Infrequently Asked Questions: The Kyrgyz Parliament Sheep Slaughter

Everything you wanted to know about politicians and animal sacrifice

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Kyrgyzstan is building Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy, but it's been difficult. So difficult, in fact, that Kyrgyz lawmakers decided to sacrifice seven rams on a lawn in front of parliament this morning to "chase evil spirits" from the chamber and champion harmony, raising international eyebrows and prompting the inevitable U.S. politics comparison ("Where are we going to find any sacrificial lambs that Congress isn't already using?" inquired John Hayward at Human Events). As we pledge to do in general when we get wind of ritual slaughter in a political context, we've put together a brief FAQ to shed light on the development:

Q: Why animal sacrifice?

A: The ritual is widely practices in the predominantly Muslim nation, Reuters explains, especially during funerals and reconciliation ceremonies. "We acted like those who light candles or fumigate their homes in order to banish an evil spirit from their conscience," one legislator told the news agency, but another was less enthusiastic. "Deputies have no idea about parliamentary culture," he said. "This is an official building where the president works, and the parliament slaughters rams!" Eurasia Review notes that "some superstitious citizens believed the blood spilled under the parliament's walls bore a charge of negative energy which led to conflicts and even fights between deputies."

Q: Why sheep?

A: With over four million sheep, Kyrgyzstan has almost as many sheep as humans, according to The Guardian.

Q: Why the need to flush out "evil spirits?"

A: Ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks broke out in in southern Kyrgyzstan last June, two months after Kyrgyzstan's authoritarian president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was toppled in a coup. The violence left over 400 people dead. Kyrgyzstan elected a new legislature in October, but the country's three-party coalition is wobbly. Two politicians from different parties engaged in a fist fight earlier this month over a corruption scandal, leaving several parliamentarians "streaming with blood," according to The Telegraph. (EurasiaNet described one of the fighters as "head of the country's boxing federation and himself a seasoned pugilist with calloused knuckles.") When police did a sweep of the chamber after the brawl, they found ten pistols and an AK-47 assault rifle. The warring parties subsequently exchanged  robes and hats in a public reconciliation ceremony, The Guardian tells us. No sheep were sacrificed.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.