Filed under: Central Asia Gender equality Human rights and rule of law

Two female kurash champions hold up their medals

There is no place for violence in a house where there is sport

Have you ever heard of kurash? No? Surprise surprise! Kurash is considered one of the most ancient wrestling sports that exist in the world. The exact age of this picturesque sport is not known, but it’s estimated to be at least a 3,500 year old tradition.

“Kurash” is an Uzbek word that means “achieving a goal by just means.” The technique, traditions, rules and philosophy of kurash were passed on from generation to generation, from fathers to children.

Over time, kurash became a favourite and valued tradition of nations who lived on the current territory of Uzbekistan. Kurash competitions were organized during festivities, weddings, and big bazaars.

The International Kurash Association was created back in 1998 and the first world championship of kurash took place in Uzbekistan in 1999. It quickly caught up – today the Association unites 117 national kurash federations in Asia, Europe, Pan America, Africa and Oceania, and the number of member states is growing every year.

Why would UNDP partner with the  International Kurash Association and especially for advocating non-violence?

  1. Kurash is very popular among Uzbeks. We say that kurash is in our blood, in our genes. There are more than two million kurash sportsmen and women in the country. Additionally, sports generally cut across different generations and rural and urban divides. We might have different religions, belong to different parties, be equal partners at home or have a patriarchal set up. But we all either do sports or like to watch sports.
  2. Kurash shows powerful athletes (both women and men) advocating for peace, non-violence and the promotion of women’s rights.
  3. Kurash is a humanistic and egalitarian sport. Its doors are open for youngsters, women, men, and the elderly. A fight only takes place between equal partners, and continuing the fight when your opponent is down is prohibited in kurash. Combat can only take place in an upright position using the techniques of throwing and cutting-down. The use of painful blows, strangling and contact below the waist is not allowed.
  4. To date, UNDP in Uzbekistan has never worked with a sports association in its advocacy work, and we were keen to try something new with a non-traditional partner.

Violence against women in Uzbekistan

Generally, violence against women is taboo and not talked about in Uzbekistan. There is insufficient research to understand the situation, no separate legislation on violence against women, inadequate sentencing, and few mechanisms to protect victims.

Research done in 2010 in Uzbekistan by the Institute for Social Research covered 2,200 households. Out of those surveyed:

  • 58 percent of families had conflicts every two to three months, seven percent had conflicts every day.
  • Only 20 percent of victims sought external help. Out of those, 79 percent approached law enforcement, 19 percent went to the mahalla (local community).
  • 30 percent of victims did not receive any type of help.

Some of the reasons indicated for not seeking external help were:

  • 37 percent – shame in front of neighbors
  • 27 percent – fear breaking up of the family
  • 21 percent – fear of husband /wife
  • 15 percent – material dependence

With this in mind, how do you mark the 16 days activism to eliminate violence against women?

Last year, several United Nations agencies and national partners joined forces and organize competitions and quizzes (in Russian) for college students in six regions.

This year, the number of partners and regions increased, and we got kurash athletes to be the face of the campaign, and the International Kurash Association supported the idea from our very first meeting.

“Kurash values have remained unchanged throughout millennia – discipline, justice and equality of opponents. In fact, violence and anger disturbs those who practice kurash, and does not add to victory.”

 Komil Yusupov, Chairperson of the International Kurash Association

Two young male kurash champions, smiling, one bites his medal

Where there is sport, there is no place for violence; where there is no violence, there is peace and progress

15 November: 16 days activism begins, with a national campaign to eliminate violence against women: “From peace in the home to peace in the world

20 November: Session with kurash champions for young people (  ).

23 November: Kurash champsions promote non-violence, sports and women’s rights on Facebook

29 November: (today) we’re having the first of our big events with young people, where kurash champions will show us a few sets.

Our partnership has started and it has started with the right foot! Follow along on Facebook!

Kurash champions, smiling

I choose sport, I am against violence