Feminist Kyrgyz singer recieves death threats for showing bra in music video

Feminist Kyrgyz singer recieves death threats for showing bra in music video
By Naira DavlashyanEmma Beswick
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In the video, singer Zere appears in a purple bra and calls for a woman's right to her own opinion to be respected


"The Instagram user bespredel_kg wrote that if I do not delete the video and ask forgiveness from the Kyrgyz people, he will kill me," reads aloud 19-year-old Zere Asylbek, sitting in a small cafe in the centre of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital.

Just a few hours after the publication of her first video called "Kyz" (The Girl), the singer became a celebrity in her homeland and she was catapulted into the spotlight as a spokesperson for women's rights in Kyrgyzstan. But she also became the target of criticism and even death threats.

In the video, which Zere funded herself, she appears in a purple bra and calls for a woman's right to her own opinion to be respected. "Why should I be like you want others? Where's your respect for me?" she sings into the camera.

Zere Asylbek/Instagram

In conservative Kyrgyzstan, where a majority of the population is Muslim, the video is provocative - something that the singer says was deliberate in order to "draw attention to the important problem" of gender discrimination.

After receiving death threats, Zere told Euronews she is afraid to leave the house in the evenings and go out in public unaccompanied. "I suppose they don't mean it and nothing will happen, but I can't be 100% sure," she added.

In Kyrgyzstan, there is still a tradition of bride kidnapping or "ala kachuu", which means "grab and run" in Kyrgyz. Abductors will often bring women to their homes against their will and along with relatives, force them to marry.

Rape will often be used as a means of eliminating the possibility of escape. In Kyrgyzstan, virginity is traditionally considered an important quality for a future wife, a woman who has been abducted has less chance of having family in the future.

Despite the fact that "ala kachuu" was banned in 2013, one in five girls and women are kidnapped for marriage in Kyrgyzstan, according to a recent study.

"The mere fact that this happens, that the girls remain (in the families of men) and other women are still helping them in this...I think that says it all," Zere said.

She plans to continue to advocate for women's rights through her art, with the goal of taking her message international: "If I go to the world level, I will help Kyrgyzstan even more, because with my work I will promote its image."

Zere is currently preparing to launch a secret "project that will cover the regions" of her country.

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