Head Games

The Chechen government loves headscarves so much so that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadrov is turning a blind eye on reports of men attacking women with paintball guns for not wearing said headscarves.

Last summer’s attacks signaled a dramatic intensification in the headscarf campaign. Unknown men, mostly dressed like local law enforcement officials, shot dozens of women in Grozny with paintball guns for wearing clothes deemed to be revealing and for failing to cover their hair. The men also distributed leaflets stating that the paintball shootings were a preventive measure aimed at making women wear headscarves and threatening that women who refused would face more “persuasive” measures. All of the 31 women interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report unanimously interpreted this as a threat to use real weapons instead of paintball guns.

I think headscarves are a great way to keep yourself warm, be fashionable, what have you, but these attacks “[breach] freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and the right to personal autonomy and expression, guaranteed by Russia’s constitution and international human rights obligations.” I think women should have the right to determine to decide whether they want to wear a headscarf and not be intimidated into doing it.

What’s going on, Chechnya? Do you have a vested interest in companies that make women’s headscarves, and the only way to keep those companies in business is by allowing men–possibly undercover police officers–to attack women violently in order to scare them into buying scarves and keeping the companies that make headscarves afloat?

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