In Chechnya, gangs of men dressed in black, from the Centre for Spiritual and Moral Education, roam the streets lecturing passers-by about the evils of alcohol and the right kind of Islam.
Young men accused of siding with rebel fighters have disappeared from their beds at night never to be seen again. Their relatives have been arrested and their homes burned to the ground.
Women too are targeted by President Ramzan Kadyrov’s reforms.
In 2007, in violation of Russian law, he issued an edict banning women and girls without a headscarf from schools, universities and other public buildings.
Since June, unidentified men with paintball guns have driven round the centre of Grozny shooting at girls with uncovered heads.
Kadyrov boasts that Chechen men can take “second, third and fourth wives” and that polygamy, illegal in Russia, was the best way to revive his war-ravaged republic.
According to some estimates, one in five Chechen marriages begins when a girl is snatched off the street and forced into a car by her future groom and his accomplices. The internet is full of videos of these “bride stealings” set to romantic music.
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