Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Text Only


Site Map

Wednesday, November 12, 1997 Published at 09:38 GMT

Despatches: Europe

Islamic dress code for Chechnya

As the elected leader of the breakaway republic of Chechnya, Aslan Maskhadov, flies to the United States, it's been decreed that female students and civil servants must obey an Islamic dress code. But will the Chechens' efforts to underline their devotion to Islam help or hinder their international recognition? Here's BBC regional analyst Malcolm Haslett:

"It's not clear that the Chechen leader was even consulted on the new dress code. It was decreed by Vice-President Vakha Arsanov, a man well-known for rather hardline views. But President Maskhadov, currently abroad on holiday, said himself this week in Turkey that he intends to make Chechnya an "Islamic state". He seemed unaware that his remarks might not go down well with his Turkish hosts, currently locked in a fierce debate between Islamicists and secularists. The impression given is that some Chechen leaders, seeking to win favour in the Middle East, have fallen under the influence of the strict Wahhabi'ism of Saudi Arabia, a country which has provided them with susbtantial moral and financial support. This could also explain the adoption by Chechnya of public executions for criminals. That, however, caused such an outcry in Russia and the West that it's been abandoned. The new dress code is perhaps not such an emotive issue. But it's still likely to provoke criticism. And it comes at a time when President Maskhadov has, perhaps, his best opportunity so far to impress western society. He's flying today to the United States, where he will it's reported, meet a special adviser to the US Secretary of State, Stephen Sestanovics. Washington says it cannot recognise Chechen independence unless Russia does so too. But it could potentially exert some influence on Russia on the issue. The US, however, may not be keen to help a regime which adopts too many of the trappings of what's seen as 'fundamentalist' Islam. That may also be true of a delegation from the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, which arrives in Grozny today for talks."

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Despatches Contents

Middle East
Far East
South Asia
West Asia