markosian_280For young girls in Chechnya the most innocent acts could mean breaking the law.

A couple holding hands in public is punishable. Rumors of a Chechen girl smoking may lead to her arrest. The few girls who dare to rebel become targets in the eyes of authorities.

After nearly two decades of war and 70 years of Soviet rule, during which religious participation was banned, Chechnya is going through Islamic revival.

The Chechen government has embarked on an aggressive campaign to promote Islam and to strengthen traditions. Dozens of mosques and Islamic institutions are sprouting throughout the republic, single-sex salons and gyms becoming the norm, prayer rooms in public schools and a strict Islamic dress code forcing all women to cover their heads in schools and government buildings. Females have reported being harassed, some physically harmed for not observing Islamic law. In the streets of Grozny last summer, a series of paintball shootings from cars targeted women without head coverings.

As a woman in Chechnya, you have few rights. The Chechen president himself publicly announced that women are “the property of their husbands” and their main role is to bear children. Here in Chechnya, more young people are quick to use marriage as their gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect. Stymied by the government’s failure to provide adequate schooling and thwarted by an economy without jobs to match their abilities or aspirations, they are stuck in a limbo between youth and adulthood.

This project aims to document ordinary girls as they come of age in a republic that is struggling to rebuild itself after nearly two decades of war.
Diana Markosian