The Media Project is a network of mainstream journalists who are Christians pursuing accurate and intellectually honest reporting on all aspects of culture, particularly the role of religion in public life in all corners of the world. It welcomes friends from other faiths to such discussions and training.

1 in 5 Chechen brides kidnapped, subjected to "exorcisms"

1 in 5 Chechen brides kidnapped, subjected to "exorcisms"

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From BBC NEWS. Dozens of cars were parked outside. Crowds thronged the pavement, desperate to get through the metal gates.

In the courtyard women were filling plastic bottles and jerry cans with water blessed by the imam.

As I took off my shoes, I noticed a marble plaque on the wall:

"There is no illness which Allah cannot cure".

Inside, huddles of families were camped out on sofas.

There were many tearful faces. Men paced up and down. It might have been an ordinary hospital waiting room until a girl started shrieking and contorting.

A man scooped her up and carried her off into a room off the landing.

Spine-chilling yells came from behind the frosted glass door but nobody turned a hair. Gradually they were stifled by incantations from the Koran...

According to some estimates, one in five Chechen marriages begins when a girl is snatched off the street and forced into a car by her future groom and his accomplices. The internet is full of videos of these "bride stealings" set to romantic music.

More often than not, the girl is pressured into marrying her kidnapper to preserve family honour and avoid triggering a blood feud. Some are resigned to their fate and make a surprising success of their marriages.

For others, that is far from the case.

Lipkhan Bazaeva, who runs an organisation called Women's Dignity, says brides are often brought in by mothers-in-law who believe the girl is possessed by evil spirits or "genies".

"Just imagine - her son has stolen a girl he liked and married her. What they want is a nice, quiet, hard-working woman in the house, not someone who's feeling down from the moment she wakes up and who's hysterical in the evening. So they take them to the mullah."

Mullah Mairbek Yusupov is a small bearded man dressed in a green surgeon-style top and skull-cap. He appeared pleasant enough to me, softly spoken, until I saw him at work.

The patient was lying blindfolded on her back, wearing a long, flowery robe. Mairbek began yelling verses from the Koran into her ear and beating her with a short stick.

"She feels no pain," he said. "We beat the genie and not the patient."

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