Category Archives: women

New Books on Violence – Women Suicide Bombers / Violence in Post-Conflict Societies / Micro-Sociology of Violence

– Julie Rajan, Women Suicide Bombers. Narratives of Violence, Routledge Critical Terrorism Studies,  April 2011

Publisher’s comments:

This book offers an evaluation of female suicide bombers through postcolonial, Third World, feminist, and human-rights framework, drawing on case studies from conflicts in Palestine, Sri Lanka, and Chechnya, among others.

Women Suicide Bombers explores why cultural, media and political reports from various geographies present different information about and portraits of the same women suicide bombers. The majority of Western media and sovereign states engaged in wars against groups deploying bombings tend to focus on women bombers’ abnormal mental conditions; their physicality-for example, their painted fingernails or their beautiful eyes; their sexualities; and the various ways in which they have been victimized by their backward Third World cultures, especially by “Islam.” In contrast, propaganda produced by rebel groups deploying women bombers, cultures supporting those campaigns, and governments of those nations at war with sovereign states and Western nations tend to project women bombers as mythical heroes, in ways that supersedes the martyrdom operations of male bombers.

Many of the books published on this phenomenon have revealed interesting ways to read women bombers’ subjectivities, but do not explore the phenomenon of women bombers both inside and outside of their militant activities, or against the patriarchal, Orientalist, and Western feminist cultural and theoretical frameworks that label female bombers primarily as victims of backward cultures. In contrast, this book offers a corrective lens to the existing discourse, and encourages a more balanced evaluation of women bombers in contemporary conflict.

– Andres Themner, Violence in Post-Conflict Societies. Remarginalization, Remobilizers and Relationships,  Routledge Studies in Intervention and Statebuilding’ Series, May 2011


This book compares post-civil war societies to look at the presence or absence of organized violence, analysing why some ex-combatants return to organised violence and others do not. Even though former fighters have been identified as a major source of insecurity, there have been few efforts to systematically examine why some ex-combatants re-engage in organized violence, while others do not. This book compares the presence or absence of organized violence in different ex-combatant communities — former fighters that used to belong to the same armed faction and who share a common, horizontal identity based on shared war-and peacetime experiences — in the Republic of Congo (ex-Cobras, Cocoyes and Ninjas) and Sierra Leone (ex-Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, Civil Defense Force and Revolutionary United Front). The main determinants of ex-combatant violence are whether former fighters have access to elites and to second-tier individuals — such as former mid-level commanders — who can act as intermediaries between the two. By utilizing relationships based on selective incentives and social networks, these two kinds of remobilizers are able to generate the needed enticements and feelings of affinity, trust or fear to convince ex-combatants to resort to arms. These findings demonstrate that the outbreak of ex-combatant violence can only be understood by more clearly incorporating an actor perspective, focusing on three levels of analysis: the elite, midlevel and grass-root. This book will be of much interest to students of peacebuilding, civil wars, post-conflict reconstruction, war and conflict studies, security studies and IR.

– Jutta Bakonyi (Ed), A Micro-Sociology of Violence. Deciphering Patterns and Dynamics of Collective Violence   December 2011


This book aims at a deeper understanding of social processes, dynamics and institutions shaping collective violence. It argues that violence is a social practice that adheres to social logics and, in its collective form, appears as recurrent patterns. In search of characteristics, mechanisms and logics of violence, contributions deliver ethnographic descriptions of different forms of collective violence and contextualize these phenomena within broader spatial and temporal structures. The studies show that collective violence, at least if it is sustained over a certain period of time, aims at organization and therefore develops constitutive and integrative mechanisms. Practices of social mobilization of people and economic resources, their integration in functional structures, and the justification or legitimization of these structures sooner or later lead to the establishment of new forms of (violent) orders, be it at the margins of or beyond the state. Cases discussed include riots in Gujarat, India, mass violence in Somalia, social orders of violence and non-violence in Colombia, humanitarian camps in Uganda, trophy-taking in North America, and violent livestock raiding in Kenya.This book was originally published as a special issue of Civil Wars.


1. Deciphering the Mosaic’s Tesserae: A Micro-Sociology of Violence Jutta Bakonyi and Berit Bliesemann de Guevara 2. Rioting as Maintaining Relations: Hindu-Muslim Violence and Political Mediation in Gujarat, India Ward Berenschot 3. Moral Economies of Mass Violence: Somalia 1988-1991 Jutta Bakonyi 4. Displacing, Returning, and Pilgrimaging: The Construction of Social Orders of Violence and Non-violence in Colombia Nora-Christine Braun 5. Humanitarianism, Violence, and the Camp in Northern Uganda Adam Branch 6. ‘Transgressive Objects’ in America: Mimesis and Violence in the Collection of Trophies during the Nineteenth Century Indian Wars Cora Bender 7. Of Rains and Raids: Violent Lifestock Raiding in Northern Kenya Karen M. Witsenburg and Adano R. Wario

After the Death of Col. Budanov – Some Commentaries About Sexual Violence and the War in Chechnya

In July 2011, former Russian army colonel Budanov was killed near his new apartment in a fashionable area in Moscow. In march 2000, Budanov was arrested after he had kidnapped, raped and killed a Chechen girl, Elsa Kungaeva1. His case is one of the very few cases of violence against civilians that have been brought before the tribunals in Russia – and the only well-documented one on sexual violence.

