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The soldiers took the girl into an empty house and sometime later they returned her, saying "Hide this bitch somewhere . . More soldiers are coming after us, they will kill and rape her anyway." She was seventeen or eighteen. This is not the only case; a married woman was also raped. But people keep it a secret, they say she was not raped because it causes such great shame. People just don't speak about it.83

Of all the violations Human Rights Watch researchers uncovered in Aldi on February 5, incidences of rape were by far the hardest to document in any great detail. Chechen society has strong taboos against revealing instances of sexual assault. Chechnya's Muslim culture and national traditions strictly regulate relations between men and women, and inappropriate behavior is subject to severe and often violent sanctions: for example the use of sexually explicit language in front of women is considered gravely offensive. Unmarried rape survivors are unlikely to be able to marry, and married women who are raped are likely to be divorced or simply abandoned by their husbands. This cultural taboo compounds the pain for the rape victim, leaving her to suffer in silence for fear of social ostracization.

Despite this taboo, women spoke to Human Rights Watch researchers about the rape cases they had heard about in Aldi on February 5.84 In relating their accounts, we have omitted exact street names and omitted the names of the victims in order to preserve their anonymity. Under Protocol II additional to the Geneva Convention, rape is considered a war crime. There have been several indictments and prosecutions of rape at the international criminal tribunals following the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The Rape of S.F.

When soldiers came to the home of S.F. in Aldi, they reportedly demanded money and jewelry from the residents. When they left, the soldiers reportedly forcibly took S.F. away with them in an armored personnel carrier. One witness, who requested anonymity, told Human Rights Watch that she was among a group of women who went to look for S.F. after she had been hauled away.

We found her lying on the edge of Aldi-her hair was in a mess; there was blood coming out of the corner of her mouth. We heard that S.F. was raped but she herself denied it. Her clothes were torn. I was shocked by what I saw. When we found her, we were afraid that the soldiers would return and we went back to the house on X [location withheld] Street. We [had her stay] in a cellar with other women.85

A second witness, who also requested anonymity, stated that she visited S.F. She told Human Rights Watch that she went to see her that night and that "it would have been better for her to die; she didn't move and was covered by a blanket, lying still."86

The Reported Rape of X and Three Other Women

Human Rights Watch has received reports of the gang rape of four women, the subsequent murder of three of them, and the attempted murder of the fourth. The rape and murder victims were thirty-five, thirty-two, and twenty-nine. On February 9, the survivor, "X," was found by her relative, "Y," who related the story of the ordeal to another female relative, "W." Human Rights Watch spoke at length with "W." According to W, Y. told her that she had discovered not only the survivor but also the three women's dead bodies. Y. currently resides in Chechnya, and is too afraid to travel to Ingushetia. The rape survivor is reportedly recovering with relatives outside of Chechnya. The entire account below is drawn from Human Rights Watch's interview with W.87

According to her account, Y. said when she traveled to Aldi on February 9 to check on her relatives, she discovered her relative, in a deeply distressed state, taking shelter in a cellar near her family home. She said she was told that on February 5, at around 12:00 noon, her relative had, with three other women, gone to check on their homes in the upper part of Aldi. The four were then seized by Russian contract soldiers, aged between forty and fifty with shaven heads and beards, two of whom were wearing headscarves, who reportedly raped the women in turn. There were twelve men and "many" of them raped the women. She stated that the women were also orally raped. One woman allegedly died from suffocation when a soldier sat on her head. Soldiers strangled two others when they screamed. When she herself was orally raped, she said she lost consciousness. But later she heard the soldiers shout, "She's dead! She died as well." The soldiers then left.

Our source described the woman's condition as described to her when Y found her relative:

Her hair was everywhere, she was bruised, her neck was dirty and her genital area was bloodied. She vomited. [My relative] went back to my father's house and brought some foodstuffs. The victimdidn't recognize [her]. She screamed, "Get away," she was hysterical [screaming] "Don't touch me, get away!"

The victim's eyes were rolled back; her eyes were pointing upwards. [My relative] poured water in her mouth and she vomited it back up. The victim was lying down; when she saw Y., she again screamed "Don't touch me!" She then came to, screamed, and cried.88

The woman then found the bodies of the three murdered women in the yard. She and another man buried their bodies in a shallow grave.

The Reported Rape of "Zina"

Aina Mezhidova helped to wash the bodies of some of the female victims of the February 5 massacre and also of those killed during the shelling of Aldi. She told Human Rights Watch that a nineteen-year-old girl, "Zina" (not her real name), who helped her wash one of the shelling victims told her that she had been raped "many times" and was taken "from yard to yard." Mezhidova told Human Rights Watch that the victim had been staying with a male relative in Aldi who was not at home when the soldiers came.89

83 Human Rights Watch interview with Zapiat (surname withheld), Ingushetia, February 22, 2000. 84

85 Human Rights Watch interview, Karabulak, Ingushetia, March 3, 2000.

86 Human Rights Watch interview, Yandirka, Ingushetia, March 2, 2000.

87 Human Rights Watch interview, location withheld. March 15, 2000.

88 Human Rights Watch interview, location withheld, March 15, 2000.

89 Human Rights Watch interview, Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, March 18, 2000.

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