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[Voice from Chechnya] Twenty years with a kidnapper

23 August 2017

‘My family was destroyed together with what used to be Chechnya. My husband and I argued endlessly’. Love, abduction, war, and divorce — a Chechen woman told her story to Daptar.

‘My father was a shepherd in the Rostov Oblast. We were born there, all eight siblings. I had a boyfriend in high school. I thought only about him and he — about me. I promised to marry him, but first I wanted to graduate from the faculty of law. He agreed. We promised each other that we would marry only each other. But when I turned sixteen, the future father of my children abducted me. This bastard turned our whole life around.’

‘Bridenapping is a very complicated rite. The elders of both families — the girl’s and the kidnapper’s — get immediately notified. They come to the house, where the abducted girl is kept and in the presence of everyone, a female relative asks her whether she wants to stay or leave. Formally, the “bride” can refuse such marriage. But then it will turn out that her family was insulted and this can lead to a blood feud. In order to save my family, I sacrificed myself. My boyfriend couldn’t do anything about it either — I was already kidnapped by another man. He is now over fifty, but he never got married.’

‘I was in Chechnya during the [Second Chechen] War. When the Wahhabis entered our city, some residents stood up against them. A fight broke out. Someone stole weapons from the wounded. I used to work as a TV journalist back then. Everybody knew me. People from my jamaat [congregation] asked if a fighter named Akhmat (name changed) — we lived on the same street — was involved in what happened. I said that Akhmat fought bravely and stealing wasn’t in his nature. Only then did they release him, although he had already been ready for his death.’

‘At the end of 1999 the bombing was over. Wahhabis retreated to the mountains and Russian troops appeared. With them came our neighbours who worked with the federal bodies. Very often, death squads entered the villages in the presence of the main forces. They killed civilians, including elderly Russians hiding in their basements. It didn’t happen in our village, unlike in the neighbouring villages.’

‘In the Shatoy District [60 km south of Grozny], field commander [Ruslan] Gelayev announced to his supporters that he had agreed with the federals to lay down arms in the village of Komsomolskoye [50 km east of Grozny]. They would treat the wounded there, while the others would be taken home by bus. Civilians [from the Shatoy District], who feared the death squads, joined the militants. On the way, many were blown up in mines, the rest reached the village of Komsomolskoye. There they were met with fire. It was late February or early March 2000.’

‘The residents of Komsomolskoye — women, children, and men — were taken to the outskirts of the village a day before, at half past four in the morning. While they were kept there for several days, we brought them food. The villagers stood and watched how the bombing was killing the refugees from Shatoy and destroying their own homes.’


He never worked, never wanted to provide for his three sons and daughter, and this would never be enough for a woman

‘My family was destroyed together with what used to be Chechnya. My husband and I argued endlessly. He never worked, never wanted to provide for his three sons and daughter, and this would never be enough for a woman. I kept thinking about divorce. I was even trying to find him a new wife, but I failed. When Akhmat launched his business, my husband asked him to hire me. We knew each other and we were from the same teip (clan) — the Benoys. Akhmat agreed. He knew how hard it was for me to live.’

‘Suddenly I had money and my husband didn’t like it. He kept saying, “first buy clothes for me and only then for children”. He either burnt or destroyed with an axe what I was buying for them. He never needed children. He only wanted me to live with him. He beat me. My 15-year-old son interceded. I understood that soon he would attack his father. I discussed it with my sons and decided that it was better for me to leave.’

‘I purchased a plot of land with a house to live with my children in separately only for $1,000. Many people had left, the property had no value. But my sons didn’t come with me. According to custom, they have to stay with their father, it doesn’t matter what kind of bastard he is. Otherwise, any Chechen will say that they are girls, not men.’

I suffered for 20 years, I had chills only hearing the word ‘marriage’

‘The next day my husband divorced me according to the rules of shari’a law. I said, “you will come running back to me in a week, you’ll cry and beg me to come back”. But he answered, “if that happens, I will put on your headscarf”. But he couldn’t bear it and he showed up. I gave him a headscarf right at the door. He cursed me and left. All this fuss went on for a year. He kept coming, begging, spreading gossip about me. He forced the children to cry and begged me to return to him. He demanded from Akhmat to fire me. But Akhmat was already like an older brother to me.’

‘I offered him to register a fictitious marriage so he would have the right to stand up for me — as a relative. But he already had a wife. Akhmat didn’t live with her, but couldn’t divorce her either — the children wouldn’t understand. This is why we travelled to Ingushetia and got married there in the Muslim way. After this, he threatened my ex-husband and he left me alone.’

‘A lot of time passed since then and once Akhmat said that he wanted to to legalise our marital rights. I told him that I didn’t want to step on the same rake. I suffered for 20 years, I had chills only hearing the word “marriage”, but he always supported me. He comforted me, and passed on news from the children. I will be thankful to him my whole life for this. In the end he convinced me with his actions.’

‘Now we are always together. I became the director of his enterprise. Akhmat only thinks about what he has to do, he never takes cash into his hands. I negotiate all the agreements and I don’t let anyone deceive him. Even resting without each other is boring for us. He has become my support, and I try to be a support for him.’

The article is a partner post written by Vladimir Sevrinovsky. The original version first appeared on Daptar on 10 August 2017.

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