Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said last week that the bodies of seven young women with gunshots to the head were found dumped by roadsides in Chechnya late last year and early this year (North Caucasus Weekly, December 4, 2008 and February 6, 2009) had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings, The Associated Press (AP) reported on February 28. “If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed,” Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny after attending prayers at a mosque in the Chechen capital. AP further quoted him as saying: “No one can tell us not to be Muslims. If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy.”
According to AP, Kadyrov said the seven murdered women were planning to go abroad to work as prostitutes, but their relatives found out about it and killed them. However, the news agency reported that few Chechens believe this and quoted Grozny human rights activist Natalya Estemirova as saying that two of the women were married, with two children each, and that their husbands held large funerals and buried them in the family plot, which would not have happened if the women had disgraced their families. “If women are killed according to tradition then it is done very secretly to prevent too many people from finding out that someone in the family behaved incorrectly,” Estemirova told AP.
AP noted that Kadyrov’s version also has been contradicted by federal prosecutors in Moscow, who have concluded that relatives were not involved, and that no arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing. In addition, AP noted that Novaya Gazeta reported that some of the women worked in brothels frequented by Kadyrov’s men and that many Chechens say they suspect the women were killed in a police operation.
Whatever the case, AP reported that rights activists fear Kadyrov’s approval of honor killings may encourage men to carry them out. “What the president says is law,” Gistam Sakaeva, a Chechen activist who works to defend women’s rights, told the news agency. “Because the president said this, many will try to gain his favor by killing someone, even if there is no reason.” Sakaeva also said she worried that Chechen authorities would now be less willing to prosecute men suspected of killing women.
Meanwhile, Interfax on March 3 quoted Kadyrov as saying that every boy born on March 8—the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad—will receive 50,000 rubles (around $1,400). “This decision was taken by the Ahmad Kadyrov regional public foundation,” the news agency quoted him as saying. “It’s natural that I ask their parents for name the boys after Muhammad.” Kadyrov also told journalists in Grozny that in honor of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, 10,000 bags of flour and 10,000 bags of sugar will be distributed to poor families, and that 10,000 poor families will receive 5,000 rubles (around $140) each.
The Grozny-inform.ru website reported on March 5 that Kadyrov met with Daud Selmusaev, the deputy chairman of Chechnya’s Muslim Spiritual Board and director of the republic’s Center of Islamic Medicine, which opened last month in Grozny and which, as the website puts it, focuses on “non-traditional methods” of treating people suffering from “psycho-neurological illnesses known among the people as possession.” The website said that the center mainly uses treatments based on suras (chapters) and ayahs (sections) of the Koran. Grozny-inform.ru quoted Selmusaev as saying that 2,000 people have sought treatment at the center in the past month and that more than 1,000 of those have been “completely cured.” The website quoted Kadyrov as saying that as a result of the two military campaigns in Chechnya, “many people suffered, and many today need precisely the kind of treatment using non-traditional methods that our ancestors fell back on.”
Following the opening of the Center of Islamic Medicine last month, the Moscow Times quoted doctors there as saying they would be treating people possessed by demons. Chechnya’s mufti, Sultan Mirzaev, was quoted as saying that the center would free of charge treat up to 80 patients a day by reading them prayers and chapters from the Koran. Kadyrov was quoted as saying at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center that it would treat people with methods used in the republic for centuries (North Caucasus Weekly, February 6).