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Chechen President Kadyrov Defends Honor Killings

Published: March 3, 2009 (Issue # 1453)


GROZNY The bull-necked 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 Grozny.

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.

Kadyrovs 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 Kadyrovs rule in Chechnya.

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 Kadyrovs 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 that 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.

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