Women in Chechnya Terrified as Government Openly Backs Honor Killings

After decades of religious suppression under Soviet Rule, Chechnya is seemingly embracing fundamentalist Islam with gusto.

According to the Washington Post: “In today’s Chechnya, alcohol is all but banned, Islamic dress codes are enforced and polygamous marriages are supported by the government.”

Even more shocking, President Ramzan Kadyrov is now saying the government will openly embrace honor killings. 

President Ramzan Kadyrov

The Washington Post explains:

In the past five years, the bodies of dozens of young Chechen women have been found dumped in woods, abandoned in alleys and left along roads in the capital, Grozny, and neighboring villages.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov publicly announced that the dead women had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives. He went on to describe women as the property of their husbands, and said their main role is to bear children.

“If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them should be killed,” [he] said.

The president has described himself as wanting to be “more Islamic than the Islamists,” and few dare challenge his authority.

“No one can tell us not to be Muslims,” he declared. “If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy.”

A local human rights defender explained: “You hear about these cases almost every day…It is hard for me to investigate this topic, yet I worked on it with [human rights activist] Natasha [Estemirova] for a while. But, I can’t anymore. I am too scared now. I’ve almost given up, really.”

Natasha Estemirova (Photo: Foreign Policy)

Estemirova was found in the woods in 2009 with gunshot wounds to the head and chest, after she angered Chechen authorities with reports of torture, abductions and extrajudicial killings. Her killer or killers have not been found.

The Chechen Republic, located in the Caucasus mountains, is technically a federal subject of Russia, but has been a thorn in the side of the vast country for centuries.  Leo Tolstoy’s last book, Hadji Murat, depicted the conflict between the Chechens and Russians, and little seems to have changed in the interim.

After countless wars and battles, the Russians may simply not see the plight of the Chechen women as worthy of another round of fighting.

(Related: Assassination Plot Against Vladimir Putin Foiled)

Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin

The news that Chechnya is openly and thoroughly embracing a fundamentalist form of Islam follows reports of Islamist victories throughout the Middle East, as the region is increasingly unstable after the Arab Spring.

While Chechnya is unlikely to have a large impact on fundamentalist Islam worldwide, it is significant that Russia, a pillar of secularism after religion was officially outlawed for decades, is tolerating such religious extremism– at least for the time being.