Elena Nazhmetdinova. Photo from her Instagram page
“Tell Me, Sister”: A Tajik Woman on the Web Urges Young Woman to Speak Out About Harassment
Zarnigor Dadabayeva Asia Plus
June 30, 2020
When she launched her first blog on Instagram, 23-year-old Elena Nazhmetdinova could not have imagined that it would garner more than 1,500 subscribers in a single day. On the blog, Nazhmetdinova tells the stories of women who have been sexually harassed. She has already posted thirty-six such stories.
“There Are No Such Problems in Tajikistan!”
This is not the first time that Nazhmetdinova has spoken about sexual harassment. She started writing about it a long time ago, when she first started blogging on Facebook.
“But there was no response from the people who were reading me. I think this was due to the fact that Facebook is mainly used by the adult generation. While most of the people on Instagram are young people, who are not unfamiliar with the topic of sexual harassment on the streets. It was there that I decided to find my own voice, and it wasn’t a miscalculation: more than 70% of my audience now is young women,” the blogger says.
Elena Nazhmetdinova. Photo from her Instagram page
Recently, according to Nazhmetdinova, young men who could not ignore this painful topic for young women had also started to swell the ranks of her readership.
“But they did not come [to the blog] to support us. On the contrary, they came to insult, humiliate, and hate on us and thus, supposedly, persuade us that there was no sexual harassment in our country. They would say, ‘There are no such problems in Tajikistan!” Nazhmetdinova says, quoting her male readers.
That was why, the young woman explains, she came up with the idea of launching a separate project on Instagram called Tell Me, Sister. This was so that others who have suffered from such humiliation can tell their painful stories along with her. Nazhmetdinova received exactly thirty-six stories within a day.
“I’m really scared to go out in the evening, or in revealing clothing.” A story of sexual harassment on the Instagram page tellme_sister
“Without knowing it, I was inspired to create this project by male readers whose comments often started with the words ‘Sister, don’t dress like that . . .’, Sister, don’t look up [at men] . . .’, ‘Sister, it’s your own fault . . .’,” Nazhmetdinova explains.
Elena Nazhmetdinova. Photo from her Instagram page
“So, I decided to write a post in this vein, and surprisingly it was the most read and the most commented-on post, in the end. It was then that I decided to dub the project Tell Me, Sister,” Nazhmetdinova explains.
As soon as Nazhmetdinova launched the project, she began receiving stories from women and girls that ended the same way: “I haven’t told this to anyone yet.” According to the blogger, her subscribers realized that they could trust her.
“As I ran away, I heard [him] shouting in my direction that I was a ‘prostitute,’ ‘not a Muslim,’ and basically a ‘chalab’ [slut].” A story of sexual harassment on the Instagram page tellme_sister
“The main goal of the project is to give women an opportunity to speak out, to give them a virtual shelter where they will be supported and understood. Naturally, I understand that this will not vanquish sexual harassment on the streets. However, I hope that eventually we will be heard, and it will stop being considered a normal thing,” Nazhmetdinova says.
Over the past six days, the number of subscribers to tellme_sister has grown to 2,180, which Nazhmetdinova is sure only points to the problem’s urgency in Tajik society.
Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
Boris Vishnevsky. Photo courtesy of Deutsche Welle
Petersburg City Councilman Boris Vishnevsky Accuses Prigozhin Media of Slander Deutsche Welle
November 14, 2019
On Friday, November 14, Boris Vishnevsky, a Yabloko Party deputy in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, filed a complaint with the Primorsky District Internal Affairs Department, requesting it open a criminal slander investigation into articles published by Patriot media holding company, whose board of trustees is headed by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, as reported by Vishnevsky himself on his Facebook page.
Novaya Gazeta has reported that, beginning on November 7, Patriot’s media outlets have been running stories claiming that, in his capacity as a professor at the Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University (RGPU), Vishnevsky had sexually harassed first-year female students.