Even if Budanov was arrested in march 2000 for rape and murder, he was afterwards charged only with murder : though a first forensic expertise found evidence of rape, a second forensic expertise “indicated” that the rape had been committed post-mortem. A soldier was charged with raping the dead girl with a shovel before burying her: a criminal case was opened, but he benefited from an amnesty and afterwards went back on his testimony. The fact that Budanov was not charged with rape allowed him to build all his defence on the false assumption that the girl was an enemy combatant – and that he killed her during interrogation in a fit of rage. Therefore, public discussion concentrated on “what is permissible to do to an enemy combatant”, and not on sexual violence.

Budanov was sentenced to 10 years in 2003, and released on parole in 2009 (after several refusals – probably due to the fact that his case had become a symbolic one). As soon as he was released, a new case – supported by the Chechen leadership – was brought against him for the disappearance of 3 civilians in 2000, but this new case was closed after a few months.

This death allows us to see how, more than ten years after the crime, Russian society and Russian authorities react towards war crime perpetrators in Chechnya, and to try to understand why the issue of sexual violence is seldom if never discussed.

Though Budanov had been deprived of all military decoration and titles when he was sentenced to 10 years in 2003, he was nevertheless buried with military honours, the military orchestra of the ministry of Defence played a funeral march and salvoes were fired. Ultra-right groups called their supporters to come to the funerals and police security was reinforced. The priest who led the funerals has been reported to say : “There is now a new saint in Heaven. Together with Alexander Nevsky, Dmitry Donskoy and Evgeny Rodionov he will be praying for all of us2

It was reminded also that Budanov had always benefited from the compassion of Russian public opinion. According to the sociologist Denis Volkov from the independent public-opinion poll centre “Levada-centre”, “Over the years we have conducted several surveys of the attitude of Russians to Colonel Budanov. 50 to 60% of Russians sympathized with the prisoner, even if they did not deny that a murder took place. Most Russians did not doubt that he committed murder, but 36% of respondents said that this happened in Chechnya all the time and should not come as a surprise. What is significant in this crime is that, on the one hand, there was a soldier of the Russian armed forces, on the other – a Chechen girl. That is, there was a clear division between “us” and “them.” The Russian army – is one of the institutions that enjoys a high level of trust in Russian society. Whereas the Chechen girl, as a representative of the enemy’s side, was denied the right to sympathy. In December 2004, 55% of the respondents said that the Budanov trial was a step towards the Chechens. The most important for people was not the crime, but the opposition between “us” and “them“.3

Another journalist remembers that after Budanov was sentenced to 10 years, there was an public poll opinion on TV : “It was on a Moscow channel, TVTs, at this time you could still have live interview of people by phone, and the question was asked: “What would have been your verdict?”. Different answers were proposed: 10 years, life or nothing. And Muscovites voted this way (even the talk show presenter was shocked): 10 years (what the court gave) – 333 votes ; life sentence – 1370 (this is those who wanted to see him more strongly condemned) ; acquit him – 16 000 700”4.

Several journalist, commentators, observers wrote about this death in their newspapers or on the Internet – discussing mainly “is Budanov himself a victim of war”? The question of rape was nevertheless raised by some essayists. On the website, essayist Mikhail Kriger criticized quite violently the public reaction towards Budanov’s death: “Budanov was buried with military honors. As a hero. As a warrior. Hundreds of people came to say final goodbyes to the former colonel. The leader of one the parliamentary party proposes to rehabilitate him. Streets are to be somewhere named after him5 (…). That’s the way it is, my dear fellow citizens. Today, half of those who voted on the radio “Ekho Moskvy” were in favor of the rehabilitation of Budanov. He appears now as a new hero. Are you sleeping or what? It is amazing! A murderer, a rapist, a looter, is now our new hero. This same colonel who kidnapped, raped and killed eighteen-years old Elsa Kungayeva.

