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Is the Kremlin to continue repressive policy in Crimea?

We have already said that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is preparing a report on how the rights of citizens related to their religious beliefs are respected in various countries of the world. The stratification of states according to the degree of religious freedom holds a specific place in this monitoring system. Some of them, including Russia (since 2018), are on the list of countries of “particular concern”, which increases the attention to this country on part of the advocacy groups engaged in protection the citizens’ rights violated in connection with their religious activities.
Is the Kremlin to continue repressive policy in Crimea?

However, the political leadership of the Russian Federation is not going to shift gears on this matter and continues repressions against numerous supporters of denominations that are banned in Russia, persecuting those people, primarily in the occupied Ukrainian territories. This is confirmed by a number of facts.

Thus, over the past seven years, the occupation authorities of Crimea have really gone after Muslims belonging to the organization “Hizb ut-Tahrir” who acted completely freely and openly before the seizure of the peninsula by the Russian troops. Repressions do not stop until now.

Most recently, on February 17 this year, Russian law enforcement agencies conducted mass searches of Muslims in Bilohirsk, Bakhchisarai, Simferopol, and Sevastopol, having detained seven people as a result of the searches. Over the years of occupation in Crimea, more than 300 Muslims were detained and arrested, the overwhelming majority of whom are Crimean Tatars.

Among those detained, there were some Islamic movement influencers, who did a lot to ensure that freedom of religion in Crimea was not just declarative, but real. They are Lenur Seidametov, an activist who was involved in supplying food parcels for Crimean political prisoners in pre-trial detention centres; Tymur Yalkabov – a permanent participant in the court sessions, where the cases of believers were considered; Azamat Eiupov – participant of the Crimean Tatars protest action on Red Square in Moscow in July 2019; Yashar Shykhametov, who took a brief in the case of the well-known Muslim activist Enver Seitosmanov; Muslim activists Abdulboii Makhamadaminov and Ernest Ibrahimov.

All these people will be included in a new “Victims” project of the Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Besides, the Commission is implementing several more projects, including such a well-known one as “Prisoner of Conscience”, collecting the names of religious figures imprisoned for their religious beliefs. Political regimes guilty of condemning innocent people fall under the scrutiny of the Commission and run the risk of increasing various sanctions against them.

Among those who may be included in the “Prisoner of Conscience” list are four Crimean Tatars, members of “Hizb ut-Tahrir” organization banned in Russia, which, even according to the prosecution, has never participated in any violent actions.

Rustem Seiranovych Abiltarov. A resident of the city of Bakhchisarai in Crimea, worked as a builder before being arrested; married, with four children. He was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in a maximum security labour camp.

Teimur Rza ogly Abdullaiev. A resident of the village of Strohanivka, Simferopol region of Crimea. He holds a degree in law; married, with four children. He was sentenced to 13 years in a maximum security labour camp.

Zebri Serdarovych Abseitov. A resident of the city of Bakhchisarai, worked as a dentist before being arrested; married, with four children. He was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in a maximum security labour camp.

Enver Esfindiarovych Ametov. A resident of the city of Bakhchisarai in Crimea, “Crimean Solidarity” movement activist. Married, with three children. He was sentenced to 8 years in a maximum security labour camp.

All this testifies that the facts of persecution of the Crimean Tatars by the occupation regime, many of which they would probably like to hide, become public knowledge anyway. Moreover, these cases become subjects of focus of international institutions, and Russia is experiencing increasing pressure from them. The release of the next USCIRF report, which will provide examples of the inhumane behaviour of the occupation authorities in the temporarily occupied territories, will cost the Kremlin dearly. The question is, how many lines is it still ready to cross?

Viktor Stoian, for “Vektor News”
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