The basis of the charges is, allegedly, an email from a young woman named Kristina, who identified herself as an RGPU alumna and claimed Vishensky harassed her and other female first-year students in 2014.
On November 12, the national TV channel Rossiya 24 told viewers there had been “widespread complaints” against Vishnevsky, and students had been holding solo pickets against him outside the Legislative Assembly.
Meanwhile, RGPU has issued a press release. It stated there were no first-year students named Kristina enrolled at the university in 2014, Vishnevsky had never taught courses to first-year students there, and no allegations of sexual harassment had ever been made against him.
Vishnevsky has called the scandal an obvious “political hit job.”
Until we fail to put a halt to abortions, which, fortunately, annually do away with enough people to populate the city the size of Petersburg, there is no point in discussing or contemplating anything serious.
No wonder the stage of (para)political theater has recently been occupied by such figures: aborted embryos telling us they could have been soldiers, for example, and dead women and men, who worked to the grave, but did not live to see a single kopeck of their pensions.
It’s great to talk about cases in which you walloped the opposing counsel, the judges gave you a standing applause, and you galloped off on your steed to deliver more justice and do more good. Today, though, I would like to tell a different sory, a story in which you and your client are obviously in the right, but the system tells you, “Hang on, guys. We have our own way of doing things here. Goodbye.”
Irina graduated from the mechanics and mathematics department at the Peoples’ Friendship University (RUDN) and worked for a major company in Moscow. Then, for family reasons, she moved to Murmansk, where she faced a problem. No one wanted to hire her, explaining she was too well educated, had done internships abroad, and had experience working at a major company, which was way too cool for the folks in Murmansk.
Ultimately, Irina got a job at the Murmansk Regional Information Technology Center, a government-funded agency. Everything would have been great if the head of the place had not hit on Irina big time. When she rejected his advances, she faced harassment in the literal sense of the word: humiliation, insults, daily rants, and charges of incompetence. At the same time, this guy held drinking bouts at work. (Here is the proof.) I would remind you all this took place in a government-funded agency, paid for by our taxes.
Finally, the boss fired Irina. She filed complaints with the State Labor Inspectorate, the prosecutor’s office, and the Murmansk Regional Committee for Information Technology and Communications, which had founded the agency. They promised they would get to the bottom of the matter and get her her job back. Seven months went by, seven months during which Irina received medical treatment in Moscow for terrible headaches and panic attacks. She was prescribed heavy antidepressants.
Seven months later, her ex-boss was fired after five millions rubles went missing from the agency’s books. No one faced criminal charges, of course. On the contrary, the agency’s wonderful head was given severance pay.
Irina had been forgotten, however. She was told to take her case to court and seek justice there. Irina did go to court. At the preliminary hearing, the judge refused to hear the case, citing the statute of limitations.
I came on board during the appeal, but the case file from the hearing in the lower court immediately amazed me. Irina had filed for an adjournment, since the clinic in Moscow where she had been treated was slow in putting together the papers she needed, and so she had to fly to Moscow to retrieve the originals, meaning she needed at least a couple of days. But the judge would not have any of it.
At the appeals hearing, we tried to get all these papers admitted into evidence while thoroughly explaining all the circumstances of the case and Irina’s terrible state of health over the past seven months. Irina was still suffering from pneumonia and pyelonephritis, which we had also documented medically. The stone-faced judges rejected our motion, however.
The prosecutor at the appeals hearing made the biggest impression on me. Foaming at the mouth and raising her voice, she argued Irina had made everything up about the harassment and her health.
“She wasn’t a disabled person, so she could have gone to court.”
This is a direct quotation.
We lost our appeal. It has made me feel terrible. Our system could not care less what happens to women who suffer harassment at work. It is simply impossible to prove either that harassment took place or that it had something to do with a woman being fired.
There are only prosecutors screaming, “You’re pretending to be the victim in this case” so loudly everyone in the courtroom can hear it.
