September 8, 2014

Crimean Tatars: Russian Authorities Continue Targeting Muslims

A number of popular Islamic books, including books used in religious schools, that were deemed legal under Ukrainian law, are now banned according to Russian law. In this context,  Russian authorities continue targeting Muslims in Crimea, where madrassas (Islamic religious schools) and the homes of common Crimean Tatars are being searched for the banned literature.

Below is an article published by: World Bulletin

The homes of Muslims in Crimea are repeatedly searched by Russian agents for banned literature, Qirim News Agency has reported.

On September 5 [2014], agents raided the houses of members of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Parliament) Mustafa Salman and Dilyaver Hayreddinov in Nizhnegorsk Rayon.

“The searches were conducted by police officers, it is unclear, why in Nizhnegorsk Rayon exactly. They are searching for banned literature,” Crimean Tatar national movement activist Zair Smedlyaev said.

Eye-witnesses said police searched for arms while Mustafa Salman and his two sons were deployed to the local police department, journalist Shevket Namatullaev wrote in Facebook.

This is not the first case of such searches in Crimea. Previously, Russian Federal Security Service officers searched Crimean madrassas (religious schools) for banned literature.

Three madrasas were searched during August 13 [2014], ahead of Russia’s Federal List of Extremist Materials law that will come into force in 2015 that bans a number of popular Islamic books. 

The law bans a number of Islamic religious books that under Ukrainian law were deemed legal.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was compiled by the Russian Ministry of Justice on July 14, 2007 and contained 1,058 items as of December 25, 2011. Producing, storing or distributing the materials on the list is an offense in Russia.

Some Islamic books that have been banned include the work of popular 20th century Turkish scholar Said Nursi and the famous 'Fortress of the Muslim' book of supplications of the Prophet Muhammad, which was collected by ancient Muslim scholar Saeed bin Ali bin Wahf Al-Qahtani. A certain biography of the Prophet Muhammad is also banned.

Around 300,000 Muslims in Crimea, mainly native Crimean Tatars, are having to adjust to new laws enforced by Russia after their homeland was annexed from Ukraine following a referendum in March.

Since the annexation in March [2014], around 3,000 Crimean Tatars have left the peninsula for mainland Ukraine.

The U.N. has also pointed to the erosion of human rights in Crimea, which remains under the occupation of pro-Russian militias who particularly threaten the Crimean Tatars.

Crimean Tatars have complained that they have been targeted for speaking their Turkic language in public and have had their homes marked by pro-Russian militiamen.

The Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Parliament) was also threatened with closure after they organized protests for former Mejlis head Mustafa Jemilev, who has been barred from entering the peninsula for five years along with current leader Refat Chubarov.

Earlier this month, Qirim News Agency general coordinator Ismet Yuksel was also given the same five-year ban.

The Crimean Tatars have largely opposed the annexation of Crimea by Russia, fearing a repeat of the events of 1944 when they were completely expelled as part of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's policy.

They gradually started returning in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, but still live as a minority in their homeland as they were displaced by ethnic Russian settlers who migrated there later on.

Since the annexation, Russia has been granting Russian citizenship to the people of Crimea in replacement of their Ukrainian nationality. Crimean Tatars, who have campaigned to reject Russian citizenship, reserve the right to remain as Ukrainian citizens, but will by default become foreigners in their homeland.