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Kyrgyzstan: “I’ll keep on running even if I wear a hijab”

Religious opinions are not an obstacle to girls in Osh, south of Kyrgyzstan, in reaching their career goals. Many women wearing headscarves realise their potentials in various professions by breaking stereotypes: they study at universities, do sports and even jewellery.

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Azimkan Malikova, an athlete, 3rd year student of Osh State Teaching Institute:

Azimkan Malikova. Photo: CABAR.asia

— When I started wearing a headscarf, my parents were not against my decision. My friends at the university were surprised and asked what changed me. Our physical education teacher asked me, “Why do you wear a hijab? You have been a good runner, you would have succeeded”. I told her that I will keep on running and doing track and field.”

People react differently when they see me doing sports. Some people take it well. Other people don’t like it and they think that I should sit at home since I wear a hijab.  But I have already got used to such comments. I think a human should be consistent with oneself, first of all.

Moreover, there are other girls wearing hijab here and we have all conditions for namaz. Last year, our team took part in the competition among universities in Bishkek and we won the first league cup and made it to the higher league, where we will be participating this year.

Track and field athletics is not an easy kind of sport; it requires much effort and labour.

See also:  Kyrgyzstan: Hijab Not an Obstacle to Success

Kyrgyzstan doesn’t officially prohibit wearing hijabs at schools, universities and state institutions. Nevertheless, there have been isolated incidents when schoolgirls and teachers wearing hijab face discrimination and misunderstanding.

Nevertheless, according to the recent research carried out by the Institute for Islamic Studies, young people think that the situation of religious freedom and conditions for the Muslim population in Kyrgyzstan are better than in neighbouring countries of Central Asia.

Shaiyrgul Zulkuparova. Photo: CABAR.asia
Shaiyrgul Zulkuparova, mother of three children, dental practitioner of higher category, 19 years of experience, works at dental clinic No. 2 of Osh.

— In 2015, my sister got ill and she had to be operated in India. The surgery was successful. But in that country more attention is paid to religion.

A famous doctor of the clinic where we had surgery adhered to his religion. When I saw him tying his turban I had an insight. I asked myself: what a kind of Muslim am I?

After we returned from India, I decided to wear a hijab. It wasn’t easy. You could count on fingers the women wearing hijabs at Osh those days.

Shaiyrgul Zulkuparova. Photo: CABAR.asia
My husband and children understood my decision. But my colleagues didn’t understand me. Some said, “You wear a hijab to show that you perform the namaz five times a day.” I said I didn’t mean to show off, it was the will of Allah.

During my work, I ask my patients if they can wait for me to perform the namaz. They respect and understand me and sometimes ask about how I can handle it all.

Wearing a headscarf is a responsibility and you try to deserve it. You try not to behave inappropriately.

According to the results of the opinion survey held by the State Commission for Religious Affairs in 2016, every third Kyrgyzstani favours women wearing hijab. 

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Orozgul Kochkonova, an owner of the accessories store in Osh, a tutor of English, mother of two daughters:

Orozgul Kochkonova. Photo: CABAR.asia

— Long before I started wearing hijab, I had taken special clothes with me for performing namaz in the mosque. I’ve decided to wear a hijab after a three-day davaat (sermon – editor’s note).

My daughters were slightly surprised, but other relatives were pleased with my determination. At first, it was difficult to tie a headscarf, it took me a lot of time, but now it’s easy.

Creating imitation jewellery is my favourite work. I haven’t learned it from anyone; I think I’ve inherited this from my mother.

Now I run courses on handicraft and jewellery creation and have taught more than 30 people. The majority of my students are women wearing hijab who work at home. When I have little time, they help me fulfil my orders.

I’ve never seen any misunderstanding or negative attitude towards me wearing a hijab.

This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»

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