Defending Their Rights Together

Speeches Shim

Thursday, February 4, 2021
Odilzhan's father, Odilzhan and his four children featured above.
Nurzhayna Oktyabrova, Interbilim

Odilzhan was born and raised in the Kyzyl-Kyshtak village in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan. He has spent his entire life in Kyzyl-Kyshtak. He went to school, got married, and had four children here.

“I am the youngest in the family,” says Odilzhan. “There are six of us – it’s great to have a big family – we always help each other when one of us is in need. We were all born in the house that my father built. He could see the future – he built a home big enough for all of us.”

Odilzhan lived a quiet life with his family, raising his children, working, and confident that he would spend his whole life among his family’s keepsake, in the home his father built. Then, the unexpected happened. Local officials came to the family with an order, “Leave, we are going to build a border post here.”

“Suddenly, our lives were turned upside down,” Odilzhan recounts. “My brothers and I were born and raised in that house. It was our home. Our father laid every brick himself, with his own sweat. That house was dear to all of us. We saw how much it troubled our father. After negotiating, the officials offered us compensation. But the sum they offered us was not enough for our six families with children – can you picture how large our house was?”

Odilzhan’s family was distraught. The meager compensation was hardly a solution to their problem. The civil society organization Interbilim Osh heard about the family’s problems. The organization stepped in to help Odilzhan and other residents of the village. Interbilim Osh is a member of a regional network dedicated to protecting the interests of homeowners.

USAID, through its Partnership for Innovations program, provides regional grants to support advocacy initiatives among civil society networks in Central Asia to promote the protection and representation of citizens’ rights and interests. The USAID-funded Partnership for Innovations program, supported Interbilim Osh and the regional network to fight regulations that enable forcible seizure of property and works across Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and to advocate for the right to adequate housing.

“Interbilim Osh helped us a lot. First, they gave us hope that everything would work out. And we believed it - it gave us strength and allowed us to breathe again,” says Odilzhan. “Second, after a meeting with them, everyone in the village came together. We united in the fight for our rights. We felt that we could win.”“Interbilim Osh helped us a lot. First, they gave us hope that everything would work out. And we believed it - it gave us strength and allowed us to breathe again,” says Odilzhan. “Second, after a meeting with them, everyone in the village came together. We united in the fight for our rights. We felt that we could win.”

Thanks to the USAID-funded Partnership for Innovations’s regional grant program, forced home demolition and housing seizures have declined and the right to appropriate housing has gained greater visibility and protection in Central Asia. For instance, in Uzbekistan, the number of illegally demolished houses decreased by 17 percent, particularly in four regions in the west of the country - Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Khorezm, and Navoi regions. In the Kyrgyz Republic, the number of illegally demolished houses has decreased by 70 percent.

Advocacy activities have not only led to the inclusion of housing rights into strategic plans and legal norms by decision-makers across Central Asia, but have also catalyzed concrete changes. One of the most significant outcomes of the Partnership for Innovation activity is that key government officials have begun to independently promote policy development processes.

“In the end, we won,” says Odilzhan.

“Thanks to our combined efforts, the authorities conceded. We received compensation in the amount of approximately $100,000 USD. Now, my brothers and I have our own homes. We don’t live in one house, but are in the same neighborhood and see each other frequently. We’re together!”

Thanks to the assistance of the USAID-funded Partnership for Innovation program, nearly 50 families in Kyzyl-Kyshtak received fair payment for their homes. Some of them left to seek a better life in the city, while others stayed close by to establish a new village next to the old. The people native to the village have been able to preserve their direct connections to the land of their ancestors.

Last updated: April 02, 2021

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