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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Chechnya: Govt. Coerces Women on Dress, Activists Say

"Activists in Chechnya, where Russia has waged two wars against separatists in the past 16 years, said intimidation reached a peak during the fasting month of Ramadan. There was also a crackdown on violations of Islamic law such as the sale of food before sundown and any sale of alcohol, they said.
The activists who spoke from Chechnya insisted on anonymity because they said they feared reprisals.
Threats tapered off, they said, as Ramadan ended in mid-September. Men in Islamic clothes had been approaching women whom they deemed unsuitably dressed to pull them by the arm, an offense according to Chechen custom.
A woman activist said that incidents she recorded in August included a woman being taken away by men in a jeep for wearing a skirt they regarded as see-through and no head scarf in Grozny, the Chechen capital. Other men handed out leaflets to women advising them how to dress, she said.
According to Chechen tradition, women should not wear sleeveless clothes; they usually wear a strip of headscarf more like a hairband than a hijab. Until recently, it was considered the prerogative of male family members to decide their style of dress, but Islamic activists, with support from Mr. Kadyrov, are calling for much fuller cover.
....The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in August that women’s rights were being violated by efforts to impose an Islamic dress code. It said women without headscarves or in immodest dress had been attacked with paintball guns in Grozny.
Last week, Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, asked the federal prosecutor general’s office to investigate the paintball incidents.
Tanya Lokshina, a researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office who travels regularly to Chechnya, said the situation of women had deteriorated under Mr. Kadyrov, 33, who succeeded his father, Akhmad Kadyrov, a former rebel leader and mufti who became a fervent Kremlin supporter before he was killed by an assassin’s bomb in 2004.
Instructions were given that girls can’t go to school without scarves, or young women to university, and that it’s impossible to work without a scarf,” Ms. Lokshina said. “Pressure grew, through television programs and declarations, to control the morals of women.”"
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