“The Kremlin has given him its staunch backing, seeing him as the key to keeping the separatists in check, and that has allowed him to impose his will.”
Sharia Alert, and Myopia in Moscow. “Chechen leader imposes strict brand of Islam,” from the Associated Press, February 28 (thanks to L.):
GROZNY, Russia: The bullnecked president of Chechnya emerged from afternoon prayers at the mosque and with chilling composure explained why seven young women who had been shot in the head deserved to die.
Ramzan Kadyrov said the women, whose bodies were found dumped by the roadside, had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings.
“If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed,” Kadyrov told journalists in the capital of this Russian republic.
The 32-year-old former militia leader is carrying out a campaign to impose Islamic values and strengthen the traditional customs of predominantly Muslim Chechnya, in an effort to blunt the appeal of hardline Islamic separatists and shore up his power. In doing so, critics say, he is setting up a dictatorship where Russian laws do not apply.
Some in Russia say Kadyrov’s attempt to create an Islamic society violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women and a separation of church and state. But the Kremlin has given him its staunch backing, seeing him as the key to keeping the separatists in check, and that has allowed him to impose his will.
“Kadyrov willfully tries to increase the influence of local customs over the life of the republic because this makes him the absolute ruler of the republic,” said Yulia Latynina, a political analyst in Moscow.
Kadyrov’s bluster shows how confident he is of his position. “No one can tell us not to be Muslims,” he said outside the mosque. “If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy.”
Few dare to challenge Kadyrov’s rule in this southern Russian region of more than a million people, which is only now emerging from the devastation of two wars in the past 15 years. The fighting between Islamic separatists and Russian troops, compounded by atrocities on both sides, claimed tens of thousands of lives and terrorized civilians.
Kadyrov describes women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children. He encourages men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women and girls are now required to wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.
Some Chechen women say they support or at least accept Kadyrov’s strict new guidelines.
“Headscarves make a woman beautiful,” said Zulikhan Nakayeva, a medical student whose long dark hair flowed out from under her head covering, her big brown eyes accentuated by mascara.
But many chafe under the restrictions.
“How do women live in Chechnya? They live as the men say,” said Taisiya, 20, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of retribution. She was not wearing a headscarf while shopping in central Grozny, which she said was her way of protesting.
Most women now wear headscarves in public, though the scarves rarely fully cover their hair and in some cases are little more than colorful silk headbands. Women who go out without a headscarf tend to tuck one into their bag for use where headscarves are required.
Many people suspect Kadyrov is branding the seven late November slayings honor killings to advance his political agenda. He said the women were planning to go abroad to work as prostitutes, but their relatives found out about it and killed them.
Few Chechens believe that.
“If women are killed according to tradition then it is done very secretly to prevent too many people from finding out that someone in the family behaved incorrectly,” said Natalya Estemirova, a prominent human rights activist in Grozny.
There are two unsettling things in the preceding paragraphs: A society where a leader can tout honor killings and expect political gain has a massive problem with respect to human rights. And the fact that Chechens don’t buy their leader’s story because they know that’s not how honor killings are done only confirms how serious and pervasive the problem is.