Dress code for women in Chechnya

Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday released a 40-page report called You Dress According to Their Rules: Enforcement of an Islamic Dress Code for Women in Chechnya. (Full PDF version of the report can be downloaded here.)

It’s about time for such a report. I’ve been loosely following the situation in Chechnya since Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov called for stricter dress code enforcement and paintball attacks by police officers on women without headscarves on the streets of Chechnya’s capital Grozny started in mid-2010. Even I, a known sceptic when it comes to the Russian government, am amazed at the federal government’s willingness to look through their fingers at Kadyrov’s openly unlawful and unconstitutional initiatives in return to the superficial peace in the republic. Indeed, Kadyrov’s dress code frenzy contradicts everything there is: the Russian Constitution, which Chechnya is bound by and which explicitly provides for the freedom of conscience, expression and religion; the Chechen Constitution (!); and Russia’s international obligations. Not to mention that enforcing this bullshit dress code through harassment, physical violence and threats toward women is just unacceptable.

Kadyrov started his “virtue campaign” (meaning that he started telling women to dress more modestly in accordance with the Sharia law, thus appealing to their “virtues”) as early as 2006. In HRW report’s words: “…Kadyrov has made the ““virtue campaign”” for women a policy priority since 2006. He made numerous public statements, including on Chechen television, which appears to be under his control, regarding the need for women to adhere to ““modesty laws,”” by, among other things, wearing a headscarf and following men’’s orders. He has described women as men’’s ““property”” and publicly condoned honor killings.” (p. 2)

By fall of 2007, Kadyrov announced that women employed by state institutions should wear headscarves to work. Natalia Estemirova, Grozny-based journalist and human rights advocate, wrote about it critically (in Russian) in October 2007, and repeatedly criticized the policy in the media. In July  2009, Estemirova was kidnapped and found dead the next day; the HRW report on  dress code for women in Chechnya is dedicated to her memory.

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Civilian casualties in the North Caucasus

Via Vladimir Milov:

Number of civilian casualties (non-combatant deaths) per 100,000 people in 2010: Iraq, Ingushetia, Afghanistan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan, and Russia’s North Caucasus as a whole

So, Ingushetia (part of Russia’s North Caucasus Federal District) nears Iraq in number of civilian casualties: 12.6 compared to 12.9, respectively, and it actually has more non-combatant deaths than Afghanistan (8.5).

Caucasus Knot (Kavkaz Usel) article, used by Russian opposition leader Vladimir Milov as the source for Russia’s North Caucasus data, says that in real numbers, Dagestan leads 2010 civilian casualties with 78, followed by 40 in Ingushetia, 31 in Kabardino-Balkaria, 20 in North Ossetia, and 3 in Chechnya and Stavropol Territory, for a total of 180 civilian casualties in Russia’s North Caucasus in 2010. (My understanding is that numbers in the graph are a result of comparing the number of civilian deaths to the number of people living in the region.)

Thus, somewhat paradoxically (although not really surprisingly), Chechnya does not have that many civilian casualties anymore, because the violence from Chechnya has spilled to the neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia.

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Rating American Idol Top 13 Performances

American Idol‘s Top 13 performed tonight, singing songs by their idols. I’m rating those performances.

Lauren Alaina, Any Man of Mine by Shania Twain:  Way too laid-back. I want to be blown away, not just watch Lauren “have a good time” on stage. She does have one of the biggest voices this season – it’s time to really use it! I did like that judges were honest and finally said something except “you’re so amazing, we love you, that was beautiful”.

Casey Abrams, With a Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker:  I love this guy. He’s so genuine, every song sounds great, and also the entire song sounds like a climax.

Ashthon Jones, When You Tell Me that You Love Me by Diana Ross:  Oftentimes she sounds pitchy and screamy to me, and this song wasn’t an exception. I don’t get what Randy sees in her, and yet he was obviously the one who got her in Top 13 with the “wild card”.

Paul McDonald, Come Pick Me Up by Ryan Adams:  Terrible! This guy really annoys me. I’m all for unique indie artists, but he’s just not one of them. He sounds like a cat and looks like a drug addict. Please America, vote him off soon.

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International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

In Russia, it has become a vomit-inducing feast of mawkishness with no connection whatsoever to what it was supposed to be: an occasion to promote gender equality and women’s right, created by socialist female activist Klara Tsetkin. In the U.S., it is barely known outside of the small community of advocacy think-tanks. While I’m not crazy about the socialist origin of this holiday, I’d like to think that somehow we as the global society can use these yearly occasions to raise awareness of existing gender inequalities and to promote gender equality and women’s rights.

This year, a great effort was made by the British James Bond actor Daniel Craig, who dressed as a woman to raise awareness of existing gender inequalities:

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Sochi-2014 Olympic mascots

So, Russia selected the mascots for the Winter Olympics that will take place in the Russian city of Sochi in 2014. Here they are:

The Leopard: 

The Polar Bear: 

The Hare (Zayka): 

The mascots drew criticisms from all over the world. First, in a hypocritical act of “democracy for export”, Russia decided to leave the choice of mascots to the public, through both direct and online voting. But things quickly went wrong when the early favorite, Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz), Russian version of Santa Claus, was removed from the voting when the voting committee realized that, if Grandfather Frost is selected as the official mascot, it will become property of the International Olympic Committee after the Olympics, according to the rules – which would be a bummer since Ded Moroz is already the symbol of Russian winter and the main Russian holiday of New Year.

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Traffic Light

I like sitcoms about relationships, so I thought I’d enjoy FOX’s new flick, Traffic Light. (The website says it airs on Tuesdays, but I saw an episode yesterday, which was a Wednesday. I’m confused.)

The show follows three buddies as they navigate through life and relationships. One of them, Mike (played by David Denman) is married with a kid; another, Adam (Nelson Franklin) had just moved in with his girlfriend; and the last one, Ethan (Kris Marshall) is permanently single (and British!). The show was pretty much what I expected it to be – fun and sweet, although a bit too predictable while, paradoxically, not 100% believable (more about that below).

What I did not expect, however, was the abundance of actors from The Office. Seriously, what’s up with that? David Denman (Pam’s ex-fiance Roy from The Office) as Mike is adorable and very aptly cast. Nelson Franklin as Adam is also fine, although he was also on The Office as the geeky IT guy who appeared in a couple of episodes. That makes two of just five main characters, but The Office actors don’t end here. One of Adam’s bosses is played by Rob Huebel, also known as Holly’s ex-boyfriend AJ from The Office. I think I spotted someone else from The Office in yesterday’s episode, but I forget who it was.

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Putin killed Kenny

“Oh my God, they killed Kenny! You bastards!!!”

Apparently, the word on the Russian street has been for quite a while that “Putin wants to kill Kenny” – Kenny symbolizing democracy in Russia, of course.

Specifically, the buzz was about Russian prosecutorial attempts to censor some South Park episodes in 2008:

More generally though, the catchphrase “Putin killed Kenny” has apparently come to symbolize the continuous attempts by the Putin’s regime to kill (censor, steal) everything even remotely pertaining to democracy in Russia. Amazingly, I did not know anything about the birth of this genuine The Room-like reference until just now, when I read in the proceedings of a conference on Jackson-Vanik amendment that took place at the Kennan Institute in Washington, DC in February 2010, that  Russian opposition has done a flashmob titled “Putin kills Kenny”.

This makes me so happy. It is especially ironic that the story aired at RT, or Russia Today, the PR arm of the Russian propaganda.

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