03.03.2018 | Halya Coynash

Crimean Tatar tortured to death for silent protest - Hero of Ukraine and symbol of Russian lawlessness

Reshat with his son, Hero of Ukraine and Gold Star Honours

It is four years since Reshat Ametov was abducted from his silent protest at Russia’s invasion of his native Crimea and savagely tortured to death.  On the eve of the anniversary, President Petro Poroshenko entrusted to Refat Ametov his brother’s Hero of Ukraine honour and posthumous Gold Star award.  

The 39-year-old Crimean Tatar “wanted his three children to grow up in a free Ukraine”.  The evening before, he had tried to persuade around 30 neighbours who were guarding their village as armed paramilitaries helped Russian soldiers take control, to join him on March 3, 2014 in peaceful protest.  They were fearful and advised him to stay home himself, reminding him that he had small children.

Reshat clearly felt unable to remain passive and in the early morning left home, without telling his wife where he was going.  He took position on the square outside the Crimean parliament, holding a Ukrainian flag.  He spoke with journalists if they approached him, but otherwise stood in silent protest.   He had been there for about an hour and a half when he was abducted by armed paramilitaries. 

His mutilated body was found two weeks later, on March 15. His head had been bound with tape, and handcuffs were lying nearby.  The torturers had used something like a knife, and he died finally from brain damage after they gouged out his eyes.

Reshat Ametov’s last post on Facebook had been a question: “Russian friend, if they order you to, will you shoot at me?” 

His abductors, who were almost certainly also his murderers, can be clearly seen on video footage, as can the car he was driven away in, yet the de facto authorities under Russian control have claimed that they can’t identify the culprits and at one stage even terminated the ‘case’, with the excuse being that “the suspected killer” was fighting in Donbas. 

Rather than trying to find Ametov’s killers, the occupation authorities subjected his family to intimidating surveillance.  Zarina Ametova says that for around a month, a black Opel kept following her when she took the children to kindergarten or school.  This was around a year after Ametov’s murder and left her terrified.

In an interview, Lerane Khaibullaeva, a close friend of the family who took part in the desperate search back in 2014, spoke of how Ametov had always “had a very clear civic position. He had, after all, come out in protest for the sake of his children.  He had always wanted them to live in a free, democratic country.”

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