Threats, bans and Soviet methods against Crimean Tatar Congress
Three prominent Crimean Tatars have been prevented from leaving Crimea to attend an important Crimean Tatar Congress which is politically embarrassing for Russia. The effective ban comes after weeks of FSB visitations, threats and attempts to use the small number of pro-regime Crimean Tatar organizations to undermine the Congress.
Nariman Dzhelyal and Ilmi Umerov from the Mejlis, or Crimean Tatar representative assembly, as well as Zair Smedlyaev, Head of the Central Election Commission of the Qurultay [Crimean Tatar Congress]to the Congress after being prevented from leaving. All have received summonses to appear for questioning during the period of the Congress, with the investigators claiming that they have the right “to restrict the mobility of witnesses on particularly important cases”.
The ‘particularly important case’ in question is the prosecution and ongoing imprisonment without trial of Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Head of the Mejlis and two other Crimean Tatars on charges pertaining to a pre-annexation demonstration on Feb 26, 2014 over which Russia and its occupation regime in Crimea have no jurisdiction.
Dzhelyal is now the First Deputy Head of the Mejlis and highest-ranking Mejlis leader since Russia banned Mejlis Head Refat Chubarov and veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev from Crimea and imprisoned Chiygoz.
In the address to participants in the Congress, Dzhelyal explained that the policy of intimidation, including by illegal armed paramilitaries, has resulted in them fearing for the safety of their families and loved ones. Umerov points out that the occupation regime is trying to initiate new criminal proceedings, with ‘talks’ being held with people trying to leave for the Congress and obstacles placed in their way.
“The Russian authorities are putting pressure on us and we are not being allowed to leave Crimea, but we do not want to remain cut off from the World Congress and have therefore taped this address”, Smedlyaev explained.
Some of the address was broadcast on TV ATR, the Crimean Tatar channel which Russia silenced at the end of March and which is now broadcast from mainland Ukraine.
In a press release issued on the eve of the Second World Congress, taking place in Ankara, Turkey on Aug 1-2, the organizers state:
“Having returned to their homeland after the collapse of the Soviet Union, 350 thousand Crimean Tatars are once again being subjected to totalitarian pressure and are threatened with annihilation. Since the annexation of the peninsula by Russia from Feb 27, 2014 to the present day, 15 thousand Crimean Tatars have been forced to leave Crimea. “
The democratically elected leaders of the Crimean Tatar People’s Mejlis and Qurultay have been prevented from carrying out their activities and their assets confiscated.
Abductions, arrests and illegal detention continue, Crimean Tatar media have been closed down and Crimean Tatar education is banned, the press release states.
Despite repressive measures against rights activists and particularly the current attempts to outlaw the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission, the above-mentioned rights violations are well-documented and have been noted with concern by European and international structures and western countries.
Instead of addressing such concerns and putting an end to repressive measures, the occupation regime has stepped up its threats, interrogations and arrests. At the same time it organized a congress of those few Crimean Tatars and their organizations that have been prepared to take a pro-Kremlin line. It was these who were pulled out as trophies to meet the 10 French politicians who chose to breach Ukrainian and international law by visiting Crimea last week and repeating Kremlin propaganda for the Russian media.
The Congress, which will be attended by Crimean Tatars from all over the world, will tell a quite different story – one that Russia will not want the world to hear and has tried in vain to stop.Halya Coynash