Suspected of Defending Crimean Tatar Rights
If you speak of rights in Crimea under Russian occupation, you’re immediately suspected of ‘extremism’, ‘separatism’, of being an ‘agent’. That is how Eskender Bariev, head of the Crimean Tatar Rights Committee comments on the latest wave of interrogations of people who took part in the Second All-Crimean Conference on Crimean Tatar Rights. Five people have already been called for questioning: Kurtseit Abdullaev; Reshat Artmambetov; Kamil Kadyrov; Mustafa Maushev; and Gulnara Seitumerova.
There was trouble on the day of the conference, but this was caused by ‘titushki’ or paid thugs who Bariev suggested at the time had been sent by members of the occupation government to disrupt the conference.
As reported here, around 30 titushki appeared at the conference in Simferopol n Jan 17. The thugs, who included both Crimean Tatars and Russians, started pushing people around and hurling insults.
The aim was clearly to provoke fights by attacking the main organizers of the conference. They, however, simply raised their arms demonstrating that they would not succumb to provocation.
As well as plain-clothed men, believed to be from the Russian FSB, there were also police present who did nothing. This is despite the physical aggression of the titushki which left one of the participants with injuries. It is significant, and unfortunately typical, that it is participants in the events who are treated as suspects, not those who waved their fists about for payment.
The organizers finally stopped the proceedings and had the premises vacated. They were then able to begin the conference afresh and, among other things, agree an appeal to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon regarding violations of the rights of Crimean Tatars under Russian occupation (more details here).
Less than a week later the three members of the Crimean Tatar Rights Committee who organized the conference – Eskender Bariev; Sinaver Kadyrov and Abmedzhyt Suleymanov - were stopped by Russian border guards at the Armyansk Crossing between Crimea and mainland Ukraine. Only Bariev and Suleymanov, who are both members of the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative assembly were eventually allowed to proceed.
In an especially chilling move, Kadyrov, a Ukrainian citizen with Crimean registration, was ‘deported’ from his native Crimea (more details here).
It remains to be seen what the latest round of interrogations leads to, however a year after Russian occupation, with two Crimean Tatar leaders and one activist exiled, the Deputy Head of the Mejlis imprisoned on grotesquely absurd charges, there are strong grounds for concern. (See also: Bitter Crimean Anniversary – Victims of Russian Annexation)