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Kyrgyzstan: “Even with a headscarf on, I will run”

Religious beliefs do not prevent girls in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan from reaching career heights. Many women in scarves realize themselves in different professions, breaking stereotypes: they study at universities, go in for sports and even jewelry.


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Azimkan Malikova, athlete, 3rd year student of the Osh State Pedagogical Institute:

Аzimkan Malikova. Photo: cabar.asia

– When I covered myself, my parents were not against my decision. At school, acquaintances were surprised and asked: what changed you? Our physical education teacher asked: “Why did you wear a hijab? You were running, great success awaited you. ” I replied that even with a headscarf on, I would also run and do athletics.

People react differently when they see me doing sports. Some perceive well. And there are those who do not like it, they believe that since I put on the hijab, it would be better if I stayed at home. But I’m already used to such comments. I believe that a person should be right in the first place for himself.

In addition to me, there are still covered girls and there are all the conditions for prayer. Last year, our team participated in competitions among higher educational institutions in Bishkek, and we won the first league cup and went to the major league, where we will participate this year.

This is only nominally athletics; in fact, this sport requires a lot of effort and labor.


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In Kyrgyzstan, it is not officially forbidden to wear hijab in schools, universities or public institutions. Nevertheless, there are some cases when schoolgirls and teachers who wear a headscarf face discrimination and misunderstanding.

Nevertheless, according to a recent study by the Institute of Islamic Studies, young people believe that the situation with religious freedom and conditions for the Muslim population in Kyrgyzstan is better than in neighboring Central Asian states.

Shayyrgul Zulkuparova. Photo: cabar.asia

Shayyrgul Zulkuparova, mother of three children, a dentist of the highest category, 19 years of experience. Works in dental clinic №2 of Osh city.

– In 2015, my sister became seriously ill and had to operate in India. Everything went well. But in this country much attention is paid to religion.

The famous doctor from the clinic where the operation was performed adheres to his religion. When I saw how he wound a turban on his head, an insight suddenly descended on me. I asked myself: what kind of Muslim woman am I?

After returning from India, I decided to cover myself. That was not easy. Then in Osh there were a few women in headscarves.

Шайыргул Зулкупарова. Photo: cabar.asia

The husband reacted to my decision with understanding, the children, too. But at work there was a misunderstanding on the part of colleagues. Some said: “She covered herself to show that you are reading a fivefold prayer.” I replied that I did not do it for show, but that it was the will of Allah.

During work, I ask patients if they can wait for me while I pray. They are treated with respect and understanding, sometimes they ask: how do you do everything?

Wearing a scarf is a responsibility; you try to be worthy of it. Beware that your actions do not become a bad example for others.


According to the results of a sociological study of the State Commission on Religious Affairs, conducted in 2016, every third Kyrgyz citizen has a positive attitude towards women in hijabs.

Orozgul Kochkonova, owner of an accessory store in Osh, English tutor, mother of two daughters:

Orozgul Kochkonova. Photo: cabar.asia

– Long before I started wearing the hijab, I wore clothes for prayers in the mosque. I decided to cover myself after a three-day da’avat (sermon – ed.).

The daughters were somewhat surprised, but the rest of the relatives were glad of my determination. At first it was very difficult to tie a scarf, it took a lot of time, but now it is already simple and easy.

Making jewelry is my favorite work. I didn’t learn from anyone, I think that I got it from my mother.

Now I am conducting needlework courses and creating jewelry and more than 30 people have passed them. Most of my students are covered women who work at home. And when I don’t have enough time, they take different orders from me.

And with some kind of misunderstanding or negativity due to the fact that I wear a hijab, I never came across.


Material author: Aruuke Abdykulova. This article was prepared as part of the IWPR project “Stability in Central Asia through Open Dialogue”.

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