During a meeting on January 9 with district administration heads, district and city imams and television company chiefs, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov threatened to close local television stations that do not devote time to explaining the foundations of Islam in order to prevent young people from falling under the sway of propaganda by “Wahhabis, Taliban and other religious sects,” Newsru.com reported on January 10, citing the Chechen government’s website.
Kadyrov called on the imams of Chechnya’s mosques to demonstrate their knowledge of Islam on television, not in “squabbles” or “disputes,” and called on the TV company heads to provide airtime for this. “I, as head of the republic, guarantee the necessary financial and technical support on this issue,” Kadyrov said. “Television is a powerful instrument in the business of education. And today it is more necessary than ever for us to pay attention to the moral-ethical education of youth.” Kadyrov called on the administration heads and imams to monitor television programs and take measures to ensure that there are more programs of a “spiritual-moral and patriotic” nature. “We must be patriots of our land and the media must take direct part in the development of the culture of our people, and the most important thing required of us is to bring to society complete and objective information about the vital functions of the republic,” Kadyrov was quoted as saying.
Kadyrov said that the district television companies’ broadcasts did not always correspond to the ethical or moral norms accepted in Chechen society. “The channels in question almost day and night show nothing but music clips and Western films,” he said. “At the same time, their content is not edited. Films and clips that are almost amoral in character are presented on the air. I consider such things simply intolerable. At the same time, only individual television companies show broadcasts about their native land, the history of the republic, Islamic sermons, about the lives of our prominent compatriots and so on.” According to Newsru.com, 54 television companies are registered in Chechnya but only 19 are currently operating.
Kadyrov’s comments were his latest demands that traditional religious and cultural norms be observed in Chechnya. Last November, he told a government meeting that wedding salons in Chechnya must no longer sell or rent European-style wedding dresses and switch to selling “national wedding attire,” and also called on Chechnya’s culture minister to ensure that national dance and musical groups and other artists dress modestly (Chechnya Weekly, November 15 and 21, 2007). Later in November, Kadyrov called on all women in Chechnya cover their heads with scarves. According to the Associated Press, the call, which Kadyrov made during a television address, was a “recommendation,” not a legally binding order or legislation passed by Chechnya’s parliament (Chechnya Weekly, November 29, 2007). In September, Kadyrov ordered female government employees to dress “strictly in accordance with the republic’s dress code,” stating that their apparel “must comply with the Chechen traditions” (Chechnya Weekly, September 13, 2007).
In a piece published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting on January 9, Artur Israilov reported from Grozny that a sign had recently been posted outside the entrance to the Youth Chamber in the Chechen capital stating that women “without headgear” are not allowed entry into the building. Israilov wrote, “Similar signs have appeared outside many other government buildings.” He added, “The Press House got its signpost with similar wording last month, but changed it a week later for a slightly politer one saying, ‘Women are respectfully asked to observe national dress traditions.’ Either way, though, the rules are being strictly enforced—the security guards refuse to allow women in if they are not wearing headscarves, whether they are guests or are employed by the press ministry or one of the newspapers located in the building.”