Let it be clear. Why do I insist on rape? Simply because we can not assume anything else. Because that morning, the dead girl was naked, and our “hero” too. There were signs of rape on the body (it is only afterwards that someone found this clever explanation about a shovel’s handle). If my late wife would have caught me in a similar situation, I wouldn’t even have tried to find excuses. It would have been so obvious. Why, dear Russians, do you pretend to be idiots? Why are you so ready to believe in all sorts of nonsense? Are you really so gullible?6

What I find interesting here is the suggestion that the information given publicly was sufficient to draw the conclusions about what happened7 … but that nobody really wanted to see the facts. This is also stressed by a political commentator for the tabloid newspaper Moskovski Komsomolets, Aleksandr Minkin, who has written several articles on this case. In a radio interview after the murder of Budanov, he reads an excerpt of Budanov’s official acknowledgement of guilt : “As we were left alone, I asked her where her mother was8. She started to scream, to bite and tried to escape. I had to use force. A fight ensued, in the result of which I tore her blouse and bra. I told her to calm down. But she continued to scream and escape, then I had to lay her on the bed and I started to choke her. I choked her throat. I did not take off the lower part of her clothes...”. Aleksandr Minkin comments : “When he says that, left alone with her, he began to ask her where her mother was, and that she started screaming, biting and escaping, then the question arises : what did this interrogation look like, if the person examined had to bite and to try to escape? An examination – it’s when you sit on one side of the table and I sit on the other side of the table and I write down what you say. You don’t have to escape and bite. I am sorry, but you have to escape and to bite only if you are raped.”9

A. Minkin stresses also that so many persons mobilized to defend Budanov because the girl was a Chechen, and people felt the need to defend the honour of a Russian officer : the fact that Budanov was an officer, and not simply a soldier, may indeed explain part of the reactions and the support he benefited from the military hierarchy.

 But apart from this case, the question remains of why the question of rapes committed in Chechnya by Russian soldiers has never been raised publicly in Russia, even if cases were documented10. Several explanations can be found:

• the reluctance of victims to talk about rape and the attitude of Chechen society towards rape and rape victims : the cases were not brought forward by Chechen activists or representatives of civil society

• the general level of impunity for crimes committed in Chechnya : there were only five significant public trials for crimes committed against civilians in Chechnya since 1999, whereas the European Court of Human Rights (where most of the cases are brought now) has condemned Russia more than 200 times since 2006

• the lack of interest of Russian public opinion for a war that always has been presented as a “war on terror”, and has benefited from public support, even before the tragic hostage takings of October 2002 (Dubrovka theatre, Moscow) and September 2004 (School in Beslan)

• the lack of groups or public opinion leaders in Russia who could bring forward this question. The main Russian Human Rights organisations are reluctant to address the issue of women rights or violence against women, and did not have complaints to build upon. There are also in Russia women organisations, who work especially on the question of violence against women: but they address mainly the question of domestic violence and Chechnya is not part of their preoccupations. During a field work in 2010, none of the NGOs we met in Moscow or St Petersburg did mention the army and the war in Chechnya as part of the general problem of “violence against women”, and violence against women is mainly understood as violence against Russian women11. When they mentioned violence against women in the North-Caucasus, they explained it only as “violence due to traditions” (bride kidnapping, vendetta)12, and they are not necessarily aware of the racist subtext in some of the cases they have defended.13.

• the global perception of Chechen males, as well as all Caucasians, as men representing a danger for Russian women … (and not the contrary)

• the question of sexual violence and rape committed by Russian / Soviet army in other conflicts has never been discussed publically – especially as far as WWII is concerned14.

Afterword : looking for the murder suspect…..

The Kungaev family denied any link to this assassination and refuted the versions of a vengeance by Chechen relatives. On August 26, a Chechen (Magomed Suleymanov) was arrested and charged with the murder, though nothing is known about his possible motives and about the possible instigators or his accomplices. Reporting about his arrest, the Kommersant newspaper reported that his was recognized by a witness whose name is kept secret. According to some sources, the witness may have picked him up among three other suspects during the official identification at the police precincts as he was the only one who wore handcuffs…15

Nb : A slightly different version of this text has been prepared for the international workshop “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts”, Hamburger Institut fur Sozialforschung / Centro de Estudos Sociais, Universidade de Coimbra, 9/10 September 2011-08-22

photo credit:

  1. See Amandine Regamey, « L’opinion publique russe et l’affaire Boudanov [Russian Public Opinion and The Budanov Case] », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online] , Issue 8 | 2008 , URL : []
  2. ; Evgeni Rodionov was a Russian soldier who was taken prisoner and executed in Chechen captivity in 1996 (he was reportedly beheaded after he refused to renounce his Christian faith or remove his silver cross). Some groups call for his elevation to sainthood, but the Russian Orthodox Church refused to canonize him. The mention of Rodionov may show that the priest who led the ceremony belongs to a more “radical” wing of the orthodox church and that this position does not reflect the positions of the church. []
  3. “Социолог Денис Волков – о сочувствующих Юрию Буданову (Sociologist Denis Volkov on those who sympathise with Iuri Budanov)”, 13.06.2011, []
  4. A. Минкин: “Если бы Буданов задушил и изнасиловал русскую по пьянке, никто не встал бы на его защиту” []
  5. Nb : during the funeral, ultra-right politic V. Zhirinovski proposed to have a street somehere in Russia named in the honour of colonel Budanov []
  6. Михаил Кригер – Страна нашла героя (The country has found a hero) June 14, 2011, []
  7. Indeed, the first official declaration about Budanov by president Putin and chief of staff general Kvashin mentioned the rape ; but less than a month after the deed, in April 2000, Russian news agencies talked only about murder. []
  8. Nb : at this time, Budanov said he arrested the girl because he suspected here mother was a sniper for the Chechen rebels. After some time, he started to explain that the girl herself was a sniper and that he lost his temper because she was responsible for the death of several of his soldiers. []
  9. Александр Минкин: “Если бы Буданов задушил и изнасиловал русскую по пьянке, никто не встал бы на его защиту” (Alexandr Minkin : if Budanov had strangled and raped a Russian girl in a drinking bout, nobody would have defended him”), 13.06.2011 13:00 , []
  10. See « Data and Methodology – What Do We Know About Rapes Committed During the War in Chechnya ? » []
  11. A lawyer we met, specialised in the defence of women victims of domestic violence in Moscow has, at the same time, defended Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in a trial against a newspaper …. in spite of the fact that Kadyrov himself has very clearly and publically expressed his idea that a woman is a man’s property []
  12. There is indeed a tendency to explain bride kidnapping as a « cultural phenomenon » or a “renewal of tradition” in Chechnya, whereas the rise of these kidnapping are mainly due to the new structure of power of the Kadyrov regime. Kadyrov and its supporters are young males who have absolute political power, rely heavily on weapons and resort to bride kidnapping to “take” women without going through the negotiations implied in traditional weddings []
  13. One of the major organizations, Anna Centre, was involved in the Ivannikova case in Moscow. This woman killed a taxi driver from Armenia who tried to attack her sexually, and was charged and sentenced with murder without any extenuating circumstances. She received the support of ultra-right groups, such as DPNI (Movement against illegal immigration) which awarded her 50 000 roubles for her courage. The organization did not specifically dissociate itself from DPNI or other rights groups that supported Ivanikova, though racist attacks against “Caucasian rapist” that were made at that time. []
  14. See Norman Naimark, “Russes et allemands : viols de guerre et memoires post-soviétiques” to be published in R.Branche, F. Virgili &alii, Les viols en temps de guerre, Paris, Payot, 2011. []
  15. Сергей Машкин, « Юрию Буданову подобрали уважаемого убийцу », “Коммерсантъ”, №162 (4703), 01.09.2011, []

Tracés Journal – New Issue – “Décrire la Violence”

Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines no 19

Décrire la violence

Numéro coordonné par : Cécile Lavergne et Anton Perdoncin

Novembre 2010 • 270 pages • ISBN 978-2-84788-234-6 • ISSN 1763-0061

Présentation du numéro

Décrire la violence, un impératif paradoxal dont se saisissent, pour ce numéro de Tracés, les contributions issues de l’histoire, de la sociologie, de l’anthropologie visuelle et de la philosophie : saisir non pas les causes ou les motivations de la violence, mais plutôt la mise en récit des phénomènes violents, la manière dont les acteurs sociaux les qualifient et dont les sciences sociales les catégorisent. Ce numéro de Tracés offre pour la première fois au public français la traduction d’un texte séminal de Charles Tilly, fondateur des études sociologiques, historiques et en sciences politiques de la violence collective, ainsi que deux entretiens avec des figures intellectuelles majeures : le sociologue américain Randall Collins et le philosophe Étienne Balibar. Les articles abordent des objets aussi divers que les violences de guerre (Raphaëlle Branche, Juliette Denis), les violences maritales (Martine Charageat), les violences féminines (Diane Roussel), les violences en prison (Corinne Rostaing), ou encore les traces de la violence dans le quotidien après un épisode de terreur (Juan Orrantia). Des interrogations communes émergent alors : comment les chercheurs en sciences sociales enquêtent-ils sur cet objet, tout à la fois fascinant et repoussant, qu’est la violence ? De quels outils et méthodes disposent-ils pour la décrire, et quelle est la bonne distance de l’écriture ? Comment enquêter sur des formes de violences qui sont partiellement ou complètement invisibilisées ? Autant de questions ressaisies de manière transversale dans ce numéro, qui essaie de donner à penser la violence au travers de questionnements épistémologiques renouvelés.



