Chechen Strongman Offers Aid to Help Those Hurt by Coronavirus Buy Islamic Brides

Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov waits before Russian President Vladimir Putin's Federal Assembly address at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 1, 2016. / AFP / Natalia KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced he will donate 10.3 million Russian rubles ($131,500) to men struggling to purchase brides under Chechnya’s Islamic law amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Moscow Times reported on Wednesday.

Under the new financial aid measure, the families of 207 grooms will receive 50,000 rubles ($635) each to help their sons pay for traditional bride prices set in accordance with regional Islamic practices, Chechnya’s Spiritual Board of Muslims explained on Monday to state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

According to RIA Novosti, the money will come from the Akhmat-Hadji Kadyrov Fund, a $77-million foundation named after Kadyrov’s late father, Akhmad Kadyrov, the former president of the Republic of Chechnya. All Chechen residents contribute a portion of their salaries to the fund.

According to the report, the Republic of Chechnya, a federal subject of Russia, has imposed some of the strictest coronavirus lockdown measures in the country. In mid-April, Chechnya banned traditional Islamic weddings. However, on May 25, the republic lifted the wedding ban with restrictions including a limited number of guests, “modest” celebrations, and the allowance of no more than two cars in addition to newlyweds’ limos in the traditional wedding caravan.

For years, Kadyrov has advocated for the adherence to strict Islamic values of modesty and virtue in Chechen society. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Ramzan’s father, Akhmad, was the former mufti – or leading Islamic religious authority – of Chechnya before being hand-picked by the Kremlin to become president of the Chechen Republic in 2003. After Akhmad was killed in a 2004 bomb attack, his son, Ramzan, carried on his legacy of strict Islamic rule in Chechnya before officially becoming president in 2007 with the backing of Russia’s then-President Vladimir Putin.

Kadyrov has defended polygamy and honor killings as necessary Islamic cultural traditions in Chechnya, although Russian law officially prohibits both practices. As reported by the Moscow Times, in April 2009 Kadyrov stated:

In Chechnya today, we’ve got more women than men, but they all need to find their station in life. Our customs and our religion allow polygamy. On the other hand, if a young [unmarried] woman or a divorced woman is spotted [with a man], then her brother kills her and the man. We have very strict customs. It’s better for a woman to be a second or third wife than to be killed. That’s why I’m certain that we need polygamy today. There’s no such law, but I say to everyone: if you have the desire and the opportunity, you should take a second wife.

In a 2010 interview with Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Kadyrov explained that women in Chechnya’s Islamic society are considered intrinsically inferior to men and thus deserving of subjugation:

I have the right to criticize my wife. She doesn’t [have the right to criticize me]. With us [in Chechen society], a wife is a housewife. A woman should know her place. A woman should give her love to us [men] … She would be [man’s] property. And the man is the owner. Here, if a woman does not behave properly, her husband, father, and brother are responsible. According to our tradition, if a woman fools around, her family members kill her … That’s how it happens, a brother kills his sister or a husband kills his wife… As a president, I cannot allow for them to kill. So, let women not wear shorts.

Kadyrov’s announcement in support of Islamic bride prices this week marks one of his first public actions since Russian state media reports last month indicated that the Chechen leader had been flown to Moscow for medical treatment after contracting the Chinese coronavirus.

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