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A woman fled Chechnya and won political asylum in Norway, but police stopped her in Minsk and handed her over to her father

Meduza
23:59, 5 september 2017

On September 4, police at Minsk airport detained Luiza Dudurkayeva, a resident of Chechnya who recently fled her home after receiving death threats online. Human rights activists say she has been granted political asylum in Norway, but Belarusian officials handed her over to her father, and it’s unclear where she is now. According to reports, Dudurkayeva’s flight from Chechnya could be connected to threats from the online community “Carthage,” whose members harass and share photographs of Chechen women who they believe are “behaving dishonorably.”

Dudurkayeva’s disappearance from Argun in Chechnya was first reported on July 4, when Azamat Mintsayev, the chairman of the All-Russian Interethnic Youth Union, wrote about it online, announcing that he’d “been asked” to publish information about the missing woman. In his posts, Mintsayev claimed that Dudurkayeva had been seen at Grozny airport in late June with several women who apparently put her on a plane to Moscow. Mintsayev’s social media posts are now hidden from the public, but the texts has been preserved in other publications.

“I’ve been asked to publish info about the disappearance of a 22-year-old girl from Argun. Last Friday morning, she left for work (she worked in a women’s hair salon) and disappeared. According to her relatives, the girl is very domestic and quiet. Through the authorities, they managed to get video footage from the Grozny airport (from Friday), where Luiza and another five girls accompanied by some woman check in for a flight and boarded a plane. According to her relatives, Luiza behaved unusually, throwing her passport down at the check-in desk and acting aggressively. This whole crowd flew to Moscow, and that’s where they disappeared. Luiza doesn’t have a passport to travel abroad. If you have any information or have seen this girl, please contact her family. I’ll put the number below, along with the text of the information itself. (May Allah protect us and our families from all things wicked.) Moreover, I don’t know any more than what I’ve written here, so you’re better off asking her relatives, if you have any questions. Here’s the text that was sent to me: “A young woman named Luiza Dudurkayeva has disappeared. She left for work one morning, but never arrived! Later she was seen at the airport with several other girls and a woman traveling to Domodedovo airport in Moscow! If you know anything please call 8-928-783-30-96.”

On August 1, the Internet group Mash (affiliated with the pro-Kremlin tabloid Life) reported that Luiza Dudurkayeva had been recruited by terrorists and “according to the Federal Security Service is being sent to Syria to join ISIS.” Following Mash’s report, several other tabloids carried the story, as well.

“A search for a 22-year-old girl has been underway in Chechnya, as intelligence agencies have determined that she was recruited by terrorists and sent to Syria.”

Dudurkayeva’s relatives deny that terrorists recruited her. On August 1, the same day as Mash’s report, her second cousin told a local branch of RFE/RL that Dudurkayeva was “absolutely not religious” and left for Moscow “because she started receiving threats on social media.” In video footage from the airport, the cousin claimed, Dudurkayeva was alone.

Luiza Dudurkayeva got death threats on social media. In early August, after Dudurkayeva disappeared, intelligence agents gained access to her social media accounts, her sister told activists at Open Russia. Officials apparently learned that unknown individuals had written her messages saying she “wasn’t behaving like a Chechen woman“ and “women like her have to be buried.” Dudurkayeva’s relatives say they don’t know what the “behavior” in question may have been. “Luiza just wasn’t like everyone else,” they say. She was “more modern” than other girls, and likes to dress in all black.

Her sister suspects that the threats may have come from members of the “Carthage” Vkontakte community, where people publish photographs of Chechen women who supposedly behave “dishonorably.” Community members call on the women’s relatives to deal with them (the group is currently visible only to registered subscribers). “She was threatened and scared by people who would find some kind of dirt on her. Her brother told her to delete all her social media accounts, and she disappeared a week later,” Dudurkayeva’s sister told Open Russia.

In its report, Open Russia did not indicate if “Carthage” community members shared photos of Dudurkayeva. According to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, however, Dudurkayeva’s photos did in fact appear in the Vkontakte group.

Dudurkayeva received political asylum in Norway on August 31, according to Novaya Gazeta, which did not report any details about how she managed to attain this status. In early September, Dudurkayeva set off for Oslo. Belarusian human rights activists from the “Vesna Center” say she departed from Murmansk (it’s unclear how she reached Murmansk, 1,150 miles north of Moscow). Her itinerary appears to have been Murmansk to Oslo, through Moscow, Minsk, and Helsinki. She was accompanied by a lawyer and psychologist from the Murmansk Regional Action Group “Maximum,” which offers support to the LGBT community.

Officials first stopped Dudurkayeva at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, according to Novaya Gazeta, and she was told that she is the subject of police search, after she lost contact with her family. Police took her statement, photographed her, and released her.

On September 4, officials in Minsk also detained Dudurkayeva. Novaya Gazeta says she was stopped at 12:30 p.m. before her flight to Helsinki by “police officers and men in civilian clothes who didn’t identify themselves.” According to the Vesna Center, this occurred after Dudurkayeva had already passed through passport and customs control. One of the officials reportedly produced a document stating that Dudurkayeva is the subject of a missing person search.

The officers escorted Dudurkayeva to a room for questioning, where they kept her for roughly an hour in isolation from her lawyer. When she finally emerged, she was crying and being led away by a man who identified himself as her father. According to Vesna, she was asked to “confirm in the presence of police officers that she intended to continue her trip,” but “with tears she reluctantly agreed to return home.” Dudurkayeva’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Human rights activists fear for the life of Luiza Dudurkayeva. According to Valentina Likhoshva, Maximum’s psychologist, Dudurkayeva is in a “pre-suicidal state,” and could have reversed her decision about leaving home “under the influence of threats from her father, who was present during her interrogation” in Minsk. “The chances that she will be killed after returning to Chechnya are very, very great. I fear seriously for her life and safety,” Likhoshva told the Vesna Center.

No details about Dudurkayeva’s father are known, and it’s also unclear how he arrived in Minsk at the same time as his daughter.

Russian text by Viktor Davydov, translation by Kevin Rothrock