GROZNY, Russia, March 10 (Reuters) – The pro-Moscow Chechen government has started to demand that female state workers wear headscarves, women in the turbulent Muslim region said on Friday.
“I received a verbal warning that if I did not wear a headscarf, I would lose my job. I had to wear it the next day so as not to bring trouble on my head,” said one woman who works in the regional administration and asked not to be named.
A spokesman for the region’s new prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has pushed through a series of Islamic decrees, denied the headscarves were compulsory and said women were merely encouraged to cover their hair. But women used to the rough tactics of Kadyrov’s government, which is accused of mass abduction and torture in its hunt for separatist rebels, took the suggestion as law.
Kadyrov was appointed prime minister last week, but has effectively ruled the region since late 2005. He has cracked down on alcohol sales, banned gambling machines and barred Danish aid workers after the global uproar over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
At a meeting with students earlier this month, he unexpectedly gave nine young women who arrived with their hair covered $1,000 each — a vast sum in an impoverished region. “We want to return to the culture and beautiful traditions of the Chechen people. The headscarf is just part of this,” said a spokesman for Kadyrov. Analysts say Kadyrov may be pushing through Islamic decrees to try to steal support from the rebels, although his officials say he is simply doing his duty as a Muslim.