Published: 27 Jun 2017 | By Ayder Muzhdabaev

“Putin’s new ghetto has no barbed-wire fence – just surveillance and harassment”

Article

The world stays silent on the persecution of the Crimean Tatars

The Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, has swiftly degenerated into the scene of the greatest repression being conducted anywhere in the entire country.

Crimean Tatars in Simferopol attend a memorial service marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Tatars from Crimea. Photograph: Max Vetrov/AFP/Getty Images
Crimean Tatars in Simferopol attend a memorial service marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Tatars from Crimea. Photograph: Max Vetrov/AFP/Getty Images

The targets of the Kremlin’s crackdown are the Crimean Tatars, the ethnic group that originally formed the Crimean nation on the Black Sea peninsula. Between the 13th and 18th centuries, the Tatars enjoyed their own state, and since 2014 they have been campaigning to return their homeland to Ukrainian rule. For this they have become the collective enemy of Russia.

They are now victims of hate and persecution, and not for the first time in their tragic history. In May 1944, Joseph Stalin ordered the mass resettlement of Tatars, after accusing them of collaborating with the Nazis. At the time they made up about a fifth of the total population of the Crimean peninsula. More than 230,000 people, including almost the entire Crimean Tatar population, were deported, mostly to Uzbekistan. Those who survived the deportation were only allowed to return after perestroika, 45 years later. Even then, communist authorities gave them a hostile reception.

EHRAC, Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (Kyiv) are representing the Mejlis and its leaders before the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that its designation as an extremist organisation and the suspension of its activities is a violation of the right to freedom of association; and that it has been banned – and its members persecuted – to punish them for their political position. They also complain that the Russian Courts disregarded their status as a representative body of the indigenous people of Crimea, violating the prohibition of discrimination. They further allege that they did not have access to a fair trial, and they could not have anticipated that their activities would be in violation of anti-extremist legislation.

Read Ayder Muzhdabaev’s full article – originally published by the Guardian New East Network on 12 December 2016 – in the Summer 2017 Bulletin.