In his movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen plays a fictional television journalist from Kazakhstan touring and reporting from America.
Borat has a crush on actress Pamela Anderson. In the movie Borat drives to California to meet his “love.” Near the end of the movie, Borat tries to kidnap Anderson by throwing her in a “traditional Kazakhstan wedding sack.”
If only this was just a silly story. Unfortunately, it is more than that. Kazakhstan is in an area of the world that Richard Maybury has called Chaostan. Maybury explains that because of their lack of respect for basic human and economic rights, the area is a source of conflict and strife.
One of the countries that borders Kazakhstan is Kyrgyzstan. Each year, in a scene right from Borat, more than half of Kyrgyzstan’s new brides are kidnapped on the street by their husbands in a custom known as ala kachuu. Roughly translated, this means “grab and run.”
According to the New York Times, Kyrgyz men “say they snatch women because it is easier than courtship and cheaper than paying the standard ‘bride price,’ which can be as much as $800 plus a cow.”
The custom, according to the Times, is respected, encouraged, and perceived as practical. “Every good marriage begins in tears,” a Kyrgyz saying goes.
The interesting thing about this custom is that it is widely practiced and accepted. The men who engage in it are looked upon as fulfilling their manly obligations.
If you told the average citizen of Kyrgyzstan that they were violating human rights in a primitive and barbaric way, they would be insulted and puzzled.
Of course, the people of Kyrgyzstan want the same things we do; they want a happy and prosperous life for themselves and their children. They just have no idea of the principles that help a people realize a peaceful and prosperous society.
Kyrgz customs are centuries old. Ala kachuu is illegal, but the law is not enforced because there is no societal will that the law be enforced. The culture of a nation takes generations to change.
Private commercial transactions between American and Kyrgz citizens expose Kyrgyzstan to another way of living and help to end repression. In contrast, political alliances help to support repressive regimes. The United States, for strategic reasons, keeps a military base in Kyrgyzstan and lends political support to a regime that violates basic stated values of our own country.
As for the future; we can see it all too well. The CIA has a name for the consequences of our foreign policies that prop up repressive regimes—they call it blowback. Blowback occurs when the citizens of a country perceive, either correctly or incorrectly, that one of the sources of their repression is the United States.
There is no cure for blowback. There is only a prescription for prevention: Stay away from alliances with countries that do not share our values.