‘She could be killed’ Domestic violence victim forcibly returned to Chechnya after police raid women’s shelter in neighboring Dagestan
On June 11, the Russian LGBT Network informed Meduza that a Chechen domestic violence victim by the name Khalimat Taramova has been forcibly returned to Chechnya along with her girlfriend, Perm native Anna Manylova. The two women were arrested in neighboring Dagestan after local and Chechen police raided a crisis shelter where they were hiding. Local journalist and human rights activist Svetlana Anokhina was in the shelter at the time and told journalists about the incident as it was happening, up until police officers forcibly arrested her, as well, together with several other women. Taramova had reached out to the Russian LGBT Network for help fleeing Chechnya after suffering domestic abuse due to her sexual orientation. Chechen opposition Telegram channels say she’s allegedly the daughter of a senior official in the region.
On the evening of June 10, Dagestani journalist and human rights activist Svetlana Anokhina reported that local police were forcing their way into a crisis shelter for victims of domestic violence in Makhachkala. “They’re demanding that the girls in the apartment open the door for them and let them in. We believe this is a violation of our rights: there were no subpoenas, no warnings, they’re simply trying to open the door,” she said in a video posted on Instagram.
In conversation with Mediazona, Anokhina explained that one of the men had identified himself as a local police officer, while the other was in plainclothes. They said they had come to “talk” to one of the women in the shelter: a resident of Chechnya who, according to the police, had been put on a wanted list. Anokhina underscored that the woman in question, later identified as Khalimat Taramova, had left home three days beforehand due to domestic abuse. After she escaped, she allegedly sent a video to the police asking that she not be returned to her relatives in Chechnya. “According to my information, there are cars with Chechen and Dagestani police officers parked around the building. She faces harsh reprisals, she could be killed,” Anokhina warned.
After consulting with a lawyer, Anokhina decided to let the alleged police officers into the shelter; Taramova gave them a statement. After that, Anokhina contacted the press service of Dagestan’s Interior Ministry branch and asked for assistance, since there were “presumably people from Chechnya” surrounding the building, she told Kavkaz Realii. According to Anokhina, spokespeople for the Interior Ministry promised her that policemen would be on duty near the shelter until morning.
According to Kavkaz Realii, there was another knock at the door to the crisis shelter while Anokhina was still on the phone with their correspondent. Anokhina asked Kavkaz Realii’s reporter not to hang up, saying that it was the same police officer who had come to the apartment before. She opened the door and the sound of women screaming could be heard over the phone, Kavkaz Realii reported. Anokhina managed to convey that the police had forced their way into the apartment, after which the connection was cut off.
Kavkaz Realii’s correspondent managed to speak to Anokhina again 15–20 minutes later. She explained that police officers and unidentified men had forcibly removed her and several other women from the shelter. “This policeman named Dalgat, [who had already been in the apartment], said that he wanted to ask additional questions. I opened the door and police officers and unknown men from Chechnya burst into the apartment. Me and four other girls were dragged out of the apartment by force. They dragged us by our arms and legs, they hit us several times,” Anokhina said.
At that point, only Taramova and her girlfriend, Anna Manylova, remained inside the apartment, along with an unidentified man from Grozny, who had come to take her back to Chechnya. According to Anokhina, the other women in the shelter were detained so that Taramova could be returned to her home region unhindered.
Ekaterina Neroznikova from the Marem Project, a group that assists victims of domestic and sexual violence in the Russian North Caucasus, told Mediazona that two of the organization’s volunteers were inside the shelter when the police arrived. She also said that Anokhina began to feel unwell after being detained. She and the other women who were removed from the shelter were taken to Makhachkala’s Leninsky District Police Station. According to preliminary reports, six people were detained in total, wrote OVD-Info. Ruslan Akhalchi, the coordinator of the movement Dagestan Observers, wrote on Twitter that an ambulance had been called to the police station. “Everyone is in the police department in Makhachkala except Khalimat Taramova — that same woman from Chechnya,” he added.
Later, the Chechen opposition Telegram channel 1 Adat published a video that Tamarova said she recorded after fleeing Chechnya. “Today is June 6, 2021. I, Khalimat Ayubovna Taramova, left home voluntarily, fleeing from regular beatings and threats. I ask you not to add me to the federal wanted list, not to give out information about my whereabouts, as this will pose a threat to my life,” she said in the video.
1 Adat noted that “the Kadyrovtsy [Ramzan Kadyrov’s men] wouldn’t have gone to another republic because of a ordinary girl,” adding that Tamarova’s “looks and speech, which are extremely uncommon for Chechen girls,” implied that she may not have grown up in Chechnya. The Telegram channel later reported that Khalimat Taramova is allegedly the daughter of Chechen official Ayub Taramov. (Taramov served as the Chechen administration’s chief of staff beginning in 2000 and went on to work as Chechnya’s first deputy minister of housing and utilities).
The Russian LGBT network told Meduza that Khalimat Taramova fled Chechnya after facing abuse and threats due to her sexual orientation. After leaving Chechnya, she appealed to the rights group for help and said that Chechen police officers were trying to return her to her home region. In Dagestan, Taramova was awaiting the opportunity to travel to a safe place. The Russian LGBT network filed a complaint over Taramova’s abduction, and later confirmed that both she and Anna Manylova had been forcibly taken to Chechnya.
After the incident in Makhachkala, lawyer Mari Davtyan — the co-author of a bill on preventing domestic violence — wrote on Facebook that in Russia “victims are sought after like criminals.”
“It turns out that when they’re looking for a runaway wife, they can break down the doors to other people’s apartments, use all the technical capabilities of surveillance cameras, organize operational activities, and in general throw all the capabilities of law enforcement agencies at ‘restoring the family.’ And recently, this is happening in many regions,” Davtyan said. “Can you imagine such a search for someone who committed domestic violence?”
Translation by Eilish Hart
Cover photo: Elena Afonina / TASS / Scanpix / LETA