I feel terrible when female friends tell me how their bosses molest them at work more or less arrogantly. Complete strangers write to me with enviable regularity, asking me to advise them what to do if their boss asks them to go to his office after everyone leaves, or they will have to tender their resignations. I don’t know how to reply to them, because it would be a blatant lie to tell them that there are effective legal defenses and the Russian state will defend them.
Thanks to Alena Popova, who introduced me to Irina and had also been helping her all she can. Together we will definitely think of a way to win the case.
Everything is definitely going to be fine for Irina. It cannot be otherwise for fighters for justice like her[.]
Thanks to Elena Konte for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
The fantastic story of how a small Moscow monastery has contrived to sue the state and take over a huge wing of the Fisheries Research Institute forces us to take a closer look at at a church official who has long remained partly in the shadows, Mother Superior Ksenia (Chernega), abbess of the selfsame St. Alexius Convent that sued the state and, simulaneously, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s legal department. Chernega is not entirely unknown to the public. She has often been quoted in official reports of restitution of large pieces of real estate to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). However, as holder of a “boring” post, she has not been particularly prominent in the public eye.
And that’s too bad. Chernega is not only one of the most influential women in the ROC (in 2013, she took fourth place in an internal church rating) but also a successful raider who skillfully manipulates clerics and laymen alike. The adjudged research institute, a huge building that incorporated part of the foundations and a wall of a demolished church, is the most striking but hardly the largest victory in her career. The 46-year-old Oksana Chernega (her name until 2009, a name she still uses in secular contexts) is probably the longest-serving staff member of the Moscow Patriarchate’s legal office. She has worked there since 1993, while also working in secular law schools, achieving professorial rank. She became a leading authority on church law in the early 2000s. Generations of politicians and MPs have come and gone, but Chernega has the whole time testified at hearings of the relevant parliamentary committees and governmental review boards, lobbying the laws the ROC has wanted passed.
Her main achievement has been the law, signed by President Medvedev in late 2010, “On the Transfer of Religious Assets in State or Municipal Ownership to Religious Organizations.” It is this law under which movable and immovable property has been transferred to the ROC the past six years. Yet the Church has behaved capriciously, taking only what looks good or has real value. The Perm Diocese is unlikely to restore to its former use the huge military institute that took over what used to be its seminary: there are catastrophically few people who want to go into the priesthood, and the poor diocese is incapable of maintaining the enormous premises. But how sweet it is to get a huge building on the river embankment in the city center as a freebie. Whatever you do with it you’re bound to make money.
But not everything has been had so smoothly. The property the ROC has set its sights on has owners, and they are capable of mounting a resistance. That is when Chernega takes the stage. When she announces the Church has set its sights on a piece of real estate, it is usually a bad sign. The day before yesterday, it was St. Isaac’s Cathedral, yesterday it was the Andronikov Monastery, today it is the Fisheries Research Institute. What will it be tomorrow? Anything whatsoever.
On the eve of March 8 [International Women’s Day] and amidst the debates on feminism in Russia, it would seem that Chernegas has pursued a successful, independent career as a woman in the Church. But it’s not as simple as all that.
It is well known in ecclesiastical circles that Chernega acts in tandem with a notable priest, Artemy Vladimirov. He is not only confessor at the St. Alexius Convent but is also well known throughout the Church. A graduate of Moscow State University’s philolology department and rector of All Saints Church (a neighbor of the convent and the reclaimed fisheries institute), Vladimirov is a glib preacher who specializes in denouncing fornication; he is, therefore, a member of the Patriarchal Council on Family and Motherhood. The council has become a haven for the Church’s choicest monarchistically inclined conservatives, including Dmitry Smirnov, who has led an aggressive campaign against Silver Rain radio station, Konstantin Malofeev, Igor Girkin‘s ex-boss and, concurrently, an expert on web-based pedophilia, and the wife of Vladimir Yakunin, former director of Russian Railways, a billionaire, and former KGB officer.
