Famous Chechen couple granted asylum in Finland

A Chechen couple featured in the award-winning Finnish documentary The 3 Rooms of Melancholia has been granted asylum in Finland. Malik Gatayev and his wife Hadijat Gatayeva were made famous by the 2005 Pirjo Honkasalo film, which documented their work housing children orphaned by the war in Chechnya.

Gatayeva was also the inspiration for the 2008 book Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War, penned by Norwegian writer Åsne Seierstad.

After moving to Lithuania with their three children, the couple were convicted a child abuse in 2009 and sentenced to 10 months in jail. Their supporters, however, maintain that the allegations were false and that the charges were politically motivated.

The couple, which applied for political asylum in Finland after serving part of their sentences, were told last week that the whole family has been accepted by the Immigration Service.

Speaking to YLE on Wednesday (May 2), Malik Gatayev said, “We’re in shock with joy. This is an extremely important moment in our lives.”

Martin Scheinin, a professor of public international law and noted human rights expert, told YLE that it is very rare that political asylum applications from other EU countries are granted.