A group of women have been publicly scolded and forced to remove their niqabs on Chechen State TV.
The report was aired on Monday on the state-run Grozny TV in a programme billed as an ‘educational meeting’ between Chechnya’s Mufti and the head of Grozny’s Interior Ministry.
Mufti Salakha Mezhiyev, the traditional Muslim religious leader of the region, scolds women for wearing the niqab, an item of clothing that covers a women’s entire face except for her eyes.
‘The face and hands are not awrat [a part of the body that must be covered in Islam]’, Mezhiev said while scolding the women. ‘Niqab are the traditions of individual peoples. This tradition has nothing in common with our people.’
The head of the Internal Affairs Department of the city of Grozny, Aslan Iraskhanov, suggested that those who want to wear niqabs should leave Chechnya.
‘You have heard too much about Wahhabist movements on the internet. If you want to [wear the niqab], you must go to countries where it is worn. This will not be possible here and we will not allow it’, Iraskhanov said.
At the end of the report, Mufti Mezhiev, addressing the women standing with their heads bowed, asked if they understood what he had said and if they agreed, to which the women nodded their heads.
The Mufti then ordered the women to remove the part of the niqab that covered their faces.
‘This is what Sharia is’, said Mufti Mezhiev.
Mezhiev also ordered the women’s male relatives to make sure they did not wear the item in future.
The Chechen muftiate did not respond to a request for comment. The Grozny police department declined to comment on whether the women had been detained and if so, on what basis.
Dress code in Chechnya
The Chechen authorities frequently criticise local residents for actions they perceive to be violations of local traditions. Most of these reprimands, as well as forced public apologies from those involved, are broadcasted on Grozny TV.
[Read more on OC Media: Public humiliation — the political trend sweeping through the North Caucasus].
The authorities began implementing a dress code for women in 2010, when police officers fired paintball guns at women with uncovered heads.
In 2012, the Chechen authorities introduced a headscarf dress code for all women teachers and university students. At the same time, the authorities have actively opposed women covering part of their chin with a hijab, labelling such people ‘Wahhabists’.
There is a strict dress code mandating that women wear a hijab (headscarf) but not a niqab in all government agencies.