Vladimirov vigorously espouses monarchist views and has made a huge number of basically stupid public statements, such as the demand to remove a number of works by Chekhov and Bunin from the school curriculum and a call to campaign against Coca-Cola. Such radicalism is not rare in the ROC, however, Since the late 1990s and the publication of the novel Celibacy by church journalist Natalya Babasyan, Vladimirov has served as a clear example for many observant and quasi-observant Orthodox believers of where the line should be drawn in interactions between a priest and his flock, especially his young, female parishioners.
Because of this reputation, Vladimirov has remained in the background even during periods when the grouping of monarchists and Russian nationalists to which he has belonged has had the upper hand in the ROC. But if you can’t do something directly, you can do it indirectly, and Oksana Chernega has come in very handy in this case. As is typical of a young woman in the modern ROC, she is utterly dependent on her confessor. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Orthodox fundamentalists and monarchist heterosexuals developed a curious lifestyle. Young and handsome, usually university grads with the gift of gab, and often married, many of them newly arrived in the Church, they formed small “communities” consisting of young women, communities with unclear or flexible status in terms of ecclesiastical law.
In theory, a convent is established by order of a bishop, and a married or elderly priest is appointed as the convent’s confessor. He does not live on the convent’s grounds and is present there during “working hours,” when he has to serve mass and take confession from the women who inhabit the convent. As part of the so-called Orthodox revival, a monk or a young priest who had “complicated” relations with his wife would first form a group of female “adorers” in the church, later organizing them into a “sisterhood” and then a “convent community,” which he would settle in a building reclaimed from local authorities, sometimes the site of a former convent, sometimes not. He would immediately take up residence there himself in order to “revive Orthodoxy” and denounce fornicators and homosexuals in the outside world. The record holder in this respect was Archimandrite Ambrosius (Yurasov) of the Ivanovo Diocese, who built a huge convent in Ivanovo, where he officially lived in the same house as the mother superior and yet never left the apartments of the rapturous Moscow women whom he had pushed to come live with him after they had bequeathed their dwellings to the convent.
For those who did not want to leave the capital even nominally, historical buildings in the city center were found. That, for example, was the story of the ultra-fundamentalist Abbot Kirill (Sakharov), who took over St. Nicholas Church on Bersenevka opposite the Kremlin. There, according to a correspondent of mine, “the Old Believer girls creatively accessorized their robes with manicures.” In Petersburg, the so-called Leushinskaya community, led by the main local monarchist Archpriest Gennady Belobolov, has been “restoring” a church townhouse for twenty years. However, the archpriest himself lives on site, while his wife raises their children somewhere else in town. It is a good arrangement for a young man from the provinces: come to the capital, occupy a large building in the city center under a plausible pretext, and shack up there with attractive and spiritually congenial sisters in the faith while putting on shows at press conferences stacked with selected reporters and confessing pious female sponsors who are thrilled by their pastor’s superficial strictness and inaccessibility.
So in this system of interwoven personal and political interests how could one not help out a dear friend? The affairs of the alliance between Vladimirov and Chernega, especially when it comes to dispensing other people’s property, are so broad and varied that observers sometimes wonder whether it isn’t time for police investigators to have a crack at them.
Where do you think the part of the church community sympathetic to Belovolov’s plight would want to transfer such a managerially gifted and cultured pastor, a pastor capable of creating a little museum and one who knows a thing or two about restoration? To St. Isaac’s Cathedral, of course, and the post of sexton, the chief steward of the church and its property. What would Chernega, who is coordinating the legal aspects of transferring such a huge chunk of public property, have to do with this? Formally, of course, nothing, and it isn’t a sure bet that the appointment will take place, just as it’s not a sure bet the ROC will get its hands on the entire cathedral.
Female Workers at Urals Emerald Plant Complain of Abuse during Strip Searches URA.Ru
December 5, 2016
Employees of a well-known emerald extraction enterprise in Sverdlovsk Region believe they have been abused during strip searches. The women are forced to freeze while standing on a concrete floor and answer intimate questions, and in the future they have been threatened with searches in gynecological exam chairs.
