“Since childhood, I’ve witnessed women silenced and killed.” The story of an Ingush woman whose family threatens to kill a human rights activist
Оля Ромашова
“Since childhood, I’ve witnessed women silenced and killed.” The story of an Ingush woman whose family threatens to kill a human rights activist
25 October 2023, 0:25

Marina Yandieva. Photo: SK SOS

In early October, 28-year-old Marina Yandieva fled her family home in Ingushetia, a predominantly Muslim republic in the Russian North Caucasus, for the second time. She had been confined there for several years, following her initial escape from domestic abuse. Yandieva’s relatives now threaten Magomed Alamov, a lawyer from the Crew against Torture who assisted her escape, vowing to kill him if Marina does not return by week’s end. We spoke with Marina about her family and why she felt compelled to run.

“They choke you, stepping down on your throat.” The first escape and exorcism sessions

In 2011, Marina moved to Moscow for her studies, enrolling in a medical faculty at a university. After a few years, she decided to switch her major to film directing. Her family, which Marina had considered “fairly progressive by Ingush standards,” was vehemently opposed.

“We had a row with my mother,” recalls Marina. “She believed that external influences were at play—people, books and the like. She told me that I don’t and cannot have any ‘self’. And she insisted she’d prove that I had no will of my own. That’s when I declared I’d had enough and would live independently. And so the spiral began.”

In 2015, her family confined her to an Islamic centre near Moscow, where she underwent exorcism rituals. “In essence, they choke you, stepping down on your throat,” she explains. “And your own mother is present. If someone stands by and does nothing in a situation that’s potentially life-threatening, it clearly indicates the nature of our relationship to me.”

“After all this, I declared that I’m willing to start living separately,” she continues. “I had to confront dozens of members of our larger family. They all tried to convince me that I was engaging in absolutely criminal acts. I was forcibly taken back home.”

In August 2016, Marina managed to escape Ingushetia. “They immediately and actively began searching for me. I was officially listed as missing. Concurrently, numerous search squads were formed. So they found me. I resisted, was beaten, abducted, and taken back home,” she remembers. According to Marina, it was people hired by her family, not law enforcement, who assaulted her.

After her escape, Marina was closely monitored: “I was never left alone, not even inside a room. I didn’t step out of any premises without one of my relatives watching until my escape in 2023.” At her family’s insistence, she completed her medical studies at a university in Ingushetia and worked in a hospital alongside her mother. Both at the university and at work, someone always accompanied her.

Marina says that her relatives had her declared mentally incapacitated based on falsified documents about a mental disorder, preventing her from seeking assistance from law enforcement. She was also threatened with an “honour killing.”

For a long time, she had no means of communication and couldn’t interact with outsiders. “This gradually changed. From 2021, I was allowed to use other people’s devices,” Marina says. That’s when she began planning her escape again.

“This person and their entire family will be killed.” The second escape and threats to the human rights activist

As the control over her weakened, Marina made another escape attempt in early October. Human rights advocates from the SK SOS group agreed to help with her evacuation. They requested colleagues from the Crew against Torture to transport Marina for a segment of her escape route, and this was facilitated by lawyer Magomed Alamov. He did not know Marina personally and was unaware of the details of her story.

Magomed Alamov. Photo: personal Facebook page

Upon leaving, Marina left a letter for her family explaining her reasons and contacted them the following day: “I informed them that I was alright but didn’t wish to communicate with them. I suggested we settle the matter calmly and amicably. I understand that reputational damage is a significant concern for them. All of this could have been avoided. Yet, they immediately listed me as missing again.”

“I suppose they won’t leave me alone for the same reason any girl who leaves home isn’t left in peace,” she says. “We have a distinct hierarchy. We still live in a communal world. In this hierarchy, one’s position is determined by age, wealth, and gender. As a young woman, I rank quite low within it.”

Marina’s family is considered quite influential in Ingushetia: her relatives have connections with the republic’s leadership, and some hold positions in the security forces. “My confrontation primarily concerns my mother’s family, with whom I had a closer relationship,” she notes. “Until now, the Yandievs weren’t particularly involved. I don’t know how events will unfold from here.”

On October 11, Magomed Alamov received calls from the Ingush police centre for combatting extremism and was summoned for questioning concerning his involvement in Marina Yandieva’s disappearance. Three days later, according to the Crew against Torture, Chechen police abducted Alamov’s brother and threatened him.

“I’m unsure about the involvement of the Chechen side. It seems to me this is based on the fact that the man was Chechen by nationality and his relatives lived there,” Marina comments.

Yesterday, Marina called her family again. Unexpectedly, Magomed Alamov, who had assisted her during the escape, answered the phone. “For some reason, they were so insistent on passing the phone to him,” she says. “I was given an ultimatum: either I return by the end of Sunday, with a presumed guarantee of my safety, or he and his entire family will be killed. Essentially, you bear responsibility for the lives of a significant number of people, including young children.”

Marina describes her family’s ultimatum as an “immoral and repugnant manipulation.” She has no intention of returning voluntarily: “I don’t believe I can be safe there. I don’t understand the reasons why I should go back. I don’t want to do it.”

Human rights advocates are convinced that if Marina ends up in her relatives’ hands, she will face not only physical violence but also the risk of being killed.

“I’ve lived my entire life in this culture of violence,” says Marina Yandieva. “Since childhood, I’ve seen women being silenced, subjected to physical abuse, and killed. This was the most painful because when you’re an observer, you can’t shake off the feeling of complicity in it all. I know many women living with tyrannical husbands who beat them, and I’ve seen their bloodied faces. I went to school with a girl who fell victim to an ‘honour killing’. Generally, you hear about certain cases in society; they resonate loudly when women are murdered.”

Editor: Egor Skovoroda

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