In late February it will be two years since the occupation of Crimea and the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine started. In these two years there have been numerous cases of human rights violation and law infringement on the occupied peninsula, including searches, detentions, torture and deprivation of life.
Dozens of people have gone missing, criminal cases have been filed against scores of activists, schools with Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian-medium teaching have been closed, and virtually all independent media have been banned. Nonetheless, the well-known and documented violations are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, one could say that there have been thousands of violations by Russian administration of Crimea.
Repressions are used against everyone, who opposes the occupation of Crimea — Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Russians and representatives of other ethnic groups living in Crimea. Crimean Tatars, however, have become the main target of repressions.
In the last two years the Kremlin's strategy regarding the Crimean Tatars evolved from promises of protection and all-round support to open confrontation and spreading of slandering myths about the Crimean Tatars.
It worth noting that Russian security services started creating a myth that Crimean Tatars are separatists and will surrender Crimea to Turkey, if opportunity arises, long before the events of 2014. Numerous media outlets, organizations and individual politicians, who were openly operating in Crimea for years, were actually funded by Russia. “Anti-Tatar" and anti-Ukrainian rhetoric dominated in Crimea. The ground for the occupation of Crimea has been prepared thoroughly and after the occupation the anti-Ukrainian and "anti-Tatar” sentiment only grew more intense.
February 11, 2016, was another black day in the modern history of Crimea and Crimean Tatars. From the very morning, we read with a heavy heart the social media reports of lawyer Emil Kurbedinov and other activists about a wave of searches and detentions of Crimean Tatars that swept across the peninsula.
That day detentions of 14 Crimean Tatars were reported. After some "negotiations”, 10 people were released. The rest, Emir-Usein Kuku, Enver Bekirov, Muslim Aliev and Vadim Siruk, were put on trial and left in detention at least until April 8. They are currently being accused of being involved with activities of a terrorist organization.
There is no point in explaining the way the trials are held in the Crimea. It has also become painfully obvious that occupational authorities can come up with any accusations, as they did with some other activists, who either were already sentenced or are lawlessly being investigated and tried now.
The searches and subsequent detentions on February 11 are nothing more than a continuation of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case, which involves a number of Crimean Tatars from Sevastopol, including Ruslan Zeitullaev, Rustem Vaitov, Nuri Primov and Feraf Saifullaev.
Russian administration of Crimea continues its policy of intimidation, which began with the death of Reshat Ametov — an activist, who held a one-man protest in early March 2014 and was later abducted and found brutally murdered — and constant disappearances and arrests.
Every Crimean Tatar living in Crimea is under threat, but, despite that, most of them are not leaving Crimea. According to official figures, about 20,000 people left the peninsula since the beginning of the occupation, but, in fact, the figure is at least twice as large.
Method of ousting disloyal people from Crimea and substituting them with loyal immigrants is extremely popular with the occupational authorities of Crimea. In the last two years thousands of FSB officials, military officers and soldiers, civil servants, state-paid medics and other Russian "watchdogs" have relocated to Crimea. Russia wants to create a comfort zone, with the entire population of the peninsula looking in the same direction.
Hizb ut-Tahrir case, however, is different from other political cases that involve about two dozen Crimean Tatars. It is an ideological case designed to influence public conscience. Russian authorities want Crimean citizens to perceive Crimean Tatars as terrorists and the ground for this myth was well fertilized with an endless stream of propaganda produced by Russian and Crimean TV channels.
Crimean Tatars still remember a news story on Russia Today TV channel, saying that a young Crimean Tatar girl, who disappeared in January 2016, ran away from home to join ISIS. The girl was later found in Krasnodar region of Russia, but no one apologized to her family.
By marginalizing the Crimean Tatars in the eyes of the Crimean population, the occupational authorities are trying to widen the split between the Crimean Tatars and other ethnic groups living in Crimea and to increase the number of provocations against the Crimean Tatars. The principle of "divide and rule", that totalitarian regimes are so fond of, is actively used in the Crimea. I am sure it is not for long.