Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov ordered divorced spouses to get back together. Local TV says 948 couples have complied
In early July, the head of the Chechen government, Ramzan Kadyrov, announced a new initiative to reconcile divorced partners. “We’ve got to wake people up, talk to them, and explain. We’ve got to return the women who left their husbands, and reconcile them. This is a priority,” Kadyrov said, arguing that children raised in divorced homes are more susceptible to the influence of extremists.
To carry out this “reconciliation” work, Kadyrov established several special commissions with help from religious figures. According to Rasul Uspanov, the secretary of the “Grozny City Headquarters for the Harmonization of Marriage and Family Relations,” divorced spouses are invited to the headquarters separately, and encouraged to reunite with their partners. “If a mullah speaks to a divorced spouse and sees that there’s even a 2-percent chance that reconciliation could be an option, we contact the parents,” Uspanov explained. Supyan Kurbanov, the head of the Spiritual Muslim DIrectorate, says the commission will even reach out to village elders, in some cases. Uspanov says a woman will sometimes return to her ex-husband after he has remarried, becoming his second wife.
On August 21, Chechen television aired reports that the commission has helped reunite 948 divorced couples. In a TV interview, Rustam Abazov, the director of Chechnya’s Department for Relations With Religious and Social Organizations, attributed the success almost entirely to Ramzan Kadyrov, saying, “The program was developed so clearly by Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov that absolutely zero problems occurred in its implementation. I’d like to emphasize that no country in the world has ever had such a program. This is something new in history. It’s the only time that people have responded on such a mass scale to the calls of the region’s leader. It’s love and respect for our national leader, because Mr. Kadyrov always lives up to his word,” Abazov said.
According to Zarema, a woman living in Grozny, the authorities’ main argument when trying to persuade women to return to their husbands is that it’s Kadyrov’s will. “So it turns out, if you refuse, you’re not only going against tradition and religious expectations, but also against Kadyrov’s wishes. It’s a form of intimidation. Clearly, when everybody is pressuring you from all sides, you have to agree. How long these remarriages will last is another question,” the woman told the website The Caucasian Knot.
Chechen locals have had mixed reactions to Kadyrov’s call for reconciliation between divorced couples. Some women whose children remained with their ex-husbands say they are returning to be with their kids again. Chechen TV is airing reports about these reunions.
Others have been outspoken critics of Kadyrov’s project. “I’ve been divorced for 12 years now. The commission hasn’t contacted me yet, but I’ll refuse, if it does. This is violence against people,” Bariyat, a woman living in Grozny, told the BBC. An unidentified man told the same outlet that the commission had approached him about returning to his ex-wife, but he refused. “I said that I have no plans to come together again with the person whom I divorced seven years ago,” he said.
This summer’s reconciliation efforts in Chechnya are nothing new. The practice has existed since 2012 at least, Radio Svoboda learned from Irina Kosterina, a coordinator for the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Three years ago, Kosterina says she attended a similar muftiat council meeting. She says they “constantly reported the resolution of something like 2,000 family conflicts.” Kosterina says Kadyrov’s new project surprised her somewhat, insofar as officials are portraying the program to reconcile divorced spouses as something new. Historian Mairbek Vachagayev says spiritual figures were being used to reunite divorced couples during the Soviet era.
Photo on front page: Ramzan Kadyrov / Instagram