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Kyrgyzstan: Civic Group Promotes Order on Bishkek’s Lawless Roads

The driver of this Lexus SUV is considered “kham” – or overly boorish and rude — for parking on the sidewalk on Bishkek’s Chui Avenue in April 2013. Luxury cars like this generally face little trouble from traffic police, who tend to pick on drivers less likely to have protection from someone influential. (Photo: David Trilling)

Power and wealth rule on the roads and sidewalks of Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. The drivers of expensive cars tend to flout traffic and parking rules with impunity. But where police fail to enforce laws, a civic group is mounting a name-and-shame initiative to counter bad, sometimes dangerous habits.
 
On April 1, inspired by a similar movement in Russia, a group of concerned Bishkek youth filmed themselves asking drivers who were parked illegally to move their cars. If the drivers refused, the activists placed a pizza-sized sticker on the car’s windshield that read “StopKham Kyrgyzstan: Respect for traffic rules is a key to your safety.” The video shows several arguments between activists and drivers, but most drivers obeyed the requests. Over 11,000 people have already watched the video on YouTube; the comments are overwhelmingly supportive of the activists.
 
StopKham is an established group in Russia. It is named for the Russian word “khamstvo,” which is a particularly obnoxious type of rudeness. A person with “khamstvo” is “kham.”
 

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Anna Lelik is a Bishkek-based reporter.

Kyrgyzstan: Civic Group Promotes Order on Bishkek’s Lawless Roads

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