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Russian FSB detains, then terrorizes and threatens to abduct young Crimean Tatar mother

Halya Coynash
The FSB’s excuse for its terrorization of the Zekeryaev family, including their small children, was a harmless conversation on a VKontakte page deleted years ago.

Emine Zekeryaeva and her husband Asan Photo Crimean Solidarity

Emine Zekeryaeva and her husband Asan Photo Crimean Solidarity

A man claiming to be from Russia’s FSB, but refusing to give his name, has telephoned Emine Zekeryaeva, demanding that she come to the FSB office and threatening to abduct her if she does not comply.  This is not the first time that the 25-year-old Crimean Tatar has been targeted by the FSB, and it is unclear whether the FSB’s actions are aimed solely at intimidating the young mother and her family, or are more sinister.  

Emine Zekeryaeva’s husband, Asan is the nephew of political prisoner Leman Zekeryaev and was one of 33 Crimean Tatars who were detained on 25 January 2023 while simply trying to show support for the men, including Asan’s uncle, who had been arrested the previous day.  Asan Zekeryaev had been jailed, without any grounds, for 14 days.  It was, therefore, assumed, when Asan disappeared after being taken away by enforcement officers that he was the target.

It later became clearer what had happened.  Asan had been alone in the family’s home in Stary Krym when the FSB began violently banging on his door at around 7 a.m. on 7 August.  He managed to text a relative explaining this, but then all contact with him was lost, and the relatives who hurtled over to the house found Asan gone.

Emine Zekeryaeva and the couple’s children were at her parents’ place in the village Bratske.  Having learned that her husband had disappeared, she immediately contacted lawyer Lilia Hemedzhy and began ringing occupation police stations, etc., to find out where her husband had been taken.

Around two hours after Asan disappeared, the FSB turned up in Bratske, and detained Emine, demanding that she come with them, and also that she hand over her telephone.  She asked on what grounds, as did her father, when they told her to get into their car, with the FSB giving no explanation.

They took Emine and her children in their car back to their home in Stary Krym, with the children clearly terrified and asking why their father, who was in another of their cars, was not allowed to go with them. 

When they arrived back in Stary Krym, men with machine guns surrounded the street, blocking roads around it, before undertaking a search of the home.  As always, they illegally prevented lawyer Edem Semedlyaev from being present.

The search lasted two hours, and clearly found nothing. The FSB then approached one of the relatives who had been prevented from getting close to the house and asked him to look after the children, as they were taking Emine away.  Asan insisted on accompanying his wife  They were taken to the FSB building in Simferopol where Emine was questioned about a page on VKontakte from seven years ago, that she had long deleted.

They demanded that she unblock her phone, which she finally agreed to do on condition that she was present.  She also asked for her lawyer to attend but was prevented from even ringing her.

Emine was released in the evening.  Despite the extraordinarily heavy-handed measures throughout that day, she appears, at least for the moment, to be considered ‘a witness’ in proceedings against another Crimean woman who went to Syria. Emine told Graty that in 2015 she had communicated with the woman on VKontakte.  The woman had tried to get her to also go to Syria.  She not only refused but also tried to persuade the woman to return.

Both Emine and her husband stated at the time that the measures against her were aimed at intimidation. 

This is now turning into terrorization.  On 5 September, Emine received two phone callx from a person who claimed to be from the FSB, and to have been present during the search, but refused to identify himself.  He demanded that she appear at the Investigative Committee in Dzhankoi.  When she asked for an official summons and said that she wanted to consult with a lawyer, the man began threatening “to act, using different measures”, namely to simply come and take her away.  Lawyer Emil Kurbedinov has formally approached the Investigative Committee, asking whether Emine has been summoned, and if so, by whom. 

There are real grounds for concern.  Russia’s FSB has already used exchanges on social media from years earlier as pretext for repressive criminal proceedings against several Crimean Tatars.  They too had tried to dissuade a person from going to Syria, with this later used as pretext for lodging extraordinary charges that the men had ‘failed to report terrorism’.  Details here: Denounce or face denunciation. Russia brings a Soviet-style weapon of intimidation to occupied Crimea

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