Previously stateless Sevilia, who recently obtained Kyrgyz citizenship, wants to represent Kyrgyzstan abroad

Sevilia Mamedova is a 19-year-old student at the Judicial Academy. She is an athlete and represents Kyrgyzstan in sporting events. But a couple of years ago, the girl did not know whether she could complete school and receive the coveted certificate of general education to enter university.

“All my school life I did not have documents. My parents managed to convince the administration to keep me at school, but after Grade 9 new difficulties arose. I had to get a passport to register for my final tests. I often missed important tests. I also play football, but due to the lack of citizenship and documents I was not allowed to play for the national team. Why would they need a player who could not go to training camps and national pride abroad?”

Sevilia’s mother, Alisa, was born in Azerbaijan. The family lost their documents in a fire. The fire broke out in the house they lived in so suddenly that no one managed to collect what they needed. Without the documents, they quickly lost hope that they could restore important papers.

“It was not possible to restore the documents in Azerbaijan. My grandmother and mother moved to Kyrgyzstan in the 1980s and their vagrancy continued. They appealed to various authorities and gave large sums of money, but the authorities still had many questions,” recalls Sevilia.

A couple of years after the move, Alisa got married and Sevilia was born. In the hospital where the baby was born, they could only provide a document certifying the birth.

“I can’t explain how terrified I was when I thought about how I couldn’t complete school without a passport. That paper from the hospital could not help me any way. Everyone was worried: mum, me, my stepfather. After my mother and father divorced, she married again and they have been living together for the past 14 years. If it were not for their support, I don’t think I would have been able to cope with the fears and complexes that I faced every day.”

Lawyers from Adilet legal clinic helped Sevilia resolve the problem with her documents.

“One day we saw an announcement that Adilet legal clinic was offering assistance with restoration of documents. We were already at the office door the next day: two days later we were given a detailed action plan, and they did everything for free. Perhaps this made us trust them, as people who sincerely wanted to help us for the first time. Adilet lawyers collected all our documents step by step”.

In December 2016, Sevilia’s mother received a permanent residence permit as a stateless person in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Conflict Committee only recognized Sevilia Mamedova as a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic in 2018, based on the fact that she was born in the country, and her mother had a permanent residence permit.

“It is difficult to explain to people who have never faced this problem what is it like to live without documents. I felt as if I didn’t exist. Sometimes people asked me how it had happened, I explained to them, but a week later they could ask the same question again. I didn’t have any documents, but I really love playing football, studying and working: this is my life. And without a passport, I would not have had this life. I am the only child in the family and always wanted to have a younger brother or sister, but my mother was afraid to even talk about it. It was enough for her that I have suffered. She and my stepfather were afraid to have children until my mother received the documents. That’s what it is like to live without documents, it’s scary. And I do not stop saying that I have nothing to be afraid of any more. All that I dreamed about – going to college, playing in the national team, travelling – came true”.

After receiving her passport, Sevilia went to Tashkent as a member of the Kyrgyz national team and represented the country. Sport takes a lot of her time, but studying, she admits, is the most important thing.

“I have a goal: I really want to work for a law enforcement agency. Once I even planned to enter the Police Academy, but at the last moment I changed my mind and entered the more general Judicial Academy, in the Department of Investigation and Forensics. Perhaps I’ll also become a lawyer: I really admire this profession now,” muses Sevilia.

The Kyrgyz Republic has made great progress in reducing statelessness, and has given thousands of people opportunities to be officially recognized and acquire permanent homes. Since 2014, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, together with its partners and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), has identified and assisted more than 13,000 stateless persons, including more than 2,000 children, in the framework of UNHCR’s #IBelong campaign to end statelessness by 2024.