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Chechen woman ‘fleeing domestic abuse’ detained at Moscow airport

13 June 2023
Selima Ismailova holding her passport. Image via Marem.

A young Chechen woman believed to be a victim of domestic abuse has been detained by Chechen law enforcement officers at a Moscow airport.

Selima Ismailova, 20, was detained at the Vnukovo Airport in Moscow on Monday.

Svetlana Anokhina, the head of Marem, a women’s rights organisation handling Ismailova’s case, said the woman was detained on charges of theft.

‘She was put on the wanted list in a theft case, which she had no idea about; the case was opened secretly, and no one tried to find her’, Anokhina told OC Media.

RFE/RL reported that the security forces claimed that Ismailova had wanted to go with them, and that they were waiting for the ‘arrival of colleagues’ from Achkoy-Martan, a town in Chechnya, to escort her back to the republic.

Prior to her escape attempt, Ismailova lived at a shelter in Moscow for several months while human rights activists processed her paperwork.

Anokhina told OC Media that other Chechen women fleeing domestic violence have previously been charged with theft to prevent their escape.


‘We know a similar story from Leyla Gereeva, who was accused of stealing by relatives to return the girl to them, the same was tried by the relatives of four sisters from Khadzhilmakhi, who were held at the Russian–Georgian border’, she said.

In October of last year, four Daghestani women who sought asylum in Georgia citing domestic abuse were similarly wanted for theft in their home republic.

[Read more on OC Media: Four Daghestani women flee to Georgia citing domestic abuse]

‘It has already become a reasonably traditional move to accuse a child of stealing valuables or money to be captured and held there until relatives arrive and sort everything out within the framework of “concepts” ’, said Anokhina.

According to Anokhina, Ismailova, who used to live in Germany with her parents and siblings, has been a victim of domestic abuse since 2012. She said she was forcibly sent to Chechnya to live with her grandmother in Achkhoy-Martan in 2021 after attempting to contact protective organisations in Germany.

‘Her father learned of this, and she quickly put a stop to it and she did not ask for help anymore’, said Anokhina, adding that Ismailova’s lawyers were already on the case.

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