La violence à l’épreuve de la description

Cécile Lavergne et Anton Perdoncin


La violence coloniale. Enjeux d’une description et choix d’écriture par Raphaëlle Branche

Décrire la violence maritale au Moyen Âge. Exemples aragonais et anglais (XIVe-XVIe siècles) par Martine Charageat

La description des violences féminines dans les archives criminelles au XVI e siècle par Diane Roussel

Hiérarchie des légitimités. Obstacle et défi à la connaissance des violences carcérales par Corinne Rostaing

Violences dans l’oeuvre de Kara Walker par Vanina Géré

Looking back – Looking in. Les conséquences de la terreur et l’intimité du souvenir (essai d’anthropologie visuelle) par Juan Orrantia – (traduction : Anaïs Albert)


Violences en URSS : chantiers historiographiques et enjeux mémoriels par Juliette Denis

Sophie Wahnich, la violence révolutionnaire et la Terreur. Note critique sur l’approche émotionnelle par Philippe Münch


Charles Tilly et la violence collective : moment critique et formation conceptuelle, 1968-1979 par Boris Gobille

La violence collective dans une perspective européenne par Charles Tilly – (traduction : Anton Perdoncin)


Pour une phénoménologie de la cruauté. Entretien avec Étienne Balibar par Cécile Lavergne et Pierre Sauvêtre

La violence en situations. Entretien avec Randall Collins par Gérôme Truc

Radio Programs – Swiss Radio on Chechnya and Violence in Russia

A écouter et réécouter absolument, deux émissions de la Radio Suisse Romande :

– du 15 au 19 novembre 2010, l’émission Histoire vivante est consacrée aux « ‘Violences russes ». La série d’émissions est basée sur le colloque organisé par notre équipe au CERCEC fin septembre 2010 sur les violences carcérales. Accéder à l’archive de la série

– du 8 au 12 novembre 2010, l’émission Un dromadaire sur l’épaule, consacrée à la Tchétchénie actuelle, avec d’excellents carnets de voyage de Frédérick Lavoie et Maureen Grisot et des interviews de spécialistes de la Tchétchénie ou de témoins. Thèmes abordés : les femmes, la reconstruction et ses oubliés, la religion et la tradition, ceux qui rentrent / et ceux qui ne rentrent pas, les Russes qui habitent en Tchétchénie. Accéder au site de l’émission

Reprint – Tanya Lokshina, “Chechnya: Choked by Headscarves”

Reprint from,  27 September 2010

 In Chechnya there is official support for attacks on women when they are considered to have ‘flouted’ Islamic rules by not wearing a headscarf or covering up enough. Tanya Lokshina listened to some of the women’s despairing accounts.

 “Even in the 90s at the time of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria it wasn’t as bad as it is now. After all I didn’t wear a headscarf then and, though the keepers of public morals would sometimes pounce on you, they kept their hands to themselves. You could say to them ‘What’s it got to do with you? I’ve got a father and brothers, so who are you to give me orders?’ They didn’t want problems, so they’d back off. But now you don’t know where to hide. They have the power and the strength and they’re everywhere.”

The pretty young woman in a straight, well-fitting skirt and crisp light-coloured blouse gestures helplessly.

“It’s so humiliating, but you have no other option – you have to put on the headscarf. If, say, they hit you, and that’s not unlikely, then your brothers won’t be able to leave it at that. They’ll have to take action against the aggressors, who will just kill them. You dress according to their rules not so much out of fear for yourself, but to protect your family.”

In June Madina and her friend were fired at from a paintball gun. At first they thought it was a real gun, even perhaps a sub-machine gun. They were walking along the main street in Grozny, talking and laughing. Suddenly a car with no number plates stopped beside them. The side window was wound down and the gun barrel appeared. The world suddenly shrank to the size of that barrel and was sucked into a black hole. Madina heard the shots, felt a sharp blow to her chest and pressed close to the wall of the house. She was sure she was dying, but for some reason she didn’t lose consciousness and the stain spreading over her blouse was not red, but blue. The wall was blue too. The skirt of her friend, who was paralysed with fear, was stained green. She caught sight of a pudgy grinning face in the car window. The man was laughing and pointing at her. He had a powerful arm and she could see the black uniform of the “Kadyrovites”, the president’s men. She thought his laughter would burst her eardrums.

Madina felt the pain a bit later, though it was actually a feeling of intense burning, which then developed into pain. Her friend came to her senses first and, seizing Madina’s hand, dragged her into the nearest shop. The sales assistant reacted with horror, clicking her tongue and trying to get the stains out with damp paper napkins. She massaged the bruises that were starting to spread and recommended putting ice on them when she got home. She called a taxi for the girls. It was while they were getting into it that they saw the splodges of red, blue and green paint on the pavement and the walls of the buildings.  They realised that they had not been the only targets. On the road there were some yellow leaflets.  Madina picked one up and only then grasped what this had actually all been about. The black letters danced before her eyes:

“Dear Sisters!

