Divorced couples forced to reunify in Chechnya

Divorced couples forced to reunify in Chechnya
Ramzan Kadyrov

According to Ramzan Kadyrov, the root of all social problems lies in the huge number of divorces.⁠

The Chechen authorities are conducting a campaign on family reunification; with common effort, siloviki, officials, and clergy make divorced couples live together again. The reconciliation commission has been working for more than a month now, the BBC Russian Service reports. Moreover, not only spouses who has divorced recently, but also those who have lived separately for several years are brought together. If a man has a new family, he may be compelled to reconcile himself with his former wife and take her as his second wife, which corresponds to the norms of Islam.

Announcing the beginning of the campaign in early July, Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov said that the root of all social problems lies in the huge number of divorces. He believes that children from single-parent families are more susceptible to the influence of extremists, especially when they remain with their mother.

As a result, offices for family reunification, working almost around the clock, have been organized throughout the country. A hot line has been set up, to which anyone who needs the authorities’ assistance in reconciliation with their ex-other half can call.

In the footage by Grozny TV channel, broadcasted a week ago, it was said that 817 couples had already reunified in Chechnya on Kadyrov’s programme. According to ВВС, over six weeks, the commission has reported about 1,000 reunited families. In an interview with Fontanka, published on Tuesday, Mayor of Grozny Muslim Khuchiev said that 128 such families had been brought together in the capital of Chechnya alone at the beginning of August.

Kadyrov: "Wake people up, talk to them, and explain things"

Arguing in favor of the campaign, Kadyrov was perplexed: "If they can live with each other until they give birth to three, four, or five children, why they divorce? If everything was fine until five children were born, why can’t they live together for the sake of those children?" According to the head of Chechnya, 80% of children registered as offenders come from divorced families, where children are brought up by their mothers.

"The clergy, the heads of villages and districts, and the chiefs of police should find out why the people have divorced. We must preach, teach, and help them work on this matter. We should ask people what they need, and what they want? If we do not set up this work, these children will grow up and brook a challenge for us (as cited by the BBC Russian Service)," – the Chechen leader said, announcing the launch of the campaign. He urged "to wake people up, talk to them, explain thing," "return women who have left their husbands, reconcile them."

According to Chechen citizens via WhatsApp, the Muslim Spiritual Authority said that under the new rules, in the event of a divorce with his wife, the husband will have to pay her at least 300 thousand rubles ($5 thousand). In addition, it was decided that a man does not have the right to divorce his wife if there is no valid reason. In this case, he will be punished, returned to his wife, and be forced to provide for her.

Reconciliation procedure

Secretary of the City Headquarters for the Harmonization of Marriage and Family Relations Rasul Uspanov described the reconciliation procedure to the BBC Russian Service. After a call to the hotline is received, the divorced people are summoned to the headquarters, where the reason for the divorce is figured out. First, the ex-spouses talk to a mullah, and then parents get involved. After the families are reunited, the reunification commission continues to monitor the situation in the family, thus "accompanying the marriage."

Mayor of Grozny Muslim Khuchiev admitted that he, too, often reconciles split up couples. "Clergy, authorities, elders, and the spouses’ relatives engage in this. All means available to society are applied," he said to Fontanka news agency. According to him, the authorities themselves pay the families visits, and summon people to the commission meetings. He also noted that Kadyrov himself does not deal with the reconciling.

At the same time, there are several categories of families, which, despite all efforts, could not be reunited. Khuchiev said that according to the Islam laws, if a man leaves his wife thrice, he can no longer reunite with her, unless she marries someone else, and then returns to him. Widows are also included in the list of families that cannot be reunited. There is a category of former spouses who have re-created the family, and those who live outside of Russia. They are not subject to reconciliation either.

According to Uspanov, if a husband married for the second time after the divorce and returned his first wife after the work of the reconciliation commission, he then lives with two wives, since under the laws of Islam, a man has the right to marry four times. "Thanks to the commission’s work, he now has two spouses," he proudly concluded.

No forcing, authorities assure

At the same time, according to the Russian news service, among the residents of Chechnya there are those who consider such a campaign violence against people. Some insist that marriage and divorce are their own business, about which they are not going to confide in the authorities.

Nevertheless, Head of the Department for Relations with Religious and Public Organizations of the Administration of the Government of Chechnya Rustam Abazov insists that no forcible reunification is conducted, since "we live in a civilized society." "The Russian state is a secular state; in particular, in Chechnya, there are no violations of human rights and there cannot be, as the guarantor in this situation is Ramzan Akhmatovich. No sanctions are imposed on these people. It’s their personal life. We have freedom of speech," he assured.

However, the officials’ words indicate that the Chechen authorities are ready to carry out Kadyrov's order with a fierce focus and do not intend to stop at what has been achieved. Thus, according to Rasul Uspanov, the matter with a large category of divorces is not over due to "irreconcilable differences." He noted that the problem would be solved in the future with the participation of "all the authoritative people of the republic" and religious scholars.

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