In the words of Aliya Assanova: “I encourage women who are subject to violence to speak out”

Aliya Assanova*, 32, was kidnapped from her orphanage at the age of 18 and forced to marry. She endured an abusive marriage for more than 10 years. As a mother of seven, she managed to break the cycle of violence with support from the UN Women Project, “Kazakhstan Free from Violence,” which is implemented together with the General Prosecutor’s office. The Project team provided her with legal, medical and psycho-social support so she can recover from her trauma. She is now informed about her rights and feels empowered to share her experience with the girls from her orphanage to protect them from violence.


Aliya Assanova. Photo: UN Women / Aijamal Duishebaeva
Aliya Assanova. Photo: UN Women / Aijamal Duishebaeva 

“Sometimes I am scared that I was cursed when I was born. My strongest memory from my childhood is how my father threw himself out of the window during my mother’s funeral in front of my two brothers and I. He could not bear the death of my mother and left three of us as orphans. I stayed at an orphanage in southern Kazakhstan until I was 18. I am now 32 years old, a mother of seven, and a survivor of violence.

At the age of 18, I was kidnapped, taken illegally to Uzbekistan and forced to marry. The first time my husband beat me was 11 years ago. Many beatings have followed since and I have tried to commit suicide twice. My neighbours finally called police but they did not help.

As a mother of seven children, I am entitled to receive subsidies from the government but my husband didn’t allow me to go anywhere. He was jealous. I couldn’t submit my papers because I couldn’t get myself registered. I kept silent because I thought no one could protect me. If I’d known differently, I could have changed my life earlier.

In May 2017, I managed to flee to Shymkent, a city in southern Kazakhstan, with my five children. While there, I heard about the “Kazakhstan Free from Violence” team touring the region. I contacted them and received legal advice and support with my papers along with medical treatment and psychological counseling. I was also able to apply for government subsidies to support my children.

Now that I know such services exist, I am aware of my rights. I can also support women who are in the same situation. I will start working with girls from my orphanage to inform them about their rights and protect them from violence as much as I can.

I would like to call upon the government to provide more support to survivors of violence. I encourage women who are subject to violence to speak out, and for everyone, especially neighbours, not to turn the other way when they see women beaten up. Everyone can save someone.

*The name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.