Despite Policy Reforms, Harassment of Female Human Rights Activists Occurring in Kyrgyzstan
Tuesday, September 25, 2007 1:26 PM

Recent attacks on female human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan illustrate the difficult path developing countries must navigate, as policy reforms are instituted that are only slowly borne out as institutional changes, Freedom House said today.  

Kyrgyzstani women who are active in promoting human rights have been increasingly targeted by law enforcement officials for their work in the past year. Despite the government’s passage of new laws covering detention, residential searches and the death penalty, increased instances of detention, heightened surveillance and extrajudicial harassment of women by law enforcement officials have been reported.

“Although Kyrgyzstan is showing positive movement in government policies addressing civil liberties, these reforms have not yet trickled down to the everyday level experienced by citizens,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “The work of women who are trying to bring major human rights abuses to light has been seriously impeded, and we encourage the government of Kyrgyzstan to push local institutions to implement the reforms that have already been passed.”

In one example of official harassment, Cholpon Jakupova, one of the foremost human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan, has been subject to persecution and harassment by the State Committee of National Security (SNB), as a result of her attendance at meetings supporting reforms in Kyrgyzstan. In another case, Jyparkul Arykova, a journalist with the parliament’s press service, is being held in solitary confinement on charges of high treason by the SNB without access to her attorney.  This is the first time a citizen has been charged with this label since Kyrgyzstan became independent 16 years ago.

Similarly, human rights activist Arzykan Momuntaeva has not been allowed to leave her region since April, when she was charged with participation in mass disorder and assault on a representative of public authority after activists disrupted the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan’s visit to the region.

“This is an extremely disturbing trend,” said Lisa Davis, deputy director of programs for Freedom House. “Women—who are already largely denied political influence in Kyrgyzstan—are now being disproportionately punished for their efforts to improve the human rights landscape in their country.”

Kyrgyzstan is ranked Partly Free in the 2007 version of Freedom of the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. The country received a rating of 5 (on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the lowest) for political rights and a 4 for civil liberties, and was given a downward trend arrow due to a decline in religious freedom, including a number of violent incidents involving alleged religious extremists that took place in the country’s south.

For more information on Kyrgyzstan, visit:

Freedom in the World 2007: Kyrgyzstan
Freedom of the Press 2007: Kyrgyzstan

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expression of freedom around the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Kyrgyzstan since 1972. 

Published in: Despite Policy Reforms, Harassment of Female Human Rights Activists Occurring in Kyrgyzstan, Press Release, Freedom House, 13 September 2007.