The body of a 23-year-old woman from Chechnya has been exhumed after her mother claimed she was beaten to death by her husband.
Khutmat Davletmirzayeva, whose daughter Madina Umayeva passed away on 12 June, uploaded an audio message to WhatsApp last week asking Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov to investigate her daughter’s death.
According to Davletmirzayeva, residents of Gudermes, the town in east Chechnya where her daughter lived, informed her that she was beaten to death by her husband.
‘For two days I sat next to her husband’s family at her funeral. On the third day, I began to receive messages from different people telling me that my daughter did not die, but her husband killed her’, she said, addressing Kadyrov.
‘I ask you to help me find out what really happened to my daughter’, she pleaded. ‘She was buried in a hurry, at night, like an animal.’
On 20 June, the Investigative Committee exhumed Umayeva’s body.
In a video published on 22 June by a public activist Kheda Saratova, Khutmat Davletmirzayeva claims that during the exhumation, her daughter’s body was bloody.
‘I was in the cemetery during the exhumation and saw when the corpse was raised, it was bloodied. I also saw a scar on her face in the morgue’, Davletmirzayeva says in the video.
According to her, her daughter recently came to stay with her for several days because her husband had been beating her.
‘Since she has children, and her mother-in-law asked to return her, I allowed her to return to her husband’, Davletmirzayeva said. ‘Because of the children, I left her there.’
In the aftermath of her death, residents of Gudermes began to distribute photos of her on WhatsApp alongside a statement accusing her husband of killing her during an argument.
In the messages, residents also alleged that the victim’s husband and mother-in-law were unhappy that she had spent a ₽20,000 (¯$290) state child allowance payment to buy a TV.
A different version of events
On 18 June, Chechen state television channel Grozny issued a ‘rebuttal’ programme in which the accounts given by Madina Umayeva’s mother and local residents were presented as rumour and speculation.
Umayeva’s husband, Viskhadzhi Khamidov, and his mother appeared on the programme and presented a version of events in which she died after falling down the stairs.
A paramedic from the local hospital also made an appearance during which he stated that he ‘did not see signs of violent death or any bruises’. The sentiment was also echoed by two women who, in accordance with Muslim tradition, washed Umayeva’s body after her death.
One of the show’s presenters attributed the fall to an epileptic seizure.
The local imam, who directed the funeral, explained away the night burial by citing the day’s heat.
‘The corpse begins to rot quickly in such weather, so we buried it so quickly’, Mullah Abdul-Karim Rashidov said.
Khutmat Davletmirzayeva’s view of what happened to her daughter was not shown in the report.
One woman who posted on social media calling Umayeva’s death a ‘murder’ has since apologised in a broadcast on Grozny TV.
Such televised apologies by those deemed to have committed actions objectionable to the Chechen authorities have become common.
[Read on OC Media: Chechen teenager gives tearful public apology to Kadyrov]
The police have not yet established a cause of death.
An alleged cover-up
Following the report on Grozny TV, on 19 June Khutmat Davletmirzayeva distributed a new audio recording accusing the channel of lying.
‘They cut out the interview with the doctor, the imam, with me and with others and released [only] what was beneficial for them’, she said.
Davletmirzayeva has claimed that there is a cover-up underway because her daughter’s husband is involved with the military.
She also stated that contrary to the report, her daughter did not suffer from epilepsy and ‘has never fainted’.
As of publication, neither Kadyrov nor any other high ranking officials in Chechnya have responded to Davletmirzaeva’s appeals.
Neither the Investigative Committee nor the Prosecutor’s Office in Chechnya responded to a request for comment.