Sharia Alert from the Caucasus: “Chechen leader: Head scarves for women,” by Musa Sadulayev for Associated Press (thanks to Morgaan Sinclair):
GROZNY, Russia (AP) — The president of Chechnya has called for all women to cover their heads with scarves, the latest in a series of his unofficial orders toughening social customs for women in the violence-wracked, mainly Muslim Russian region.
The recommendation by President Ramzan Kadyrov during a TV address last week was not a legally binding order or legislation passed by the regional parliament.
However, several government institutions in the capital of Grozny, including the main government-owned publishing house, posted signs earlier this week forbidding women without head scarves from entering, and guards were enforcing the rule.
Human rights activists reported that at least two universities had also barred women without covered heads from attending classes.
“Legally speaking, you can’t demand that women wear head scarves, but in Chechnya, under many governments, authorities have tried to adhere to national traditions,” said Dzhambulat Saidumov, a 25-year-old Grozny lawyer. “I support observing folk traditions, but I oppose forcing people to (observe) them if they don’t want to.”
In his televised comments, Kadyrov gave no explanation for his recommendation, except to say that Chechens should do more to respect their national traditions.
The Kremlin has pinned its hopes for a lasting peace in the North Caucasus region on the gruff-talking, rough-mannered Kadyrov, whose father, Akhmad, also held Moscow’s hopes until he was assassinated in a bombing in 2004.
Since being sworn in as president in April, the younger Kadyrov has continued leading a reconstruction boom in Grozny that began when he was prime minister. Once a moonscape of rubble and shattered buildings, much of it now has newly painted buildings, street lanterns, paved roads and parks.
He made several, sometimes quixotic public statements about women’s behavior in the region and openly advocated adherence to Islamic customs. He has said Chechnya does not need Islamic law, but also said he favors polygamy – illegal in Russia – because there are more women than men in the region, and he disapproved of Chechen girls who wear Western, instead of Chechen, dresses to their weddings.
During Chechnya’s brief period of de-facto independence in the 1990s, the region’s government implemented Islamic law as a concession to the growing influence of Muslim fundamentalists in the republic.
And that influence has not waned.