Chechnya’s New Prime Minister Mandates Headscarves for Women

On his fourth day in office as Chechnya’s prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov banned women from appearing without headscarves in official institutions. Kadyrov told Chechnya’s NTV television station that he reinstated the practice because it is a “good” and “beautiful” tradition, according to the Chechnya Weekly. Although Kadyrov has so far only issued an oral command requiring the scarves, “in Chechnya an oral command is equally Ð if not more Ð effective” than an official decree, Tanya Lokshina, chair of the Demos Center for Information and Human Rights Research in Moscow, told Ms. magazine.

The headscarf command is just one aspect of sharia (Islamic) law, that Kadyrov has implemented since taking office. He has also banned gambling, instituted stricter alcohol laws, and is an advocate of polygamy. Kadyrov enforces orders with his 8,000-strong private army of former rebels, which is responsible for “the vast majority of disappearances” documented by Human Rights Watch and Russian human rights group Memorial.

Experts say Kadyrov’s confirmation as Chechen prime minister marks a return to the cultural repression characteristic of life in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Chechnya’s name under separatist president Maskhadov. Kadyrov’s headscarf command “is almost a mirror image of the relevant decree by Movladi Udugov, one of [former Chechen president] Maskhadov’s ministers between the two wars and a strong supporter of extreme Islamist ideology,” says Lokshina. Kadyrov is poised to assume more power in October when he turns 30 and is eligible to assume the presidency.

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Chechnya Weekly (published by The Jamestown Foundation) 3/9/06; Reuters 3/10/06; Human Rights Watch 3/10/06; Ms. Magazine interview 3/15/06

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