‘A woman should know her place. A woman should show love to us all. A woman is property, and she belongs to a man. If a woman walks around naked, or if she does not behave properly, she answers to her husband, her father, and her brother. According to our customs, if a woman goes out too freely, her relatives will kill her… That’s how it happens. A brother kills his sister, a husband kills his wife… But as President, I cannot allow them to be killed. So, women shouldn’t wear shorts.’
This statement was made by the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, in 2008. Several months later, the bodies of seven young women were found near Grozny. Six of them had fatal gunshot wounds: three in the Staropromyslovsky District, two near the village of Gikalo, on the way from Grozny to Shatoy, and one near the village of Petropavlovskaya. Another girl, whose body was badly burned, was found near the village of Novy Engenoy.
All of these girls had been shot in the head. Thanks to public outcry and the work of human rights defenders, their cases will proceed to court, to be tried as honour killings. The media is calling this massacre the largest in recent years, but in reality, nobody knows just how many women have lost their lives over behavior that was deemed inappropriate.
She brought shame to the family
According to Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the punishment for voluntary manslaughter is 5–15 years in prison. Although the Criminal Code does not make allowances for particular justifications of the crime, some men see honour killings as a worthy exception anyway. They still practice this brutal and ostensibly ancient ritual in some North Caucasian republics: fathers and brothers kill their own daughters and sisters because they consider them a ‘shame to the family’.
Numerous crimes against women committed by their own relatives have been recorded in recent years. Unfortunately, the total number of deaths will never be known: these murders are often covered up by the families, sometimes even by whole villages. Those killed are generally declared missing persons or runaways.
Honour killings do sometimes become public, however. This mainly happens when a murderer confesses.
In 2015, Sultan Daurbekov was convicted of murdering his 38-year-old daughter Zarema. She had gotten divorced and, together with her son, moved back in with her parents. According to the accused, Zarema’s lifestyle wasn’t in line with their traditions. That’s why he killed her. A year later, he went to the police and confessed his crime.
He said Zarema had been culpable because of her lifestyle: she went out with men despite not being married, she didn’t wear a headscarf, and she had an ordinary, so to say, secular lifestyle: She worked in a beauty salon, she would go to cafés with friends, and she would spend the night at her female friends’ homes. Her father couldn’t bear such ‘shame’, so he strangled his own daughter with a rope in his car and then buried her body. For this, he received seven years in a maximum security penal colony, even though the prosecutor had demanded he be given eight years in prison.
A year earlier, in Daghestan, Kasum Magomedov was sentenced to seven years in prison for a similar murder. He strangled his niece Maryam Magomedova and buried her body in the local cemetery.
Maryam was killed in 2010, but it only became possible to achieve justice for her four years later. The preliminary investigation lasted several years, and in 2013, Magomedov was acquitted by the Kizilyurt District Court.
Maryam’s mother, who had known from the beginning that Kasum was the murderer, never gave up in trying to prove his guilt. The acquittal was contested in the court of appeals, and the case returned to the Kizilyurt District Court. During reexamination, Magomedov confessed. He insisted he had committed the crime in the heat of passion, but a psychological examination could not prove this.
The endless list
In the North Caucasus, women are murdered by their relatives so frequently that it’s simply impossible to list every case. In 2014, in the Zavodskoy District of Grozny, a 30-year-old man killed his 27-year-old sister with a blow to the head. He then took her body outside the city and buried it.
A year earlier, a 19-year-old girl was killed in the village of Tangi-Chu in the Urus-Martan District. Her body was found in the basement of her brother’s house. His motive had been his opinion that his sister led an undignified lifestyle.
In 2011, Ruslan, the father of Dzhamilya and Milana Musayeva, went to the police to confess. He said he had shot one of his daughters after she shot her sister. The girls were 15 and 19 years old, and according to the media, one of them was pregnant. Dzhamilya and Milana were killed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle that had been kept in the Musayevs' house. Despite Musayev’s story, a criminal case was brought against him under Article 105 part 2, for the murder of two or more people, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The legacy of honour killings also lives on in Ingushetia. In December 2010, a mother and her two daughters were murdered: the bodies of 42-year-old Madina, 20-year-old Zarema, and 18-year-old Fatima Ozdoyeva were found in the Nazran District. The murders were committed by Madina’s cousin, Tarkhan Ozdoyev. He had beaten his relatives and cut their throats.
Ozdoyev was caught soon after the murders, and confessed that his motive was the women’s ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. He said he had conducted an ‘educational conversation’ with his female relatives, and that this had ended in the triple murder. He was charged under Article 105 part 2. In 2011, Ozdoyev was sentenced to 12 years in a high-security penal colony.
This article is a partner post written by Asiyat Nurlanova. The original version first appeared on Daptar, on 7 June 2018.