On December 8, a press-conference was held in Bishkek with the Russian singer of Tajik origin Manizha Sangin. She came to Kyrgyzstan as part of a 16-day campaign fighting violence against women.

Najiba Usmanova, Manizha, and Ulziysuren Jamsran. Photo: Aidai Tokoeva / Kloop

Manizha came to Kyrgyzstan along with her mother and producer Najiba Usmanova. The singer and her mother established the SILSILA foundation to help women who have suffered from domestic violence.

While meeting with journalists, Manizha talked about the SILSILA foundation and its app, which she created in 2019 to assist victims of domestic violence. According to Manizha and Usmanova, the organization is primarily focused on helping female refugees and migrants in Russia who find themselves in emergency situations.

According to the foundation’s statistics, in the almost three years of the SILSILA app’s existence, its emergency button has been pressed more than 100,000 times in Russia.

Najiba Usmanova talked about how the foundation employs specialists and psychologists who speak not only Russian, but also Kyrgyz, Tajik, and other languages. Undocumented female migrants in Moscow and St. Petersburg whose life or health are in danger can refer to the SILSILA foundation for help.

According to Usmanova, the goal of their trip to Kyrgyzstan is gaining knowledge and experience from Kyrgyz experts on domestic violence and gender-based violence. No one sponsors their foundation; they help victims using the money they earn themselves.

Manizha talked about how when she was a teenager, she experienced a lot of difficulties because she did not see a societal response to domestic violence.

“I know how many stigmas and taboos are, unfortunately, present in traditional society. But we really are a wonderful society that’s developing every day, and I believe that our traditions should also be developing every day. Speaking of [traditions], we can change them, and they will stop being taboo,” Manizha said.

The singer emphasized that it is difficult and scary for female migrants and refugees because they cannot appeal to law-enforcement agencies for help if they have problems with their documents.

SILSILA in Kyrgyzstan

A journalist from Kloop asked Manizha if the SILSILA app will work in the countries of Central Asia, as previously reported.

The singer answered that developers are working on that now. Usmanova added that in three months the app will begin working in beta-mode in Central Asia. It will be fully launched in approximately six months.

Manizha’s Stance on Kidnapping Women

At the press conference, journalists asked the singer how she felt about the kidnapping of girls for forced marriages. Manizha firmly stated that she is opposed to this “custom.”

The singer said that she and her mother found out about the practice of kidnapping women for forced marriages only upon arriving in Kyrgyzstan. In her own words, she got angry because it is “terribly unjust.”

Usmanova also criticized the practice of kidnapping women.

“We were shocked when we learned about ‘ala-kachuu.’ I thought that these were isolated instances in Moscow when Kyrgyz men beat their women and organized gang rapes just because a woman somehow acted differently or started to date a man of a different nationality. That’s so scary. It’s like they’re arranging an execution. I thought these were unique cases […] I believe that you must start from how boys are being raised. It’s a massive failure,” stated Usmanova, the co-founder of the SILSILA foundation.

Who is Manizha?

Manizha Sangin is an independent musician who not only showcases societal problems in her work but also actively participates in acts of public service.

In December 2020, she became the first Russia Goodwill Ambassador to the UN on refugee affairs.

Manizha is the singer who represented Russia in Eurovision’s 2021 contest. She took ninth place with the song Russian Woman.

She was born in Dushanbe in 1991, and three years later her family moved to Moscow due to the civil war in Tajikistan. In her work, she talks about the kinds of difficulties refugees and migrants are forced to face.

The singer is also a supporter of feminism and body positivity. She actively participated in the campaign against domestic violence in Russia.

In 2019, Sangin launched SILSILA, an app for mobile phones for women who are victims of domestic violence. She also released the music video “Mama,” which was meant to bring attention to this problem. In the video, she cited the rate of death of women from domestic violence in Russia.

Translated by Taylor Wilson from Respond Crisis Translation

Further reading in Russian: Манифест Манижи. На Евровидение от России едет певица родом из Таджикистана с феминистским хитом. Российские ксенофобы и сексисты в ужасе