Employees at the Malyshevskoye Field Emerald Extraction Plant, a separate division of Kaliningrad Amber Factory JSC, have complained of outrages on the part of security guards. Having failed to get justice from various authorities, the workforce has turned to journalists for help.
“We are prohibited from being in the toilet for more than ten minutes. When we ‘violate the rules,’ the security guards demand explanations for things about which we are sometimes ashamed and embarrassed to talk, given that we are women, and anything can happen,” female plant employees told URA.Ru.
For obvious reasons, they were afraid to give their names.
“We get the impression that the security guards, who are mostly men, are really interested in the juicy details,” they said.
However, the female employees consider so-called selective strip searches the most agonizing procedure, despite the fact they are conducted by female security guards. Female employees can be subjected to the procedure repeatedly over a single shift.
“Without giving any reason, the guards can remove any of us from our workplace and take us away for a strip search,” the women continued. “They happen in a shabby room with a concrete floor and a broken window that opens onto a room where male security guards are on duty. The guards force the women to strip naked and pat down their clothes for a long time without wearing gloves. The whole time we arestanding barefoot on a rag on the icy floor. The temperature in the room cannot be higher than fifteen degrees Celsius. Any questions and objections on our part are met with blatant rudeness. They say straight to our faces, “Shut up! You’re all potential thieves and recidivists, and an emerald buyer is waiting for each of you outside the plant.’ The guards make dirty hints about where we might hide the stones. They have promised that, from the new year, we will be examined daily in a gynecological chair. Allegedly, the chair has been ordered. After this humiliating procedure, one of the gals felt sick and had to be taken away in an ambulance.”
The harassment has mainly affected mineworkers on the picking belt, where only women are employed. The guards behave respectfully towards the male mineworkers, although they too are subjected to frequent strip searches and blatant remarks about where they might be hiding emeralds. This happens despite the fact that all employees at the plant work under the watchful eye of numerous surveillance cameras and security guards, and wear special uniforms whose pockets have been sewn shut.
“Not all the guards are like this. There are also guards who are tactful and treat us politely,” the women continued. “But then there are those who come to work with one thing in mind: to choose a victim and bully her all day. The security company [that provides the guards] is supervised by the plant’s security department. They give the orders to the guards. Their attitude towards us is like that of the Gestapo.”
According to employees, the bullying and humiliation at the emerald field started late last year, when a new director, Yevgeny Vasilyevsky, took over. It was Vasilyevsky who established the security department, which signed a contract with the security firm Rostec Protection. Over the following year, the plant stopped providing workers with gloves and soap, but surveillance was beefed up. The mineworkers were subjected to strip searches for scratching their nose or adjusting their kerchiefs. Curiously, for no apparent reason, the security personnel themselves sometimes approach the conveyor belt on which the emeralds are washed. The female workers managed to capture one such incident on video.
“We have conducted strip searches since 2006, and it goes without saying that everything has been approved by various official organizations,” explained Sergei Babushkin, head of custodial services and economic security at the plant. “The strip search is the same for everyone. Even the plant director goes through it after he has been down in the mineshaft, and no one has complained except for one shift. Three female employees on that shift were detained while attempting to take crystals out of the plant. The employees on that shift ometimes violate the rules. After they have taken a stone from the conveyor belt and put it in a cup, they are obliged to raise their hands and show the camera they are empty. They fail to do this sometimes, and after several verbal warnings we are forced to take them to the search room. Before the new management was installed, private security firms worked at the plant for a long time. Guards and employees mixed, and raw gems were taken from the plant. Now we have put an end to the thefts and hired inhouse security. The business about the gynecological chair is not true. We are a state enterprise, and we have more serious needs.”
Specialists will have to put the complicated matter to a rest. The woman have sent written appeals to the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and the State Labor Inspectorate for Sverdlovsk Region. Both agencies confirmed they have received the complaints, and assured us that measures would be taken to arbitrate the conflict.