A controversial Kyrgyzstan tradition of kidnapping brides has shocked viewers after an online documentary revealed that the tradition was still common across the country.
Bride kidnapping is an ancient custom that accounts for nearly half of all marriages in some parts of the central Asian state.
In the documentary, which has gone viral since it aired on Vice.com, reporter Thomas Morton travels to the Kyrgyz countryside to investigate the practice, see it in action and also reveal its impact on abducted women.
During the 35-minute video, titled Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, he follows and aids a young groom named Kubanti as he surprises his teenage girlfriend Nazgul by kidnapping her.
Viewers see Kubanti lure the girl to the neighbourhood watering hole before ambushing her and dragging her kicking and screaming into a van with the help of his friends.
One of the boys says: "You can beat us, even cry," before she eventually gives up fighting and stares at the ground submissively.
Despite efforts by organisations to clamp down on the practice, Kyrgyzstan's human rights ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, said that up to 8,000 young women were kidnapped annually.
Morton said: "While it istechnically illegal to kidnap your wife, not many Kyrgyz police realise this or care."
Bubusara Ryskulova, director of a local women's shelter, explains in the film that partly due to local police apathy and partly due to cultural norms that discourage families taking back their daughters after they have been kidnapped, women seldom ask for outside help.
"There are maybe only two or three cases a year when women who were kidnapped by force turn to us. Unfortunately, 95 percent of women stay, even if they don't know [the kidnapper]."
Madiev Tynchtyk, who abducted his wife Ormonova, tells Morton in the video that although they were aware what they were doing was illegal, it was in the Kyrgyz tradition.
"We are Kyrgyz. It's tradition, it is in our blood. Yes, we are breaking the law but here everybody understands that it is tradition and you can't change it."
The documentary also features Abdyshova, a mother of a kidnap victim who committed suicide after struggling to cope with living with a man she did not know.
"She used to have so many plans for the future but she killed herself because she was so upset ," she tells Morton.
At the end of the film, Morton says: "We are not going to pretend to be experts but for all the justification we have heard it seems that the real reasons that men kidnap women in Kyrgyzstan is the same reason they do questionable stuff anywhere: Because they can."
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