About Uzbekistan

Khatna-kilish (circumcision party)
07 July 2017
Khatna-kilish (circumcision party)

Khatna-kilish is another ancient Uzbek rite, consecrated by Islam (sunnat tuyi). This rite is solemnized in relation to boys at the age of 3, 5, 7, 9, years old and in certain cases at the age of 11-12 years old. Preparations for this rite begin since the birth of a boy: members of the family sew quilts, covers, garments.

The solemnization of sunnat is controlled by representatives of community Mahalla (local community). From the moment of a boy’s birth the parents start making arrangements for sunnat-tuyi (ceremony of circumcision), gradually buying all necessary things. Some months before the rite, which is often called “wedding”, they start making immediate arrangements for the ceremony. The relatives and neighbors help them to sew quilts, pillows, festal garments for a boy, prepare wedding presents.

Before the wedding solemnization they read the Koran (the code of prayers) in the presence of old men coming from Mahalla, an Imam from a mosque and relatives. They set the table, after they read surahs (chapters) from the Koran, and old men give their blessing to a boy. Then the boy is dressed in new clothes, brought by relatives and neighbors. Thereafter the rite itself starts. Apropos, before the “wedding” they put festal garment on a boy and make him presents in the presence of neighbors, old men and the relatives.  It is followed by a small ritual “takhurar”, when women put pillows and blankets on the chest.

In the past the rule was to present a boy with a foal, on which they seat a boy in token of he is a man and soldier henceforth. All the people congratulate a boy and shower him with sweeties and money, than this ceremony continues in the women’s rooms. The same day within the women circle “mahurar” (stowing quilts and pillows in a chest) ceremony is solemnized, that is usually made by a mother of many children. The lavish entertainment, including pilaf, concludes the ritual acts. According to the tradition, in the evening after eating pilaf they light a big campfire out of doors, and people dance around the campfire and play various games. Next day the solemnity goes on.

Below you can read Christopher Aslan Alexander's experience of Sunnat to'y (sunnat wedding) by his words:

"Soon the weavers were joking about our first sunnat toy or circumcision party, wondering which loom would be given the honour. I asked Madrim how we should celebrate our first carpet circumcision, but he was preoccupied with his own preparation for the real circumcision of his youngest son, Husnaddin.

I'd been made to watch the video of Jalaladdin's circumcision along with that of his two cousins. The young boys first paraded around the walled city wearing mini-robes and polyester turbans. Back at the house, a jester entertained them, presenting each boy with a chiman - a mobile of sorts, hung with sweets and small toys. Once these were removed, the chiman hung outside for all to know that a circumcision had taken place. I had assumed that the video would tail off at this point, but no. Each boy was shown being brought into a room and held down on a corpuche, writhing as the barber approached. The camera lens narrowly avoided a spattering of blood, the whole procedure filmed from close range. I blanched at the howls of each of the boys as my Uzbek family guffawed at my squeamishness. 'This is the best bit! Jalaladdin cries like a girl. Look at him wailing!' yelled Malika as Jalaladdin launched himself at her. Madrim asked if I would come and take photos of Husnaddin's circumcision and to give him moral support. He had struggled to hold back the tears watching his first son under the knife.

The following Saturday I arrived at Madrim's house to find corpuches laid out against every available wall space. I was ushered into a room of male relatives, where the status of my own foreskin became the chief topic of discussion until I managed to extricate myself and help serving tea.

Husnaddin seemed a little shy at all the attention he was receiving, wandering around in his little robe and turban. The barber arrived and Madrim looked nervously at me. Mehribon retired to a different room with the women, where she was given a bowl of oil in which she immersed her forefinger to assuage her son's pain. Meanwhile, Husnaddin's trousers were removed and Madrim's relatives pinned him down as he began to sob. The barber prepared his kit, clamping the penis with a bamboo peg, leaving only the foreskin exposed. Husnaddin wailed loudly and with a lightning guillotine motion the barber swooped his knife across the bamboo peg, cleanly severing the foreskin.

