Daughter of Chechen official who fled abuse forced to return home

Khalimat Tamarova, the daughter of a close associate of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, announced she was fleeing violence at home (left) before being removed by police from the women's shelter she had gone to (right).
Khalimat Tamarova, the daughter of a close associate of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, announced she was fleeing violence at home (left) before being removed by police from the women's shelter she had gone to (right). © Marem / Instagram

Russian police broke into a crisis shelter for women in Makhachkala, in Russia's Dagestan Republic, on June 10, forcibly removing Khalimat Taramova, 22, the daughter of a Chechen official, who had run away from home due to ongoing abuse and requested police protection. The police action stunned volunteers in the Marem Group, which helps female victims of violence in the North Caucasus region. 

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It's 10pm in the evening of June 10, when a police officer knocks at the door of the Marem Group in Makhachkala. The officer tells shelter volunteer, Maysarat Kilyaskhanova, that he is alone. Kilyaskhanova and another volunteer, Svetlana Anokhina, cautiously open the door of the apartment, which serves as a crisis shelter for victims of abuse. Suddenly, two men, dressed in civilian clothes, come forward and try to force their way in. The volunteers, alongside several other women residing in the shelter, try to block them from entering, but the men manage to pull them out into the hallway. Once the way is cleared, a man enters: Khalimat Taramova's father, who has come to pick up his daughter after she fled abuse at home. 

The man, Ayub Taramov, is a businessman and top official in Chechnya, as well as a close associate of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. 

The video of the incident was published on the Marem Group’s Instagram page on June 17.

The video was taken on one of the surveillance cameras installed in the crisis shelter, which Maysarat turned on “at the right moment.”

Two Marem Group volunteers and two women living in the shelter were arrested by police that day. Taramova, meanwhile, was taken away by men in civilian clothing who were driving Jeeps with Chechen license plates, according to Anna Manylova, a friend at the shelter who had helped her escape.

When Taramova initially arrived in Makhachkala from Grozny, Chechnya, she had filmed a video addressed to police in which she implored them not to look for her. “I left home of my own free will, to escape ongoing violence and threats,” the young woman said in the video, filmed on June 6. “I am asking for no missing persons notices to be issued, and that no information about my whereabouts be released, as it would put my life in danger.”

The video, filmed on June 6 and sent to authorities, was published by Zona.media on June 11, after Khalimat Taramova was taken by police.

Taramova had told volunteers at the Marem Group she wanted to divorce her husband, but her family refused to let her return home and threatened her with death. Her friend, Anna Manylova, said that Taramova’s family suspected her of being a lesbian. In Chechnya, homosexual people are persecuted, or even tortured.

‘The police officer promised us he would protect her’

Based in Makhachkala, Dagestan, the Marem Group provides psychological, legal and material support to women who are victims of blackmail, domestic violence, rape or incest in the North Caucasus. The group’s volunteers feel betrayed by the police, who they say had promised to protect Taramova.

Maysarat Kilyaskhanova, a 25-year-old volunteer from Dagestan who was arrested during the incident on June 10, told the FRANCE 24 Observers that a policeman had already been to the apartment a few hours earlier:

Around 4pm, the police came for the first time. We showed them the video where Khalimat said she left voluntarily and did not want anyone to look for her. When our lawyer arrived on the scene, we decided to let the police officer come in so that he could see that Khalimat was okay. He talked with her for an hour, he asked her to make another video, he even took a selfie with her. He promised us that he was going to take down the missing persons notice and that he was going to protect her.

The Marem Group published a video showing the first visit from police on its Instagram page on June 13. He can be seen taking a selfie with Khalimat, who laughed with him.

Around 10pm, he knocked again on our door. He said he was alone. We thought that he had come to talk to us about Khalimat’s protection, and we opened the door for him. And then, all of a sudden, the men started to try to get into the apartment.

‘Women's concerns in Russia, and particularly in the Caucasus, are often the last priority’

Svetlana Anokhina, a journalist from Makhachkala, is one of the founders of the Marem Group and an editor of the feminist website Daptar. She has been working on issues of violence against women for years. 

[Khalimat] contacted us because she was being beaten. She said she wanted to divorce her husband because he beat her, she showed us the injuries. She asked her family if she could return home, because when a woman leaves her husband in the Caucasus, she cannot live alone, she has to return to her parents. But she says her father told her that he would have her killed if she were to do that.

You can't verify the severity of a threat, but you can be sure of one thing: if a person runs away from home, without having committed a crime, and is pursued, then you have to hide them.

A young woman explains to a policeman for an hour that she is in danger – he leaves promising to protect her and then returns with the one person from whom she asked to be protected! It’s monstrous. Our policemen behaved like lackeys, they simply cleared the way for those from whom Khalimat was fleeing. The police are not at all playing the role they should.

The concerns of women in Russia, and particularly in the Caucasus, are often the last priority. It is necessary to re-educate those who think that their children are their property. That they can punish them, cut them off from the world, kill them, intimidate them, marry them off, prevent them from getting divorced ... These actions have to be punished by law, and the law has to be respected.

Marem Group volunteers intend to file a complaint, saying they want to continue their work, despite the stress of the incident, without letting themselves be intimidated.

These photos, posted on the Marem Group Instagram, show the injuries sustained by one woman living in the shelter. A victim of domestic violence herself, she had tried to block the police from entering in order to protect Khalimat Taramova.

After disappearing for several days, Taramova re-emerged on a Chechen television report on June 14. “How did I arrive there? Everything is a blur, I don’t remember,” she said, eyes lowered, standing behind her father. Then she affirmed that she had never suffered any violence in her family (seen at 6:07 to 7:53 in the video below).

Ayub Taramov said that his daughter suffers from severe psychological issues.

Nurdi Nukhadkhiev, human rights advisor in the Chechen Republic, said on June 13 that Taramova ended up in the Dagestan crisis shelter by chance, under the influence of her friends. The Minister of National Policy and Foreign Relations Akhmed Dudaev stressed that there was no wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement agencies.