BYU NewsNet (Salt Lake City, UT)
Posted on September 18, 2007
By NICOLE BIRD
It may be that many Utahns do not know about Kyrgyzstan or even how to pronounce it, but the Kyrgyz government, including the delegation of judges visiting Orem last week, certainly know and love Utah.
Utah Valley State College hosted a group of judicial leaders from Kyrgyzstan through the Open World Program, which was instituted in 1999 by the Library of Congress.
The Open World Program brings judicial delegations from countries in the former Soviet Union to the United States to experience the American rule of law. This is Kyrgyzstan's first year as a participant in the Open World Program.
Rusty Butler, the associate vice president of International Affairs at UVSC, has had a long and lasting relationship with the Kyrgyz people and much of Central Asia. He is the president of the Utah-Russia Institute and serves as middleman between UVSC and the Library of Congress. When asked why this was a program he wanted to bring to the students of the college, he spoke of broadening their horizons.
"Whether you like it or not, we live in a global environment," Butler said.
He was a part of the first interaction between Kyrgyzstan and UVSC in 1999, eight years before Kyrgyzstan would join the Open World Program.
Baktybek Abdrisaev, the ambassador at the time, visited UVSC and Butler said he fell in love with Utah. He said the love for Utah may sound peculiar to some.
"Many said, 'Why Utah?' I just said why not?" Butler said.
That first visit inspired many others. The former ambassador came again and again, bringing with him the country's foreign minister, the president and first lady, and most recently the judicial leaders. The consensus was the same: a great affinity for Utah.
The former ambassador explained that Kyrgyzstan is 95 percent mountainous and that he and the judges loved the mountains of Utah and especially how close they are in the valley.
Even though the mountains in Kyrgyzstan are about twice as high as the Wasatch Mountain range, they all spoke of the beauty of the land and the similarity of Utah's terrain to their home country.
The ambassador also said there is much to learn and gain from a place that is so analogous to Kyrgyzstan.
He said this is the best place for these judges to learn about things from improving living conditions to farming cattle and fish because of the high altitude, similar climate and rocky landscape.
Marat Sultanov, a chief justice from the capitol city of Bishkek, said that he liked Utah because he didn't feel like he missed his country or family. He said the host couple treated him better than even his own parents.
"This is my mom and my dad," Sultanov said pointing to his host couple.
Sultanov also spoke of the mock Senate debate they were able to take part in on Wednesday.
State Sen. John Valentine invited the judges to visit the Senate in Salt Lake City and debate a mock bill on mine safety, a pertinent subject for the state.
Sultanov said it meant a lot to him to be sitting in the same seats that American senators and judges sit in and that he was impressed with the accessibility of the politicians.
In Kyrgyzstan, it is not easy to communicate with judges or politicians, and Sultanov said that he appreciated the "opulence and transparency of the people."
Sultanov also said he felt a special feeling of trust from the people to the government. He said the government officials want to improve Utah and do it practically.
He went on to say that the government in Kyrgyzstan is not financed in the proper way and thus has lost priority because of the lack of resources.
It is that sense of responsibility that he wishes to take back to his country from Utah.
City court justice Gulnara Sultanbekovna also spoke of the people in Utah.
She was most impressed with the close family relations and the warm feelings within her host family.
She also said she was grateful for the respect shown toward her as a woman. She said although most judges are women in Kyrgyzstan and women are expected to have professional careers, it is still a male-dominated society.
"The man is the chief," Sultanbekovna said.
She said in Kyrgyzstan women are responsible for the family while still working fulltime.
She said she did not see a separation between man's work and woman's work in
One goal of the Open World Program is to expose the visiting delegates to American culture. These Kyrgyz judges have developed a great respect for Utah culture.
They would like to send their children, the rising generation, to Utah for education in not only an academic sense but to also learn family values and high morals.
The daughter of the speaker of the Kyrgyz government is currently a freshman at UVSC.
The Kyrgyz judges see this experience in Utah as a way to improve the newly independent state.
Former ambassador Abdrisaev said one of the goals of last week was to create and maintain exchanges and relationships between the country of Kyrgyzstan and what he calls "the safest and friendliest place in the United States."
[Reprinted with Permission]