Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Can the Women of Daghestan Transform that North Caucasus Republic?

Paul Goble

Staunton, February 11 – Forty years ago, Gregory J. Massell described the ways in which the Soviet regime attempted to use the women of Central Asia to transform the traditional Islamic societies in his classic study, The Surrogate Proletariat. Now, a women’s human rights group in Daghestan has launched a new website in the hopes of doing something similar there.

Four days ago, the Mothers of Daghestan for Human Rights organization launched what it said was “the first Internet resource devoted to the problems of Daghestani women.” Called Daptar.ru – “Daptar” is the Arabic for diary or chronicle – the site is intended to start a public conversation about the status of women in Daghestan and about the need for change.

Svetlana Isayeva, who heads Mothers of Daghestan, told the Kavkaz-Uzel agency that “the goal of our project is to talk about the status of women in Daghestan and in our society.  Many omen come to our organization. Some tell painful stories: their husbands or brothers beat them but they are afraid to turn to anyone for help” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237901/).

“When investigating the problem of violence in the home,” Isayeva said, “we noted that in general no one in the republic talks about this or other problems of women,” despite the fact that “’honor kilings,’ gender discrimination and religious pressure” are among the most serious problems Daghestan now faces.

At the same time, the human rights activist continued, “we want to show the achievements of Daghestani women in social and political life, in culture and in sport,” something that will serve as an example for others.

The launch of the project was made possible by a grant from the Global Fund for Women, but Isayev said that funding would carry it only through June and suggested that her group will seek other funding not only to extend the site but also to broaden it and focus on the rights of children as well.

Zakir Magomedov, who serves as Daptar.ru’s editor in chief, added that he is particularly committed to using the site to start conversations between Daghestani women and those who may be able to help them.  Readers will be encouraged to write in with their questions and the site will find legal and psychological experts who will provide free help.

In its first four days, Magomedov said, the site has attracted “no fewer than 7,000” visitors, an enormous number considering that it was launched with relatively little fanfare and without official backing.

At present, Daptar.ru has posted articles on family violence, the role of women in Daghestan’s past, the problems and possibilities of female artists and scholars in that society, and the role, real and imagined of women in Islamist and other radical movements.

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