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After several years as a victim of domestic violence, Nurgul has now beat the system

18.05.2015 Success stories

40 year-old Nurgul is sitting across from me. Her eyes are sad, and she answers the question I ask her in a voice without confidence, marked by anxiety. I ask why she has come and she pulls a newspaper article out of her bag. The story in the article is much like her own – a story of problems with getting a passport and registration.

People who have not experienced this problem can have a hard time understanding it. Some people say with indignation “What’s the problem, why should it be so difficult to obtain identification? You just have to collect the necessary documents, take them to a public service centre or a territorial passport unit, fill out their forms, wait for 20 days and bingo, you’ll get a brand new ID card. People do this every day!”

That may very well be. But in practise, things are much more difficult. Not for everyone, but for a large group of people, which is why we need to talk about this problem.
 
There are two main reasons for their problems: Firstly, some people are unable to find a place to register themselves as residents, either because they do not own their home or their letters of house will not let them register there to avoid taxation. And without this registration, you cannot get a passport. Secondly, and this reason is actually bigger than the first one, people are badly informed. Because of this, rumours and speculation rise and spread rapidly between friends and neighbours. And this is what informs people’s actions.

Let us return to Nurgul. She is born in the Issyk-Kul region in the village of Ak-Bulak, and went to school during the times of Soviet Union. During that time, the school made sure that all their pupils obtained passports together. The teachers were particularly involved in this. But Nurgul could not join this process, because she had started in school too early (you do not get your own passport until you are 16 years old).  Because she did not encounter any situation where she needed her passport, she did not get one. And one day, she got married.

Life as a married woman turned out to be very hard and challenging. Even though Nurgul and her husband tried for several years, they were unable to conceive. In addition, family life began to crack at the seams - her husband became an alcoholic and started beating. Once he even broke her arm.
 
Twice, Nurgul actually moved from her husband, but the returned, because she felt sorry for her elderly parents in law. 
In 2000 Nurgul gave birth to a son. Finally, there was a hope of happiness in the household, since the lack of children had been a frequent cause for quarrels, and for insults and violence from her husband. But sadly, the arrival of Nurgul’s son changed very little.

When the couple moved to Bishkek, Nurgul gor a job as a dishwasher in a small café.She was hoping to get a better job, but was unable to due to her lack of passport. Nurgul never saw the money that her husband allegedly earned.  And he was still violent and drinking. 
It finally came to an end when her husband threw Nurgul and the child out and left her for another woman.

“Perhaps it was for the best,” Nurgul says, looking back, even though the betrayal was hard on her. The couple divorced quickly and did not even file any divorce papers, since the marriage was never officially registered due to Nurguls lack of passport. Nurgul never got any of the things that the couple had bought together so she and her boy have nothing. 

Her husband refused to help and support the child, and Nurgul was unable to sue him. But why is that? Once again, her lack of passport prohibited her from exerting her rights. And furthermore, her son is “invisible” because he has no birth certificate and does therefore not exist, officially speaking.  And even though Nurgul had the right to an alimony from her husband, she could not apply for it because of her lack of documents (passport, marriage certificate and birth certificate of her son).

I ask her why she has not tried to get a passport in her 40 years of age, and she says that she was afraid that she would have to pay a heavy fine and be insulted by authorities. 
She tried once, but was asked to pay a big bribe that she could not afford. After that, she gave up on getting a passport. 

And only now, by sheer coincidence, Nurgul has found out where to go for help. An elderly woman she knows showed her an article from the newspaper about our organisation and convinced Nurgul to contact us. With the help of Adilet’s lawyers, Nurgul was able to collect the documents she needed for registration and to obtain a passport. And this is needed to get her son a birth certificate.

Nurgul’s story is just one among thousands of similar stories. But she is one person within these thousands of people who understood the importance of the process of documentation and registration, and who came for us to seek assistance. And we have been very happy to help her.

In 2014 alone we have helped 288 people on the issue of documentation, and have represented the interests of 84 people in various state bodies and courts. And this is only what we have done. Who knows how many people are in the need of help throughout the rest of Kyrgyzstan?

Cholpon Babalieva, PR Specialist LC "Adilet" (translated by Sarah Louise Kriesz, intern at DCA in Kyrgyzstan)

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