Report: Chechen women attacked with paintball guns for 'immodest' dress
According to Human Rights Watch, Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov has launched a 'virtue campaign' that includes punishing women for 'immodest' dress.
Chechnya's Kremlin-installed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has ordered Chechen women to wear "modest attire" that covers their entire bodies, including their heads, whenever they go outdoors, and has sent vigilantes into the streets to attack disobedient women with paintball guns, according to a report just released by New York-based Human Rights Watch.Skip to next paragraph
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The often violent "virtue campaign" that Mr. Kadyrov launched in 2006 contravenes Russian law and violates the basic constitutional rights of Chechen women, who are Russian citizens, the group says. Yet both the Kremlin and Kadyrov's main sponsor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have remained silent about the issue.
Although Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has directed Chechen authorities to look into the paintball attacks, the federal authorities have not otherwise taken any steps to put an end to the Chechen leadership’s enforcement of a compulsory Islamic dress code in Chechnya.
The Kremlin has fought two bloody wars against separatist insurgencies in the past 17 years, aimed at forcing mainly Muslim Chechnya to remain under Russian sovereignty. Two years ago Moscow declared victory and withdrew most troops, leaving Chechnya under Kadyrov's control.
Critics say the failure of the Russian government to enforce its own fundamental law in the republic calls into question the point of those two conflicts, which claimed an estimated quarter of a million lives.
"The enforcement of a compulsory Islamic dress code on women in Chechnya violates their rights to private life, personal autonomy, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, thought, and conscience," says the report. "It is also a form of gender-based discrimination prohibited under international treaties to which Russia is a party. … This policy is also in breach of Russia’s Constitution, which guarantees freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and gender equality."
Two years ago a leading Chechen human rights activist, Natalya Estemirova, was kidnapped and murdered after writing critical reports about aspects of life in Kadyrov's Chechnya, including the harsh dress code for women. One of Ms. Estemirova's coworkers told The Christian Science Monitor that in exchange for "pacifying" Chechnya, the Kremlin gave Kadyrov a free pass for his methods of pacification.
Families are 'obliged' to kill women who 'fool around'
Drawing on the testimonies of dozens of Chechen women, the report details coercive methods applied to enforce the dress code, including public shaming, threats, and even physical violence.
Kadyrov has publicly explained that Chechen women must be compelled to dress "modestly" in order to spare their menfolk the painful duty of killing them if they stray.
"A woman should know her place," he said during a televised interview last July. "[In Chechnya] man is the master. Here, if a woman does not behave properly, her husband, father, and brothers are responsible. According to our tradition, if a woman fools around, her family members are obliged to kill her.... As president, I cannot allow them to kill. Therefore, let women not dress indecently."