We want to remind you that, in accordance with the rules and customs of Islam, every Chechen woman is OBLIGED TO WEAR A HEADSCARF.

 Are you not disgusted when you hear the indecent ‘compliments’ and proposals that are addressed to you because you have dressed so provocatively and have not covered your head? THINK ABOUT IT!!! 

Today we have sprayed you with paint, but this is only a WARNING!!! DON’T COMPEL US TO HAVE RECOURSE TO MORE PERSUASIVE MEASURES!!!”

The next day Madina put on a headscarf. She saw no other solution. Every crossroad and every corner were unbearably frightening: she seemed to see men dressed in black, the enforcers of morality and the law. For another two weeks these men were actually driving around the city, patrolling the central streets. Women no longer went out with their heads uncovered – especially as President Kadyrov himself clearly supports attempts to inculcate female modesty. He even said on TV that if he found the men who had sprayed the girls with paint, he would offer them his thanks.

By the middle of summer the peak seemed to have passed. True, rumours abounded that unmarried women would lose their jobs and not even be allowed to finish their university studies. But so far no one has been sacked, so perhaps these are only rumours… Girls have once more started appearing in the city centre with short sleeves and their heads uncovered. You wouldn’t go to school, the university or the office without a headscarf, but you could apparently pull it off when you’re just walking along the street. 

Ramadan started in the middle of August, and the main prospect was full of men. This time it wasn’t secret service men, but people in Islamic clothing from the Centre of Spiritual and Moral Education affiliated to the Islamic High Council of Chechnya. They were distributing coloured folding leaflets to women, showing how Muslim women should be properly dressed. There was also a description of how a Chechen woman should look and behave. The authors’ instructions to women read: “Dear sister in Islam!  Today Chechnya wants to uphold decency and morality. Your dress, dear sister, should be a demonstration of your purity and your morality, but mainly of your faith. Your clothes and your morality preserve your honour and that of your relatives and parents!”

The leaflets also urged men to take charge of how their women looked: “It has unfortunately to be admitted that a terrible picture is to be seen in the streets. We are not accusing women. The main fault is the men’s. A woman won’t lose her mind if her husband doesn’t. Men, we need your help. Of all that we see, the worst is the way some women dress. But what is even more terrible is that the menfolk allow their sisters, wives and daughters to dress in this way and don’t consider that it is wrong to do so.”

The morality zealots went around in groups. They surrounded women who had been bold enough to go out without a headscarf or in a skirt that was deemed too short. They upbraided them loudly, describing their behaviour as indecent and demanding that they should have some shame and get dressed” forthwith.

Yakhita didn’t really understand what was going on. She had been living in Moscow for a long time, only coming home to Grozny on holiday to see her family. She had, of course, noticed the prominence of headscarves: women reading the news on television, teachers, staff of various organisations, students, even girls in the first year of school had all suddenly put them on. Her friends talked quietly about how during the war men had not protested when women rescued them, protected them and worked until they dropped to feed the family.  But now they’ve remembered they’re men and that a woman should know her place.” Yakhita nodded in agreement, but only half listening. It wasn’t her problem, when all’s said and done. But it turned out that it was.

She was walking along the prospect carrying her newborn baby and pulling her 3-year old son after her. It was very hot, so she had put on a knee-length skirt and a light T-shirt with short sleeves. She had actually put a hairband on – a headscarf folded over several times. Why not, really? Suddenly four men in Islamic clothing came up to her and started shouting, pointing at her bare arms and saying that she was behaving indecently and shamefully. Yakhita was so surprised, she was nearly at a loss for words.

But then she pulled herself together and started shouting that she was married with two children and had never in her whole life done anything shameful, so they had no right to make such comments. She repeated that she had a husband and a brother and that she would ring them up right now to come and sort things out. Seeing her reaching for her mobile, the men retreated. One of them said: You don’t need to ring anyone. Don’t make a fuss. We have our orders from above. We’ve got to do this, do you understand?”  Yakhita got the message and didn’t want to stay any longer. The next day she bought her ticket back to Moscow.

