Apartments in Dagestan. Photo courtesy of Bolshakov/Flickr.

Muslim Women are Sochi’s Newest Controversy

Russian pavilion for Sochi 2014. Photo courtesy of Irfy/Flickr.
Russian pavilion for Sochi 2014.
Photo courtesy of Irfy/Flickr.

There seems to be no shortage of controversy for the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. From environmental issues, appalling historic circumstances, and LGBT rights, these problems have emerged well before Sochi was selected as the hosting city for the Olympics. The newest crop of issues now stems from women. More specifically, it resides within religiously, conservative Muslim women.

In the wake of several attacks at the hands of suicide bombers, oftentimes women, President Vladimir Putin is collecting saliva samples of Muslim women who live in Dagestan in the North Caucasus, a region close to the Winter Games. These samples are to be used as a means of combatting Islamist insurgency, especially during the highly publicized Olympics. Normally, fingerprints and samples are kept on record after someone has committed a crime in the chance that they happen to become repeat offenders. However, these women’s DNA samples are collected proactively. They haven’t committed any crimes. The only think they’re guilty of is fitting a certain profile.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Bombing suspects, spent some time in Dagestan, an area with a sizable Islamic population. However, the Russian authorities are focusing on individuals that they categorize as “black widows,” not necessarily men. These women are defined as being suicide bombers, motivated by vengeance. While the collection of these samples is meant to be a proactive way of securing the Winter Games, it has the possibility of exacerbating the already tense relationship between insurgents, Russian authorities, and anxious citizens.

However, some critics believe this attention towards Muslim women is misplaced in the grand scheme of things. With millions of visitors and over 70,000 members of staff coming to Sochi to compete in, help with, and watch the games, these numbers pose more of security threat in a statistical sense. While Russia is no stranger to passing controversial legislation, they see no other way in combatting “these inhuman monsters.”

Apartments in Dagestan. Photo courtesy of Bolshakov/Flickr.
Apartments in Dagestan.
Photo courtesy of Bolshakov/Flickr.

So far, only eight women have admitted to being approached for DNA samples. Some have left the country in order to escape further discrimination. Though collecting these samples can aid in the catching of culprits should Putin’s fears come to reality, many of the Muslim women see this as just another scare tactic, a way to intimidate those of the Islamic faith by promoting Islamophobia.

Edited by Amanda Diehl, TIM Associate Editor.

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