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.
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Last summer vigilantes, whom many of the women believe to be members of Kadyrov's security forces, staged mock assassinations of several "disobedient" women on the streets of Chechnya's capital of Grozny using paintball guns. One young woman reported being attacked while walking down Putin Avenue, the city's main street, with a friend:Skip to next paragraph
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"We were dressed modestly but not covered up – no headscarves, sleeves a little above the elbow, skirts a little below the knee," she said. "Suddenly a car with no license plates stops next to us. The side window rolls down and there is this gun barrel. . . I thought the gun was real and when I heard the shots I thought, 'This is death.' I felt something hitting me in the chest and was sort of thrown against the wall of a building. The sting was awful, as if my breasts were being pierced with a red-hot needle, but I wasn’t fainting or anything and suddenly noticed some strange green splattering on the wall and this huge green stain was also expanding on my blouse. So, I understood it was paint."
Calm 'at the cost of human rights'
Russian women's' rights activists confirm the gist of the Human Rights Watch report, and allege that Chechen women are being sacrificed by the Kremlin for the sake of relative peace in Chechnya. There have been few high-profile terrorist strikes in the war-torn republic over the past year, while insurgent activity is burgeoning in the surrounding mainly Muslim republics of the north Caucasus and increasingly threatening Russia's own heartland.
"On most of the territory of Chechnya it is sharia law that operates, and not the laws of the Russian Federation," says Valentina Terevatenko, head of an independent women's union in the southern city of Novocherkassk, which has close ties with Chechen women's groups. "I think the silence of the Russian authorities about this can be explained by the exigencies of the war on terrorism. They are buying calm in Chechnya at the cost of human rights, including those of women."
Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow, says that political uncertainty in Moscow over whether President Dmitry Medvedev or Mr. Putin is really in charge could be enabling Kadyrov to grab more power in Chechnya.
He adds that Kadyrov's imposition of tough strictures on Chechen women enjoys considerable sympathy among Russian conservatives, including the powerful Orthodox Church, which recently floated the idea of a dress code for Russian women.
"Kadyrov has managed to achieve most of what the Chechen separatists wanted, but he has gotten it by legal means," says Mr. Mukhin. "All he has to do is display outward loyalty, and Putin lets him do [within Chechnya] whatever he wants."