The Crimean childhoods Russia ended in just a few brutal moments
7-year-old Seidali Aliev was deeply traumatized after armed and masked men burst into his home on 11 February 2016, and still now avoids the room where he saw his father Muslim Aliev pinned to the ground before being taken away in handcuffs. Many of the 100 Crimean children whose fathers have been seized on trumped-up charges have stopped speaking altogether for many months. Small wonder that, in Nadzhiye Alieva’s words, “childhood ended on 11 February in just a few moments” for her children, and those of human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku, Vadim Siruk and Enver Bekirov.
The number of arrests and of children scarred for life has continued to rise since then. The occupation authorities usually also hold the detention extension hearings behind closed doors and are increasingly using repressive measures to drive relatives out of the court buildings. The children often wait outside, in the hope of seeing their fathers from a distance as they’re brought into court.
Any hope that the release of Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Akhtem Chiygoz and that the subsequent removal of his 11-year-old son from the list of children in need might herald a move in the right direction was swiftly crushed. The number currently stands at 100. Under Russian occupation, FSB officers receive promotion for their fake ‘terrorism’ prosecutions and the number is therefore likely to increase.
A new project ‘Crimean Childhood’ has been launched by the civic initiative Crimea Solidarity specifically aimed at providing support for all these children. A moving video begins with many of the children speaking of their fathers – about his being “a caring father”, who “never abandoned anyone”, “who taught us how to swim”. For the children, as one young girl says quite simply, “My father is a hero”.
“Childhood is the most vivid and memorable period of a person’s life. It is not repeated, and does not return”, the initiators write. “Unfortunately the childhood of the children of political prisoners ended on that early morning when enforcement officers burst into their homes. On that most terrible of mornings, they saw the fathers they love in handcuffs, with their faces forced to the ground.
That cannot stop them from loving and waiting for them. For them, and for all of us they are heroes.”.
It is to tell people about these heroes and their children that this new initiative has been created.
The project’s aims are presented by Mumine Salieva, whose husband Seiran Saliev is one of several activists from Crimea Solidarity to have been arrested on October 11, 2017. His arrest and that of five other men from Bakhchysarai brought to 25 the number of Crimean Muslims facing huge sentences under Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea for unproven involvement in the peaceful movement Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is legal in Ukraine. Mumine Salieva explains that Crimean Childhood plans various measures so that adults and children can “bring their warmth and support, their love and care, to add light into these dark days and give children the colours of a happy childhood in an atmosphere of unity and solidarity”.
It is clear from the latest arrests of Crimea Solidarity activists, and the entirely illegal fines imposed on over 80 Crimean Tatars for solitary pickets against repression, that Russia wants to crush this solidarity, with the means used increasingly cynical and brutal.
The fines led to the creation of the Crimean Marathon, an initiative whereby all Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians can contribute to help pay amounts which would be prohibitive for most of the people targeted (details here).
Crimean Tatars responded with solidarity from the outset, and the civic initiative Bizim Balalar [Our Children] has thankfully been able to provide regular, albeit modest, financial help for the children of Crimean political prisoners and of those who were abducted or disappeared. They also organize various festive events for the children, and have a children’s psychologist who can give support where needed. The movement arose from an initiative – and an article ‘Now these are our children’ by Crimean Tatar journalist Lilia Budzurova. She was typically persecuted for the initiative and issued with a formal warning of “the inadmissibility of extremist activities”.
The scale of repression and the number of political prisoners rose massively in 2017, and solidarity is needed both from Ukrainians living in mainland Ukraine, and from the international community. There are now well over 60 political prisoners held in Crimea or Russia, with a very large number of these being men with small children. Links to information about all the prisoners can be found here.
Worryingly little attention has, up till now, been given to the arrests and likely massive sentences facing 25 Ukrainian Muslims, most, though not all of whom are Crimean Tatars. Some are human rights and / or civic activists, and all are law-abiding and respected members of their communities. They are accused, generally on the basis of grossly flawed and inadequate ‘evidence’, purely of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization which is not known to have committed any act of terrorism anywhere in the world and which is legal in Ukraine. Russia’s very prosecution of these Ukrainians is in breach of international law, and all men convicted even in Russia on such charges are recognized by the Memorial Human Rights Centre as political prisoners.
Please help by drawing attention to this conveyor belt of repression on Ukrainian territory which Russia is illegally occupying and urge politicians to use their channels to put pressure on Russia to stop persecuting Ukrainians and their children
The 25 Ukrainian Muslims accused of ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir
April 18, 2016 Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov
New religious persecution on charges of involvement in Tablighi Jamaat Talyat Abdurakhmanov; Renat Suleymanov; Arsen Kubedinov; Seiran Mustafaev