The Middle East is a place with a wide range of ethnic diversity, many of which have migrated a century ago. Among them are the Chechens, who came from the Caucasus Mountains in Russia in the early twentieth century, settling in countries like Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. Almost all of the Chechens are Muslims. Many of their communities kept their traditions and culture that they brought with them from their country of origin, which included marriage costumes, cuisine, and dance, to name a few. In fact, Jordanians of Chechen descent still keep, to a great extent, their mother tongue as well.
A growing phenomenon has been taking place on social media, with the appearance of accounts claiming to facilitate marriage and connect Arab men with hijab-wearing Chechen women. These pages are filled with images of women, objectifying them as brides. This trend has risen in large scale — so much so that it started to form a stereotype about hijab-wearing women of Chechen origin, especially in the Arab world, as most of these pages are in Arabic.
By looking closely to what these pages are posting, it’s no longer a group of people admiring the beauty of women from a certain ethnic background, but rather promoting them as women to fulfill sexual desires and the fantasy of a “halal” marriage as they claim. Intrigued, I decided to undertake research into this phenomenon in order to unravel what was going on. Here, I discuss my results.
There are a large number of pages created, mostly in Arabic, with names such as “Chechen women for Marriage” or just “Chechen Women,” and in Arabic “تايناشيش.” When you browse through the accounts you will find they’re all filled with photos of women presented as brides asking its followers if they would like to contact her. Needless to say, these sites have a significant number of followers, ranging anywhere from 82 to 114,000 plus.
If anything, I found the practices by the founders of these pages reflect harmful intentions, and they are, by all means, not dating services, nor are they trying to connect Arab Muslim guys with women in order to get married like many Muslim dating sites. The anonymity of the creators of these accounts also raises questions. For example, why the anonymity? What are they trying to do with these websites? Who exactly are the people behind these pages?
Women’s bodies have been exploited far too long — and the objectification of the female body, posing them as sexual creatures, devalues the worth of any human being. When you see these pages portraying Chechen Muslim women, there is something else included in the equation of women in exchange for money. There is an operation built with purpose – and the goods are the women.
Although it is customary in Arab societies that young men and women can be introduced to one another through friends and family with the purpose of getting married, it is also known that posting images of girls publicly can be viewed as shameful and degrading. Ironically, these pages claim that their goal is to provide a community service that is pure of intentions. However, images may tell a different story.
Exploiting the image of women and portraying them as an exotic creature who needs to be explored has been done before in various forms. Areas where Muslim women have been contested was highlighted by Dr.Leila Abu Lughud in a lecture at Columbia Global Centers in Amman, Jordan. Abu Lughud is also the author of the book Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, where she pinpoints numerous books that highlight this tendency of representing Muslim women as a person who needs to be saved. Some of the books she provides as examples are The Princess, Married by Force, and Without Mercy: A Novel. Not far off the beaten path do anonymous founders of such dating sites fall as they pedal hijab-wearing Chechen Muslim women, exploiting them as a source of pleasure through marriage.
Let’s pause for a moment and ask, “Why is the pleasure being sold through marriage?” The answer is simple: Replacing the word sex with marriage changes up the halal game. It allows those interested in meetings a clear conscious. But does it really change the end result? Those who answer these calls know what they want, but the creators of these sites also know how to play the game. They do not want to lose business. They do not want to be called a pornographic site. Or worse, they don’t want the haram police to shut down their page. So, the play with words. “Marriage” in place of “sex for money” is acceptable.
These sites continue to grow in popularity in the underground areas of cyberspace, and are not dismissed lightly. Many provide lurid visual fantasies for men beholden to cultural expectations with nowhere else to go in order to fulfill their fantasies. With a click of a button, downloading an app, or sending a message, the customer is able to get in touch with whoever is on the other side of the page in order to fulfill a need. Sexual desires can be a great motive to make someone take action.
In my quest to find out where these pages came from, I asked “Who are these people?” While I don’t know the answer, I do believe that they are driven by their goal with no moral compass when it comes to the exploitation of women. It would have to be ambitious people developing these sites, as the time they must have put into finding the women, creating the subject’s storyline, convincing the women to join would take determination and creativity. Many of the women who are photographed and advertised have pictures of themselves on more than one site, meaning that one creator for one site may be the same creator on another site.
It is also important to note that catfishing is a big thing for these sites. Many times photographs of women are stolen from the social media pages of unsuspecting women. For example, I tracked one of the photos I found to a woman who is not even of Chechen descent. She was a sports blogger from Latin American origins. While deceiving, the creators of these sites are very smart when it comes to understanding their clientele base. They know that many will not do the research to find if these women are real. The seduction and dream of beautiful women are all they need — that and the combined promise that she can be their wife for a fee. It’s a complete scam.
So, to the men out there looking for that perfect Chechen hijab-wearing wife — you may have better luck going to Chechnya to find her. That, or keep it old school and go through your friends and family member who are reliable when seeking a life partner.