Russia uses terror to crush Crimean Solidarity & drive Crimean Tatars from their homeland
Russia has unleashed a new wave of terror on occupied Crimea, with the aim very clearly being to intimidate Crimean Tatars into silence or drive them, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the 1944 Deportation, from their homeland. 23 Crimean Tatars have been arrested since early on 27 March in the most brutal offensive to date against Crimean Solidarity, with at least three other men detained and / or prosecuted for peacefully standing in solidarity with the arrested men. The threat could not be more transparent: remain true to your conscience and you will end up imprisoned on spurious ‘terrorism’ charges for a decade or more, with your children left to grow up without their father.
Judging by the huge number of Crimean Tatars who gathered outside the Russian-controlled ‘court’ in Simferopol, the threat is thus far not having the effect Russia wants. By now, however, at least 20 men, active in Crimean Solidarity, have been arrested, and, if Russia is left to wage such a terror campaign with impunity, it will eventually succeed.
The arrests were announced early on 28 March of three of the four men who had not been home the previous day when armed and masked men from the FSB, Russian-controlled police and the Russian National Guard burst into their homes, carrying out ‘searches’, Remzi Bekirov and Osman Arifmemetov are both civic journalists who streamed information about armed searches, etc. for Crimean Solidarity. Vladlen Abdulkadyrov was involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. to political prisoners held in SIZO [remand prison]. The men were arrested in Rostov-on-Don where the trials are presently underway of other Crimean Tatar political prisoners. The FSB are still looking for one another man Edem Yayachikov.
The three men arrested on 28 March, as well as the twenty seized the day before, have all been remanded in custody until 15 May, by ‘judges’ from the Russian-controlled Kievsky District Court which has become notorious under Russian occupation for rubberstamping politically-motivated detention. Very many of the men are involved in Crimean Solidarity and some have already faced harassment or even administrative arrest for peacefully standing in solidarity with other victims of repression facing searches or similar.
They are now facing cynical ‘terrorism’ charges in what has been called Russia’s conveyor belt of repression. The men are all accused of ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful pan-Islamist party which is not known to have committed any act of terrorism anywhere in the world and which is legal in Ukraine. Russia probably declared it ‘terrorist’ back in 2003 to give the authorities an excuse to extradite Muslims back to Uzbekistan where they were facing religious persecution. Since 2014, Russian courts have been imposing long sentences, up to life imprisonment, for alleged ‘involvement’, with the ‘evidence’ provided by dodgy ‘expert assessments’ and ‘secret witnesses’. The first arrests in occupied Crimea were in January 2015, and with the arrests this week, there are now over 50 Ukrainian Muslims facing such charges, with a large percentage almost certainly targeted for their civic activism.
Remzi Bekirov; Riza Izetov; Ruslan Suleymanov; Farid Bazarov and Shaban Umerov are all facing the more serious charge of ‘organizing a group which Russia has labelled ‘terrorist’ under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code. This could carry a sentence of up to life imprisonment, with all the ‘proof’ required being that the person played a proactive role in a gathering where innocuous religious and / or political subjects were discussed. The ‘proof’, it should be stressed, can be provided by a ‘secret witness’, whose identity is not revealed to the defence. The other men arrested are charged under Article 205.5 § 2 with ‘involvement’ which could carry a sentence of from 10 to 20 years.
On both 27 and 28 March, the FSB resorted to repressive measures against other Crimean Tatars who came to show solidarity. On Wednesday, Eskender Mamutov and Emil Ziyadinov were detained while videoing the actions of the enforcement officers involved in the search of the home of Rustem Sheikhaliev. Ziyadinov was fined 500 roubles for supposedly disobeying the police, while Mamutov was jailed for five days.
On 28 March, a very young man, Tair Ibragimov was detained while standing with a placard in support of Crimean Solidarity. He was doing nothing at all illegal, and the seizure seems aimed solely at terrorizing all of those who come out in protest.
The fact that all three men were detained while engaged in typical Crimean Solidarity activities is further confirmation that the men have been arrested for their civic activism.
Crimean Solidarity began in 2016 to help both political prisoners and their families, and many of the men arrested this week are known for their selflessness in helping others in need. Tragically, it is now their wives and children who are in need of support. Russia is increasingly targeting older men as well, especially veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement. In this case, at least one of the men arrested, Servet Gaziev, is 60 years old, and likely to suffer acutely from the appalling conditions in the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison] which are tantamount to torture even for younger men in good health.
The first arrests of Crimean Solidarity activists came in October 2017, and have continued, although the events of 27-28 March have raised the level of repression to a whole new level. There have also been two very ostentatious raids on Crimean Solidarity meetings, with these evidently designed to frighten people into abandoning the initiative.
It is only just over a month since the arrest of three Crimean Solidarity activists. The wife of one of the men, 39-year-old Rustem Emiruseinov, was asked whether her husband was involved in Crimean Solidarity. Aliye Emiruseinova asked a counter-question: “Can you tell me how it is possible in Crimea to not be involved in Crimean Solidarity if you have a conscience?”
Russia has now resorted to persecution on a whole new scale. Crimean Tatars and many other Ukrainians reacted on Thursday with a flash-mob declaring solidarity with the civic initiative and demanding that the fathers of 166 children be freed and allowed to return home. Those in Crimea showed real courage. They too are likely to be targeted if Russia faces only expressions of ‘deep concern’ from the international community. There are ways that the West can make the cost for the Kremlin of such persecution too high. They need to be used before it is too late.
The 23 men arrested on 27 and 28 March 2019
Izet Abdulaev Изет Абдулаев
Tofik Abdulgaziev Тофик Абдулгазиев
Vladlen Abdulkadyrov Владен Абдулкадыров
Medzhit Abdurakhmanov Меджит Абдурахманов
Bilyal Adilov Билял Адилов
Enver Ametov Энвер Аметов
Osman Arifmemetov Осман Арифмеметов
Farid Bazarov Фарид Базаров
Akim Bekirov Аким Бекиров
Remzi Bekirov Ремзи Бекиров
Dzhemil Gafarov Джемиль Гафаров
Servet Gaziev Сервет Газиев
Riza Izetov Риза Изетов
Alim Karimov Алим Каримов
Seiran Murtaza Сейран Муртаза
Yashar Muyedinov Яшар Муединов
Erfan Osmanov Эрфан Османов
Seitveli Seitabdiev Сейтвели Сейтабдиев
Rustem Seitkhalilov Рустем Сейтхалилов
Rustem Sheikhaliev Рустем Шейхалиев
Ruslan Suleymanov Руслан Сулейманов
Shaban Umerov Шабан Умеров
Asan Yanikov Асан Яников