Oct 21, 2014

Crimean Tatars: Enforced Surrender of Religious Material Adds to Litany of Discrimination

Crimean Tatars have continued to suffer from kidnapping, illegal house searches and even killing. Now the new pro-Russian Crimean President, Sergei Askenov, has given the Muslim population in Crimea until the end of the year to surrender certain Islamic literature which was permitted under Ukrainian but apparently not Russian rule.

Below is an article published by AsiaNews;

The authorities of Crimea (now Russian) have given Muslims three months to voluntarily surrender the literature on Islam, authorized under Ukraine but outlawed by the Russian Federation.

"We call on Muslims in possession of this material to deliver it to the religious authorities over the next three months," said the president of the Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, as reported by Interfax. Until the end of December [2014] the police will not confiscate the "forbidden literature", but on the first of January [2015], "everything must be in compliance with Russian norms". He guaranteed that the list of banned books will be published in the press and there will be an awareness raising campaign among the local population.

Since September [2014], several members of the Muslim community in different areas of the peninsula on the Black Sea have reported police raids in their homes in the hunt for "forbidden literature." The same reason was given by the authorities of Simferopol in September [2014] to justify their raid and then closure of the office of the Majlis, the 'representative body of Crimean Tatars.

This Muslim community represents 12% of the local population and from the beginning has strongly opposed the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, confirmed after a controversial referendum. Aksenov has promised to suspend the raids and granted a 'transition' period to comply with Russian laws. 

But the Crimean Tatars, who were victims of Stalinist deportations, are on their guard. In recent months, their representatives have denounced a real campaign of persecution, made up not only of raids and intimidation, but also of kidnapping and physical assaults.

The first of October [2014] a 25 year-old Tatar who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances on September 29 [2014] was found dead in an abandoned sanatorium in Evpatoria. One of the historical leaders of the Crimean Tatars, the former head of the Majlis Mustafa Zhemilev, denounced in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the disappearance of 18 Tatars "since the peninsula was united with Russia."