Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has consistently denied his country was the site of a homophobic manhunt, with dozens of gay men detained, brutalized and even murdered. But he's made no secret of his distaste for homosexuals, whom he calls “devils” and “not people."
“This is nonsense,” says Kadyrov of the gay purge confirmed by multiple sources this spring. “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada... To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”
Now he's got a new plan to instill traditional values in his subjects: He's ordered divorce heterosexual couples to remarry—even if the husband already has another wife.
Nearly 1,000 Chechens have reportedly complied with the order, issued in July.
“Children from single-parent families are much more susceptible to the influence of extremists, especially when they stay with their mother," Kaydrov declared. “We’ve got to wake people up, talk to them and explain. We’ve got to return the women who left their husbands, and reconcile them. This is a priority.”
Chechen Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov says these "reunions" are "like the most beautiful and romantic melodrama," adding. “I’ve seen this with my own eyes.”
While the government and media are acting like the program is new, human rights activists say Kadyrov has been oredering couples to remarry at least since 2012. The job of tracking down exes falls under the Headquarters for the Harmonization of Marriage and Family Relations. Director Rasul Uspanov says extra spouses are no problem, because "according to Islam a man has the right to marry four times."
State-run media has been praising the program, crediting its success to people’s “love and respect for our national leader."
An anonymous Chechen told the BBC: “I have been divorced for 12 years," one man told the BBC. “The commission has not yet approached me, but if this happens, I will refuse.” She calls the order “violence against people.”