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News

Russia's independent newspaper reveals forced marriage in Chechnya

Thank goodness for the continued publication of Russia’s independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. Without it, we may never have known of the outrageous case of the 47-year-old Chechyann police chief who pressured a 17-year-old girl into becoming his second polygamous wife.

Nor would we know that Russia’s senior children’s rights official, Pavel Astakhov, defended the right of middle-aged men to marry teenagers on the basis that women are often “shrivelled” by the time they turn 27.

Nor would we know that the wedding ceremony on Saturday was attended by Chechnya’s Russian-supported president, Ramzan Kadyrov.

He watched as Nazhud Guchigov (who may be 57 rather than 47) married Kheda Goylabiyeva, who turned 17 on 1 May. A picture of her in her wedding dress in the Times shows her looking anything but happy moments before the wedding.

But she did as required during the ceremony by responding yes when she was asked three times whether she wanted to marry the police chief. It is reported that she wept afterwards.

The story came to light courtesy of Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow-based newspaper partly owned by Mikhail Gorbachev and Alexander Lebedev (although the latter said in March he would stop bankrolling the paper).

It was written by Yelena Milashena, a veteran reporter with Novaya Gazeta, who said that she had been turned away from Goylabiyeva’s home.

She said: “I was kicked out of the family home by people sent to make sure I didn’t get to speak to the girl. The girl’s mother thanked me for my help, but said there was nothing anyone could do now to save them now”.

Her article alleged that the girl’s family had received threats about the consequences if they did not allow the marriage to occur.

Polygamy is technically illegal under Russian law, but is fairly common in Chechnya.