Bareheaded women in ads targeted in Muslim Chechnya

Wed Nov 2, 2011 11:47am EDT
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GROZNY, Russia (Reuters) - Several businesses in Russia's Chechnya region were ordered this week to cover up the bare heads of women in their advertisements, in what a local government source said was the latest assertion of Muslim customs by the authorities.

A decade after Moscow drove separatists out of power in the second of two wars since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin relies heavily on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to keep insurgents in check and maintain a shaky peace.

But analysts and rights groups say that in return, the devout Sufi Muslim is allowed to enforce his vision of Islam, at times curbing women's rights and other civil freedoms guaranteed by Russia's constitution.

A band of men whom hairdressers described as being dressed in the uniform of local security forces stormed the "Edem" salon in the center of the regional capital Grozny, demanding they cover up the hair of two women in their advertisement.

"Authorities walked around the area, ripping off ads with women pictured in them. They told us that ads displaying women without headscarves are banned," said a 28-year-old hairdresser, who declined to give her name.

"We got scared so we covered them up," she said pointing to a large crimson ad outside where the black and blonde locks of two women in photographs had been plastered over with red tape.

The orders come on top of a spate of paintball attacks last year on women for not wearing headscarves on city streets in Chechnya, igniting ire from women who said being forced to dress a certain way violated their rights.

Kadyrov later said he was grateful to the attackers.

Four years ago he issued an edict that said women must don headscarves to enter state buildings. Rights groups say it is a violation of Russian law, but the edict is strictly followed.   Continued...