"Headscarf" incidents continue in Chechnya
By Umalt Chadayev
GROZNY, Chechnya – Incidents connected with the wearing of headscarves by young women and girls are continuing in the Chechen Republic. On December 12 the office of the Information Centre of the Union (formerly Council) of Non-governmental Organizations, known in Russian as “SNO”, was evicted from the House of the Press in Grozny. The reason given was the refusal by the Centre’s director to wear a headscarf.
An SNO employee described the incident in an interview with Prague Watchdog’s correspondent. He said that the eviction order was issued by Shamsail Saraliyev, the republic’s Minister of Press, Information and National Policy.
“On the morning of December 12 the House of the Press’s director Timur Yunusov and the head of its administrative department came into our office, which was situated on the sixth floor of the building (the government’s Ministry of Press, Information and National Policy has its offices on the third floor). They asked to see Taisa Isayeva, the director of our organization. When I said she wasn’t there, as she’d flown to Moscow the previous day, Yunusov told us we would have to vacate the premises we rented within twenty-four hours."
“When asked on what grounds we were being evicted, I was told that the order had been given by the new minister. The main reason was that Isayeva had refused to obey the security guards’ instructions to wear a headscarf,” he continued, adding that immediately after the appointment of the new minister a notice was posted at the entrance to the building with a warning that women not wearing headscarves would be denied access. After a number of minor conflicts between the guards and female visitors, the demand that headscarves be worn was changed to a request that ”esteemed women should respect the national traditions”.
"Yunusov also made it clear that he’d been warned that if our office wasn’t closed, there would be serious consequences for him, and he might even lose his job. Then our office was sealed up and the officials left," the employee said, adding that on December 13 the organization's staff moved the office to a rented flat in central Grozny.
Just a few days before this incident, the independent newspaper Chechen Society, which focuses on society and politics, also closed its office in the building. This incident was triggered by comments by the publication’s editor, Timur Aliyev, about the recent Duma elections in the republic – comments which were incorrectly interpreted by a correspondent for the Russian media. After the Moscow-backed Chechen leadership made some negative remarks about what Aliyev was alleged to have said, an attempt was made to evict the newspaper’s editorial office from the House of the Press, again on the orders of the new minister. Although the conflict was eventually resolved, the newspaper decided to leave the building anyway.
The Information Centre of the Council of Non-Governmental Organizations was established by local NGOs and independent journalists in 2002. It has been collecting and disseminating information about the violations of human and civil rights in Chechnya and Ingushetia. Under pressure from Ingushetian authorities, the organization closed its office in Nazran a fortnight ago.
(Translation by DM)
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