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Dirty rotten human rights advocates Chechen woman who fled to Moscow women's shelter is now smiling for TV cameras in Grozny, accusing ‘feminists’ of malicious ‘recruitment’

Source: Meduza

Earlier this week, the television station Grozny aired a 27-minute segment about a Chechen woman named Zaira Sugaipova, whom human rights advocates say was brought to Chechnya against her will by her parents after fleeing to a crisis center to escape a forced marriage. In the video, the woman answers questions from officials in Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s administration and says human rights advocates lied about her situation.

Human rights advocates reported that a Chechen woman was forced back to Chechnya after fleeing to a Moscow women's crisis center

On July 14, human rights activist Darya Serenko told the website Mediazona about a 20-year-old woman living with her parents in Moscow who ran away from home when her father threatened to marry her to a man in Chechnya. (Serenko and other human rights advocates did not initially disclose the woman’s name, but they later confirmed that she is Zaira Sugaipova, after the Grozny television segment aired.) The woman went to the “Kitezh” women’s crisis center, where she spent five days, before disappearing without her money or identification documents. She soon contacted a friend and asked again for help, saying that her parents were pumping her full of drugs and wanted to take her to Chechnya against her will. Volunteers from the crisis center tried to intercept the family at Vnukovo airport, but the woman’s relatives refused to let them speak with her, and police officers said there were no grounds to stop the woman and her family from boarding the plane. 

Citing an anonymous source, the Russian website The Daily Storm (not to be confused with the American neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer) published an apparent excerpt of the woman’s correspondence from April 2019, where she said her father beat her and threatened to kill her, after learning that she wears miniskirts, cuts herself, and dates ethnic Russian men. “Look, I’ll squeeze [your neck] tighter, and that will be the end of you. We’ll bury your body in the nearest forest, and nobody will find you. We’ll say you left for Chechnya, and no one will even remember that you ever existed,” the woman’s father reportedly told her.

The Telegram channel Mash shared an audio recording allegedly made by the same woman, where she says she is fine and “no one forcibly took me anywhere.” Later, the “Justice Initiative” project, which collaborates with the Kitezh center, published a copy of a statement written by the woman during her stay at the women’s shelter, and screenshots of her correspondence with staff at the center, where she complains about violence in her home.

Speaking to Ramzan Kadyrov’s press secretary and adviser, Sugaipova denied reports by human rights advocates and asked to be left alone

Revealed details about the notorious story of the “runaway Chechen bride”
“Grozny” Chechen State television and radio broadcasting company

In the TV segment above, Zaira Sugaipova and her mother Malika speak to Alvi Karimov (Ramzan Kadyrov’s press secretary) and Akhmed Dudaev (one of Kadyrov’s advisers). The young woman denies that she was forcibly brought to Chechnya, and that her parents want to marry her against her will. “To get married, there needs to be a groom, at least. But there’s nobody, and there are no preparations [for a wedding]. We’ve just come for the holidays,” Sugaipova says. Asked about her situation at home, she says no one has ever beaten anyone. 

Sugaipova confirms that she ran away from home, but she says it was because of problems at her university, and not anything involving marriage. In the Grozny TV interview, she says a VKontakte community devoted to feminism in Russia’s North Caucasus convinced her to go to the women’s crisis center in an apparent “recruitment” effort. “They made me believe that my parents were the enemy, and I thought there was no way back for me, though I wanted to come back very much, and I missed my family,” Sugaipova says, explaining that she telephoned her mother herself after four days at the women’s center, and agreed to be picked up.

Questioned about the human rights activists who came to the airport in Moscow, Sugaipova said she didn’t ask for their help, and claimed that they found her at Vnukovo by camping out overnight. She also denied suggestions that she was under the influence of psychotropic drugs before boarding the flight. “I was just a little scared. They put psychological pressure on me, shouting for everyone in the airport to hear. I was ashamed. If it were true, I’d have left with them. I would have told the police officers that I was being married against my will,” Sugaipova said.

Grozny TV reporters also talked to Sugaipova’s father, Movsar, who says his whole family has suffered from the media attention. Her mother echoed this sentiment, calling on human rights advocates to “quiet down,” and complaining that they’ve dragged her family “into a dirty pit.” Zaira Sugaipova says she agrees.

Story by Olga Korelina

Translation by Kevin Rothrock