Zealots in Islamic clothing were soon joined by aggressive young men. Some of them went as far as grabbing girls by the arms and pulling their hair. Law enforcement officers also took up teaching women morality with great pleasure. Fatima is 19.  Her mother implored her not to go out without a headscarf, especially in the city centre. Don’t provoke them, oh please don’t!  They might even kill you. Yesterday a girl was walking along in Chernorechye district without a headscarf. She was bundled into a car and driven off. No one knows where she is now!” Fatima put on a headscarf so as not to upset her mother, but when she got outside, she put it in her bag. It felt too humiliating to cover her head just because she’d been told to. This was the very beginning of the month of Ramadan. Her hair was loose and she had on a long, but fairly tight, dress. It was new and Fatima had been admiring it that morning in the mirror. 

At the corner there were two cars of Kadyrov’s men – young, bearded, in black uniforms and armed. There were about seven or eight of them. They shouted at the girl, obviously trying to strike up an acquaintance. She pretended she hadn’t heard and started walking faster. The lads leapt out of the cars and rushed after her. They surrounded her and starting talking smut. She tried to tell them where to get off, yelling ”Leave me alone!”   Then they got even more worked up, saying that if she had been decently dressed and wearing a headscarf, no one would be pestering her. She was dressed in such a way as to attract men’s attention and be a temptation to them. They told her she was a slut and belonged on the muck heap. They grabbed her hands and started dragging her toward the rubbish bin.

The girl was crying and trying to resist. She was being pulled by the hair. There were people in the street, but no one intervened. Only one woman of about 40 couldn’t bear it any longer. She ran toward Fatima, grabbed hold of her and yelled: What are you doing? Let the girl go!” The young men tried to shake her off, but she wouldn’t let go and continued to shout even more loudly. Finally they let go of Fatima and left. The girl is still praying for her saviour, who doesn’t herself understand how she didn’t lose her nerve. 

The woman probably lost her head. Her feelings of horror and pity were stronger than the instinct for self-preservation. She herself actually wears a headscarf, because she thinks it’s right. She’s been wearing it for many years, but now she sometimes wants to take it off: ”You see, this kind of behaviour makes even a woman who wants to wear a headscarf start feeling that it’s choking her.”

Tanya Lokshina is Russia Researcher, Human Rights Watch

New Publications on Violence Against Women – ANNA Publishing House

We would like to draw to your attention two reports published in 2008 and 2009 by the Natsional’nyi tsentr po predotvrashcheniiu nasiliia “ANNA”:

  • Nasilie v Otnoshenii Zhenshchin: Opyt Stran Vostochnoi Evropy, Tsentral’noi Azii i Rossii [Violence against women: Experience of the countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Russia]. Ed. by L. Ponarina and  A. Sinel’nikova. Moscow: Natsional’nyi tsentr po predotvrashcheniiu nasiliia “ANNA”, 2008. 144 p. ill., graphs, tables. pbk. 14 x 20 cm. ISBN 978594101128.

    The collection contains research and statistical data on violence against women, its causes and consequences  in the countries of Eastern Europe (Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, etc), Russia and Central Asia

  • Territoriia Molchaniia: Prava Zhenshchin i Problema Nasiliia v Otnoshenii Zhenshchin v Rossii [Territory of silence: Women’s rights and the issue of violence in relation to women in Russia]. Ed. by Marina Pisklakova and Andrei Sinel’nikov. Moscow: Natsional’nyi tsentr po predotvrashcheniiu nasiliia ‘ANNA’, 2009. 184 p. pbk. 14 x 21 cm. ISBN 9785941012144.

      This report was prepared by the National Independent Commission for Women’s Rights and Violence against Women in 2008 and identified 4 types of violations of women’s rights in Russia: domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and violent crimes against women as a part of national traditions. The Report analyzes the situation in this area and includes some suggestions to the government on the problem of violence against women.

Reprint Article from Russia Profile – Evanescent Lives. The Rapid Growth of Child Suicides Reflects the High Level of Violence in the Russian Society By Svetlana Kononova

Reprint article from Russia Profile,  July 12, 2010.

In terms of the number of suicides, Russia ranks fifth in the world, but now this trend is becoming increasingly noticeable among children. While the press reports on child suicides on a day-to-day basis, experts and civil society are trying to understand why many Russian children and teenagers do not care to live in this world.

Official statistics show that 37,570 people committed suicide in Russia last year. Over a million people have killed themselves in the country since 1990 ­ as many as the population of some cities, or the entire population of Luxemburg, Malta or Iceland.

