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19.07.2018 | Halya Coynash

They terrorize children in Russian-occupied Crimea & then they come to do it again

Gulsum Alieva Photo Aleksandra Surgan, RFERL, Seidali Aliev
   

As feared, it has taken Russia just three days after the end of the World Cup to again revert to political repression in occupied Crimea with the target this time a young woman who has had a serious medical condition since childhood.  And her nine-year-old brother who has already seen his father taken away after a similar armed invasion of their home.

It seems no criminal charges have yet been laid against 21-year-old Gulsum Alieva, and the search that began at 6.30 am on 19 July and lasted several hours was officially not a search, but an ‘inspection’.  The family of political prisoner Muslim Aliev had every reason to not notice any major difference when a large contingent of armed and masked men turned up at their home in Verkhnya Kutuzovka.  Phones and other technology were removed, and Gulsum Alieva was taken away for interrogation. 

Lawyer Edem Semedlyaev arrived early at the home but was not admitted, a flagrant breach of the law that has become standard over the last four years.

Gulsum Alieva has been active over the last two years in the Crimean Solidarity civic initiative which helps political prisoners and their families and circulates information about the ongoing spiral of repression in Crimea.

Semedlyaev was at least admitted at the ‘Investigative Committee’ office, but he and Gulsum were not there long, since she refused to give any testimony, citing her rights under Article 51 of Russia’s constitution.

This is, for the moment, a ‘preliminary investigation’ under Article 282 (inciting enmity), one of Russia’s notorious ‘extremism’ articles, in connection with a text Gulsum reposted on her Facebook page.  

The text in question was, it seems, something that purports to be a quote from the Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, known to be quoted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  The words about Russia are certainly unflattering, then at the top and bottom, in a different colour  are the words “Russia is a country of moral monsters” and (at the bottom) ‘Death to Russian occupiers!”

This was a repost, seemingly with no added comment from Gulsum, suggesting that it was simply a pretext. 

The huge contingent of armed and masked men, including FSB officers and men from the so-called ‘Centre for Countering Extremism’ turned up so early at a home in which there were only women and young children.  The youngest Seidali, was just seven when his father was taken away in handcuffs on 11 February 2016.  He has now been subjected again to such terror, with the reason very clearly his sister’s passionate activism in defence of victims of political persecution.

Gulsum Alieva has been active over the last two years in the Crimean Solidarity civic initiative which helps political prisoners and their families and circulates information about the ongoing spiral of repression in Crimea.  She is the latest of many activists from Crimean Solidarity who have faced harassment or arrest on trumped-up charges (see below for a statement issued by Crimean Solidarity). 

Gulsum’s father Muslim Aliev was arrested on 11 February 2016, together with human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku;  Envir Bekirov and Vadim Siruk.  Two other very young men – Refat Alimov and Arsen Dzhepparov – were arrested on the same flawed charges on 18 April 2016.    This was Russia’s second illegal prosecution of Ukrainian Muslims in occupied Crimea on so-called Hizb ut-Tahrir charges, and all men have been declared political prisoners by the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre.

There was disturbingly little attention paid for a long time after the arrests in early 2015 of four Crimean Tatars from Sevastopol.  Russia’s calculation that the use of the word  ‘terrorism’ and the strict secrecy it imposes appeared to be working, with little or no attention from international human rights NGOs and the international community in general. 

The arrests of Kuku, Aliev, Bekirov and Siruk on 11 February 2016 changed that, both because of the gratuitous violence used in bursting into homes where children were asleep and because this was the latest of several attacks on Kuku which were clearly linked with his human rights activities.  Although Amnesty International has only declared Kuku to be a prisoner of conscience, there would be grounds for giving this status to all six men.  Certainly Memorial HRC considers them all to be political prisoners, as do Ukrainian human rights groups.

These so-called Hizb ut-Tahrir prosecutions are increasingly used as weapons against Crimean Tatars with a pronounced civic position or who have angered the FSB by refusing to act as informers.  Arrests since October 2017 have almost openly targeted activists or civic journalists involved in Crimean Solidarity,

47-year-old Aliev had worked for many years at two or more jobs, both to provide for his four children and to pay for vital medical treatment that his daughter has needed throughout her life.  He is also, however, the informal leader of a local Muslim community.  The latter had come into conflict with the Muftiat on a number of occasions, and his family is convinced that this is the reason that he was arrested. 

He has been designated the role of ‘organizer’ of a Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘cell’, with the charge under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code carrying up to a life sentence.  Refat Alimov; Envir Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov; Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk are charged with ‘involvement’ and face a sentence up to 20 years.  As if these charges were not bad enough, in January 2017 the FSB added Article 278 (‘attempting violent seizure of power’) with this adding at least eight years to the sentences.  There were no rational grounds for this, but, as lawyer Emil Kurbedinov noted, the added charge has long been part of the arsenal used against alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir within the Russian Federation.

Another part of this arsenal has, most shamefully, become the harassment of children who have already been deeply traumatized by seeing masked men with machine guns burst into their homes, seize and take their fathers away.

The six men are now on ‘trial’ in Rostov, and Nadzhiye Alieva had arrived home from one of the hearings at 4 a.m., just two and a half hours before the FSB effectively came for her daughter.

See also: How Russia fights religious ‘dissidents’ in occupied Crimea

Crimean Solidarity Statement on the search at the home of Gulsum Alieva

A search began on 19 July 2018 at around 6 a.m. at the home of the Alievs.   The main target is the elder daughter of the family, Gulsum Alieva, whose father Muslim Aliev is one of the men arrested in the so-called Yalta ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir case’.  Gulsum became an activist and civic journalist from Crimean Solidarity after the arrest of her father.

This is not the first example of such aggressive pressure on activists of our civic initiative.  Nariman Memememinov; Server Mustafaev and Marlen Asanov are already behind bars on falsified criminal charges. Several other colleagues faced fines or administrative arrest for several days in 2016 and 2017.

We activists of the civic initiative ‘Crimean Solidarity’ view the current actions as deliberate systematic pressure and persecution for our work in providing information and active help to all those persecuted in Crimea, regardless of their faith and nationality.

We therefore:

  1. Demand an end to the persecution of our activists and all dissidents in Crimea;
  2. We call on the public in Crimea and beyond, including the international community, to note what is happening and ask for a united position from all human rights organizations, the media and political structures, with the demand that the enforcement bodies stop their persecution which is now also including women;
  3. We thank all of those who have already arrived or are on their way to the home of Gulsum Alieva, who are writing posts and appeals. She needs our help now more than ever!
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