorka in the Chuysk Region of the Kyrgyz Republic. Coming from a family of rural workers, her life took a different turn at the age of nine when she left her native village to study music at boarding school in the capital city of Bishkek. Independence and adult responsibility came early for Byubyusara.
After finishing her music program, she entered the State Institute of Arts in the department of cultural and educational work. She graduated four years later and took a position as a choral conducting teacher and an inspector at the Ministry of Culture of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Byubyusara Ryskulova first became involved in her human rights charity during a period of social and economic abatement in Kyrgyzstan. In 1997, she became a director of the refugee
organization, “Umut,” the first in Central Asia dedicated to women suffering from violence in the home. Then in 1998 she created a new organization, the Psychological Crisis Center for Women and Families SEZIM. Their mission: to provide legal, psychological and economic protection for victimized women and their families.
Today, SEZIM is the only active crisis center in the capital city of Bishkek, administering directly to the population who need protection from domestic violence and trafficking in human beings.
The actions behind the Center’s creed: ‘Real help for real people’ are setting precedents in this region. Byubyusara’s efforts have succeeded in overturning at least one ‘closed’ case: When Aldayarova I. was killed by her husband, her death was ruled a suicide, despite the findings to the contrary of the medical examiner. Through Byubyusara’s initiatives, a peaceful protest against this ruling was organized in front of the Supreme Court, culminating in a reexamination of Aldayarova I.’s ’suicide’.
For two years, the work of the SEZIM Center was made possible through the participation and commitment of the dedicated volunteers who staffed it, inspired by the enthusiasm and kind will of their leader, Byubyusara. In fact, many of the Center’s programs are carried out without any financial support at all. An example is the ‘confidential phone line’. Volunteers are trained to offer advice in Russian and Kyrgyz languages. This hot line is the only one in the Republic, and a lifeline for an abused woman in a desperate situation. Byubyusara herself takes many of these calls.
While Byubyusara’s work has expanded, she continues to grow professionally and has earned a graduate degree in psychology at the State Pedagogical Institute. In her role as Director of the SEZIM Center, Byubyusara is a well-known public figure in the Republic as a human rights activist intent on protecting those suffering from gender abuse, domestic violence, and the dehumanizing practice of trafficking in human beings.
Over the last ten years, she has advanced her cause by participating in peaceful yet preventive measures: round tables, advice and political activity. In 1999, she organized a regional conference to study the problems of domestic abuse in Kyrgyzstan.
She is a legal defender and a coordinator of a target program geared toward assisting the refugees of Central Asia. In conjunction with the international migration organizations of other countries, the ‘Refugees, Victims of Violence, Including Slave Trade’ project provides asylum for refugees who are citizens of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Additionally, victims receive social, psychological and legal protection as well as guidance in reintegrating into society.
Byubyusara is active in the democratic and judicial elections in the area, working as an independent observer during the parliamentary and presidential elections.
She was instrumental in the lobbying and collection of signatures required for the draft law: ‘On Measures of Social and Legal Defense from Domestic Violence’. It was adopted in 2003 by the Parliament of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
Moreover, Byubyusara has partnered with local, state and public organizations to broaden her scope of protection and legal, psychological, and financial resources. With the support of the district government representatives and through an initiative with the SEZIM Center, six coordination councils in the Chuysk and Issyk-Kule regions have been established.
Along with the staff of the SEZIM Center, Byubyusara has initiated partnership projects with other NGOs and international organizations focused on the fight against gender abuse, domestic violence and the trafficking in human beings. In 2001, Byubyusara initiated a unique project with the United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM.
Using the method of interactive theater, they staged plays in the TUNGUCH theater tradition to actually show domestic violence in public performances throughout the isolated regions of the Republic.
For the first time, many people living in these remote areas were made aware that severe displays of violence in the home are a dangerous problem and that abuse is not standard or acceptable behavior. This created a powerful precedent as people became educated on the existence of organizations dedicated to fighting against gender abuse and domestic violence. Since that time, the number of people coming forward for help has increased sharply.
By invitation of the International Organization for Migration, Byubyusara participated in a campaign against the practice of trafficking in human beings.
Another partnership with the Internews organization is resulting in the production of a film, ‘Silence Gives Birth to Violence’. Also, SEZIM Center volunteers conduct seminars about gender and home violence in the Chuysk region through a relationship with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs NDI.
Meanwhile, they have partnered with another organization, ALGA to conduct research on violence in the homes of Kyrgyzstan.
While Byubyusara’s vision has grown considerably over the years, from charity work to establishing anNGO to her involvement in the development of a free society, her basic goal remains the same: to provide real and effective help to the people who need it. Initially her work was directed toward women; now her target group includes the poor, and the children and youth who have suffered at the hands of adults.
Byubyusara has been an active participant in the campaign to promote democracy and create a civil society in the Republic since 1991, when Kyrgyzstan became independent of the Soviet Union. This marked a difficult and complicated time, as the Republic set about establishing a stable economy and a viable political structure.
Throughout this unstable period, Byubyusara faced many challenges to her work, including traditional religious misunderstandings, concealed forms of polygamy and ignorance on the part of the authorities and portions of the population who considered domestic violence to be a personal family problem that should be solved in the home.
Moreover, homicide statistics were incomplete, as killings that
occurred within families were not considered murder. Rape was viewed as a problem for the victim.
Byubyusara has overcome many hurdles and earned the faith and
confidence of the Kyrgyz people. They entrust her with their
problems, and she takes a personal interest in each one, as often their fate rests in her hands. Through her efforts, today there is a greater public awareness that domestic abuse is a criminal act that no one should have to bear, but for those who are victimized, there is help. (1000PeaceWomen).
She is also a Better World Hero.
Byubyusara Ryskulova, director of the womens’ NGO Sezim, said, “Anyone whom the government does not like can be charged with the most heinous crimes. Many of my colleagues are already beginning to fear for their future”. (full text).
Read: TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN AND CHILDREN FROM THE KYRGYZ REPUBLIC, 73 pages pdf, from IOM International Organization for Migration, 11/2000.
OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE – BUDAPEST, Network Women’s Program;