Russia calls honouring victims of the Crimean Tatar Deportation ‘extremism’ to harass rights activists
It is increasingly difficult to name anything that the Russian occupiers would consider sacred. The latest intrusions on peaceful civic activists – including two mothers with young children, came during the holy month of Ramadan and included warnings against ‘extremism’ on the anniversary of the Deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar people (18 May), as well as on Crimean Tatar Flag Day (26 June). At least one of the police warnings, to Lutfiye Zudiyeva, a mother of four, warned her against protests involving weapons, explosives and toxic substances.
As reported, representatives of the Russian-controlled prosecutor and police have been targeting civic activists and veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement for the last month. There are doubtless people in need of support because of the pandemic, but instead the enforcement bodies have concentrated on a new wave of ‘visits’ clearly aimed at putting pressure on Crimean Tatars with a pronounced civic position.
This is not the first time that Lutfiye Zudiyeva, a prominent Crimean Solidarity human rights activist and civic journalist has faced harassment. On 30 May 2019, she and fellow rights activist Mumine Saliyeva were separately detained and held for several hours in the so-called Centre for countering ‘extremism’, This was the first time that women activists had been detained, but Zudiyeva’s case was menacing for an additional reason. She was subsequently prosecuted and fined for three Facebook posts which were not only innocuous, but also not hers – she had merely been ‘tagged’ on each of the three posts, two of which pre-dated Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Any such detention is a threat of what the enforcement bodies can do, as Mumine Saliyeva knows all too well. Her husband, Seiran Saliyev, is a civic activist and journalist, who has been imprisoned on fabricated charges since October 2017. His arrest followed minor administrative prosecutions on absurd charges, which were clearly aimed at intimidating him into silence.
The current visitations are equally designed to intimidate and threaten, and it is for that reason that the ‘warnings’, despite their absurdity, cannot be ignored.
Zudiyeva explained that her plans, linked with preparing food for the breaking of the fast in the evening were disrupted by two visitations and the two ‘warnings’. The Dzhankoy prosecutor’s warning suggested “that I had not informed and not agreed with the ‘executive bodies in Crimea’ my plans to prepare “unlawful actions on violating public order, provocation to actions of an extremist nature and resistance through force to the authorities of the Republic of Crimea from 1 to 5 May.”
The police warning pointed to three specific dates. The first was 3 May, with this presumably recalling the events on 3 May 2014 at the administrative border with the Kherson oblast when veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev was prevented from entering Crimea. The other two dates were, as mentioned, the anniversary of the Deportation on 18 May and Crimean Tatar Flag day on 26 June.
During all of those dates, Zudiyeva notes, during the holy month of Ramadan, the police believe she is planning “extremist activities”
“To say prayers in a mosque to mark 18 May – that is shocking extremism. To believe in God and to dare to criticise the actions of the authorities who have over these 6 years simply terrorised my people with arrests for 15-20 years, early morning searches in homes where families with small children are sleeping and endless courts – that is, of course, extremism! In its particularly dangerous ‘manifestations’: posts on Facebook; participation in public human rights events; meetings with journalists; and help to the families of political prisoners.
And If now in Crimea they have seriously decided through such a mass ‘leaflet war of warnings’ to fight the peaceful Crimean Tatar Muslim protest movement, they could at least remove the paragraphs about weapons, alcohol and toxic substances. For credibility. And do not dare to mix 18 May with extremism. Let people peacefully remember the death. This is sacrilege.”
Four other activists in Dzhankoy also received such intrusions on 1 May: civic journalist Server Ayar; civic activists Osman Asanov; Usein Asanov and Smail Saitov.
Russian-controlled police officers also tried to foist one of their ‘warnings’ on Meryem Kuku, whose human rights activist husband Emir-Usein Kuku has been imprisoned since February 2016.
What Russia is really trying to crush, through fake claims about ‘extremism’, are those courageous enough to continue telling the truth about what is happening in Crimea and to speak out in defence of the persecuted.