Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch has filed an important and compelling report on the increasing presence of morality enforcers in Ramzan Kadryov’s Chechnya, who place extreme pressure upon local and visiting women to wear headscarves.
The morality zealots went around in groups. They surrounded women who had been bold enough to go out without a headscarf or in a skirt that was deemed too short. They upbraided them loudly, describing their behaviour as indecent and demanding that they should have some shame and “get dressed” forthwith.
Yakhita didn’t really understand what was going on. She had been living in Moscow for a long time, only coming home to Grozny on holiday to see her family. She had, of course, noticed the prominence of headscarves: women reading the news on television, teachers, staff of various organisations, students, even girls in the first year of school had all suddenly put them on. Her friends talked quietly about how during the war men had not protested when women rescued them, protected them and worked until they dropped to feed the family. But now they’ve remembered they’re men and that “a woman should know her place.” Yakhita nodded in agreement, but only half listening. It wasn’t her problem, when all’s said and done. But it turned out that it was.
She was walking along the prospect carrying her newborn baby andpulling her 3-year old son after her. It was very hot, so she had put ona knee-length skirt and a light T-shirt with short sleeves. She hadactually put a hairband on – a headscarf folded over several times. Whynot, really? Suddenly four men in Islamic clothing came up to her andstarted shouting, pointing at her bare arms and saying that she wasbehaving indecently and shamefully. Yakhita was so surprised, she wasnearly at a loss for words.
But then she pulled herself together and started shouting that shewas married with two children and had never in her whole life doneanything shameful, so they had no right to make such comments. Sherepeated that she had a husband and a brother and that she would ringthem up right now to come and sort things out. Seeing her reaching forher mobile, the men retreated. One of them said: “You don’tneed to ring anyone. Don’t make a fuss. We have our orders from above.We’ve got to do this, do you understand?” Yakhita got the message anddidn’t want to stay any longer. The next day she bought her ticket backto Moscow.