Chechen President Hands Out $1,000 to Children Named Mohammed

If you’re broke, Chechen, and happened to give birth on Monday, you’re in luck. Well, at least as long as you named your newborn baby after Mohammed (or one of his close associates). Monday was the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in the Sunni tradition, and Chechnya’s strongman president, Ramzan Kadyrov, decided to mark the occasion by ...

Picture from Ramzan Kadyrov's Instagram
Picture from Ramzan Kadyrov's Instagram
Picture from Ramzan Kadyrov's Instagram

If you're broke, Chechen, and happened to give birth on Monday, you're in luck.

Well, at least as long as you named your newborn baby after Mohammed (or one of his close associates). Monday was the Prophet Mohammed's birthday in the Sunni tradition, and Chechnya's strongman president, Ramzan Kadyrov, decided to mark the occasion by awarding newborns named after the Prophet Mohammed with $1,000 each. Lest Chechnya be filled only with baby Mohammeds, the offer also applied to children named after any of the prophet's wives, children, or 10 companions to whom he promised paradise. So far, the government has dished out $126,000. Kadyrov announced the initiative in an Instagram post on Monday, writing that his mother's privately-sponsored charity would be giving out the money. In his Instagram post, Kadyrov wrote that Chechnya's minister of health had reported that 78 boys and 48 girls had been born on Monday -- most of them named Mohammed or Fatima.

The Chechen government, which oversees a region grappling with poverty and an unemployment rate as high as 80 percent, has been accused of misspending money before. One such project, one of the largest mosques in Russia, was built in the Chechen capital of Grozny and came with a $20 million price tag. It was also named after Kadyrov's father.

If you’re broke, Chechen, and happened to give birth on Monday, you’re in luck.

Well, at least as long as you named your newborn baby after Mohammed (or one of his close associates). Monday was the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in the Sunni tradition, and Chechnya’s strongman president, Ramzan Kadyrov, decided to mark the occasion by awarding newborns named after the Prophet Mohammed with $1,000 each. Lest Chechnya be filled only with baby Mohammeds, the offer also applied to children named after any of the prophet’s wives, children, or 10 companions to whom he promised paradise. So far, the government has dished out $126,000. Kadyrov announced the initiative in an Instagram post on Monday, writing that his mother’s privately-sponsored charity would be giving out the money. In his Instagram post, Kadyrov wrote that Chechnya’s minister of health had reported that 78 boys and 48 girls had been born on Monday — most of them named Mohammed or Fatima.

The Chechen government, which oversees a region grappling with poverty and an unemployment rate as high as 80 percent, has been accused of misspending money before. One such project, one of the largest mosques in Russia, was built in the Chechen capital of Grozny and came with a $20 million price tag. It was also named after Kadyrov’s father.

Kadyrov’s Instagram account has been the public’s primary glimpse into the bizarre life of Chechnya’s mercurial president. He’s previously posted photos of himself cradling a kitten, riding a golden statue of a stag, and getting his teeth checked at the dentist. He has reportedly even hired a particularly dedicated Instagram follower to oversee "cooperation between the republic’s government and civil society." Of course, Kadyrov’s obvious interest in social media is particularly amusing given the man’s checkered past. In a New York Times profile in which he was called an "unpredictable warlord," he clapped his hands in front of him as if catching a fly when asked about a rival. "Shamil Basayev," he said. "My dream is to kill him."

Katelyn Fossett is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy. A native of Kentucky, she has previously written for the Inter Press Service and Washington Monthly. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University. Twitter: @KatelynFossett

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