Earlier this month, a video was posted on the Internet of a young woman in Kyrgyzstan performing a song, Kyz (Girl). Nineteen-year-old Zere Asylbek's words spoke of respect for other people's decisions, and in particular called on society to allow woman and girls to make their own choices.
The lyrics, and Zere's attire in the video, sparked praise and criticism and rekindled a long-running debate in Kyrgyzstan, and more generally in Central Asia, about women's rights and the role of women in contemporary Central Asian societies.
RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderated a discussion on the state of feminism in Central Asia and efforts toward greater gender equality in the region.
From Finland, Kamila Sultanova, originally from Uzbekistan but now a social activist heading the Finnish branch of the nongovernmental organization Global Dignity, joined the discussion. From Kyiv, Bermet Talant, originally from Kyrgyzstan, author of many articles about Central Asia, and currently working as a correspondent in Ukraine, participated as well. Also joining us was Jennet (late name omitted by request), an independent Turkmen scholar currently working outside Turkmenistan. And from Kyrgyzstan, Zere Asylbek, whose video has brought fresh attention to the issue of gender equality in Central Asia, took part in the conversation. I said a few things, but you only learn when you listen, not when you speak.
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RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk, recently interviewed Zere Asylbek (in Russian):