Husnaddin shrieked, Madrim left the room, and I took photos. Men waved banknotes in Husnaddin's face, congratulating him on becoming a man as he sobbed inconsolably. A toy tractor appeared, and a new school bag. The barber propped cushions around the mattress and draped a large blanket over them, careful not to touch the freshly tinctured wound. Mehribon was allowed in, prompting a fresh bout of sobbing, and relatives filed past, congratulating Husnaddin and depositing banknotes around his pillow. It was Mehribon who paid the barber and, in return, was given a seeping red piece of cloth containing her son's foreskin. She would let the foreskin dry and keep it until Husnaddin was grown up, one day sewing it into the stuffing of his wedding mattress."

Christopher Aslan Alexander "A Carpet Ride to Khiva" 2010

Sunnat toy

Child circumcision in Samarkand

Mikhail appeared, looking as dishevelled as everyone else, and explained. 'Child circumcision. On the day after wedding it is custom for the youngest males in family to be circumcised,' he said matter-of-factly.

'But where?' I asked. 'They're going to be taken to hospital somewhere?'

'No,' he said cheerfully, 'here.' He pointed to a room next to ours, beneath the long veranda.

Juragul's arm was suddenly over my shoulder. 'You official photographer,' he whispered quietly. 'You must film ceremony.' I looked beseechingly into his face. He had to be joking . . . He was not. I regarded the six- and seven-year-old boys again and was overcome with pity.

A few minutes later they were hoisted from their bikes and into the arms of their grandfather. Still smiling, shouting, waving their hands, seemingly totally unaware of the fate that awaited them, they were carried through a throng of cheering men, one on each shoulder, like lambs to the slaughter. I switched on the camera and began to film. From the hangar we marched past the table, under a canopy of rich, red roses and onto the veranda. Following the village mullah, dressed dramatically in a long white turban and following black robes, five grey-beards and a crowd of young and middle-aged men swept through a door and into the long thin room. It was already packed with men and boys, chanting, grinning and theatrically waving their fists in the air. To obscure the scene from the women the curtains had been drawn, leaving the room gloomy and dim, stuffy and claustrophobic.

The boys, apparently assuming they were so gorgeous that they deserved such attention, continued to laugh and clap and sing and shout while riding their grandfather's shoulders. At the far end of the room two cushions lay side by side on a wide sheet-covered quilt. Both boys looked at each other and their smiles began to drain away. Things did not look right.

Without ado, Juragul handed the boys to two elders who stood them side by side. The boys' eyes darted anxiously now around the room, seeking reassurance, but no one caught their glances. In a lightning move the men pulled the boys' trousers to their ankles and forced them to lie down. At their feet squatted the mullah. He placed a cloth over the knees of the lad closest to me, and knelt on either end, pinning down the child's trembling legs. The old man at his head pulled up the lad's shirt and held him tightly by his shoulders. The young boy's tiny shaft flapped like a little worm.

Now horror flashed across the child's face. The mullah pulled at the foreskin with one hand while picking up a cutthroat razor with the other. He then began to pray, 'Allah u Akbar . . .' The lad raised his head and screamed as he saw the silver blade flash in the gloomy light. A third man raised a round loaf of bread before the child's eyes as though to distract him. It made little difference. He shrieked with dread, writhed uncontrollably, pulled and kicked at those holding him down. Knowing he was next, his petrified brother also began to holler. Three more men held him secure. Now both boys were screaming at the top of their lungs, wriggling, trying desperately to be free, but there was no escape. I tried to concentrate on filming, but the shocking cries turned my stomach and I felt bile rising in my throat. The heat, the smell of sweat and fear, closed in round me. I turned away, disgusted, only to see a macabre, gold-toothed, wrinkled face grinning freakishly at me.

Turning back, I watched the little stalk through the garish colour monitor. I saw the mullah tug once again at the little chap's flaccid foreskin and stretch it as far beyond the head of the penis as it would go. He then folded it over the razor blade and, with an expert flick of the hand, and to the stomach-churning sound of soft meat tearing, sliced through the flesh. The animal wail could have shattered glass.

Fearing I was in danger of vomiting my breakfast over the mullah or the unfortunate boys, I scrambled to my feet and, without care for cut-aways and close-ups, pushed through the crowd. I reached the door and burst through, from darkness to light, like a man escaping a grave of freaks and goblins.

"Silk Dreams, Troubled Road" by Jonny Bealby

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