However, official statistics do not include children suicides. Estimates of suicides by minors in Russia range from 2,000 to 2,800 annually. This rate is twice as high as in Western Europe, the United States and Canada. While the number of suicides committed by adults has gradually decreased since the early 1990s, psychologists and social workers are alarmed by the growth in child suicides. “Paradoxically, suicides by children and teenagers are happening despite increasing opportunities for expanding social interaction. Or are the huge number of Web chats, dating sites and other social networks making the problem of loneliness worse? It is difficult to say which is the reason is and which is the consequence,” said Natalya Starovojtova, a psychologist at the Pro Bono Alliance and the branch head at the social rehabilitation center Dom Miloserdija for minors. “Moreover, it is impossible to ignore the recent trend of the family institution being destroyed and devalued,” she continued. “The traditional family performed many functions for children ­ pedagogic, educational, economic, and that of emotional-psychological guidance. But the borders of the modern family have become ever vaguer. Many outsiders now fulfill the roles that used to be a prerogative of the family. Parents have less time to speak to children. When they notice that their children have some problems in school, they tend to turn to psychologists or teachers. It seems that they don’t have the power of love, which always used to help in finding proper words.

They believe that professionals should solve the problems and help their children. However, this approach doesn’t always work.” Psychologists say that children for whom it is difficult to adapt to the modern, success-oriented world tend to exhibit more suicidal behavior. “Early deprivation, different forms of domestic violence and probably some personality traits, such as a predisposition toward depression, are all factors that get a child thinking: ‘does anybody need me?’ Alcoholic parents also contribute to the children’s self-aggressive behavior, which might lead to suicide,” Starovojtova added. Experts distinguish between the so-called demonstrative suicide and real suicide plans. “Unrequited love, failed exams and feelings of loneliness all push teenagers toward demonstrative suicide. The actual goal is not to die, but to attract the attention of important people. It means that the child is using an inadequate way to solve the problem, and such inadequate ways are the means of communication in this family.

However, the frightful side of demonstrative suicide is that it can lead to death,” Starovojtova said. Teenagers who tend toward real suicide have some special personality traits, such as rigidity, psychologists say. It is very difficult for them to adapt to new situations, change decisions, habits and opinions. These teenagers carefully plan their suicide. They minimize contact with friends, do not make future plans and straighten things out. For example, they can present somebody with some valuable thing. When all the things are done and the suicide plan is ready, the teenager might look vivacious and cheerful. In contrast, children who tend toward demonstrative suicide often tell somebody about their intentions, make “goodbye letters” available for reading, etc. The third kind of suicide is latent suicide. Teenagers from this group tend to put their life at risk but cannot understand the reasons behind such behavior. The kinds of latent suicide are different: drugs and alcohol, dangerous kinds of sports and activities. “The most important thing is always to stay in contact with your child. If your child trusts you, he or she will probably discuss their problems with you. But if you devalue the personality of your child, put them down and deride them, the result will be the opposite,” Starovojtova advised.

However, it seems that the main reasons behind the increased number of child suicides are not just busy parents, but the high level of violence in society in general. When popular journalist Natalya Radulova wrote a blog post called the “Suicide of Schoolchildren,” it captured much less attention than celebrity news. The typical reaction of the public was negative. Typical comments such as “let them die, it’s survival of the fittest,” “if they commit suicide because of failing exams, they are idiots,” “we don’t feel sorry for them” and even “parents of such children should be put in prison for ten years” show the rough side of society, which still follows the criminal rule of “don’t trust, don’t fear, don’t ask.”

The statistics of violence against children in Russia are shocking. Last year 105,800 crimes against minors were registered, including 4,000 committed by parents. The Foundation to Support Children in Difficult Circumstances (FSCDC), an NGO, has received more than 140,000 reports about the violations of children’s rights, including 37,000 reports signaling a threat to the life and health of children in 2009.

A recent survey conducted by the National Center for Prevention of Violence “Anna” found that 40 percent of teenagers have experienced violence at home, and 50 percent report that they know families where domestic violence takes place. More than 50,000 kids leave home every year due to the parents’ alcoholism and an insufferable environment. Children are involved in domestic violence in three ways, a statement from “Anna” said. Firstly, they become the direct object of physical, sexual or psychological violence. Secondly there are situations when a “family dictator” uses children to manipulate and control an adult victim, thus taking the children hostage. The third kind of destructive experience is “seeing” violence committed against the mother. All of these types of involvement lead to psychological problems. Research shows that as a result of domestic violence, about two million children and teenagers in Russia suffer from psychological disorders, including behavioral disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, leading to suicide. “Despite government-founded rehabilitation centers working across the country, not everybody knows where to call for help,” said Elena Selyanchenkova, a spokesperson at FSCDC. “The united hotline will start working in Russia in August.” Selyanchenkova told a story about a girl who ran to the rehabilitation center because her mother bit her. “She was allowed to stay at the center until the conflict was solved. Both the mother and the daughter received psychological assistance.” Nothing, however, was said about the legal responsibility of the mother.

From Russiaviolence Team:
We would also like to draw to your attention an article and a documentary authored by Claire Bigg, Anastasia Kirilenko, and Alexander Kulygin posted on RFE/RL site on June 28, 2010 at: