© Diana Markosian
Goodbye My Chechnya documents the lives of young Muslim girls growing up in the aftermath of war. For young girls in Chechnya the most innocent acts could mean breaking the rules. A couple holding hands in public is punishable; the sight of a Chechen girl smoking may lead to her arrest; and rumors of girls having sex before marriage can result in her killing. The few girls who dare to rebel become targets in the eyes of authorities. These girls tell a forbidden tale of a different kind of Chechnya – one that is behind closed doors. After nearly two decades of war and seventy 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 Chechen traditions. Dozens of mosques and Islamic institutions are sprouting throughout the republic. Prayer rooms in public schools and a strict Islamic dress code is enforced. Females have reported being harassed, some physically harmed for not wearing a head covering.
In today’s Chechnya, where alcohol is all but banned, polygamy encouraged, and single-sex salons and gyms becoming the norm, Chechen girls have very few rights. With this set of images I hope to reveal a more intimate perspective on the personal lives and choices of young girls who are grappling with questions of identity as they come of age in a republic that is rapidly redefining itself as a Muslim state. – Diana Markosian
Markosian’s exhibit opens at the Half King on Sept, 11, 2012 with a discussion moderated by Whitney Johnson, Director of Photography at the New Yorker.
Above: Chechen dancers backstage at a concert hall in the Chechen capital, Grozny. In 2009, a suicide bomb attack in front of the concert hall exploded, killing six people.
© Diana Markosian. Above: At sunset in the outskirts of Grozny, Kazbek Mutsaev, 29, fires celebratory gun shots as part of an age-old wedding tradition in Chechnya.
© Diana Markosian. Above: Jamila Idalova, 16, prepares for her wedding. The teen bride was kidnapped by her boyfriend and later returned to her home. Under the current Chechen president, strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, bride-kidnapping is outlawed and captors are, in theory, punished with a fine.
© Diana Markosian. Above: The mountainous region of Itum-Kale was a base for rebels during both wars against Moscow. A southern region of Russia, Chechnya witnessed nearly two decades of vicious war during which an estimated 200,000 Chechens were killed.
© Diana Markosian. Above: Half of the girls in the ninth grade at School No.1 in the Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt wear the hijab. The head and neck covering is a sharp break from Chechen tradition.
© Diana Markosian. Above: A couple on a date in the village of Serzhen-Yurt. Couples must meet in public and sit a distance from one another. All physical contact is forbidden before marriage.
© Diana Markosian. Above: A Chechen boy checks out a girl from his back-tinted window. Young women in Chechnya are often kidnapped off the street and then forced to marry their captors, despite official measures banning the age-old tradition.