How Russia Targets Crimean Tatars, Long Oppressed Muslim Minority

Seven years after Moscow annexed Crimea, arrests and trials of Crimean Tatars are used as weapons to repress this ethnic minority that has already suffered for centuries.

Photo of two men in traditional Tatar clothing and hats

The 2020 Crimean Tatar Flag Day in Kiev

Oksana Rasulova

Persecution of Crimean Tatars has a long history, but the latest chapter began in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea. And it continues to this day, in a systematic way that has largely gone unreported.

The ethnic Muslim minority of Turkic descent are indigenous to Crimea and today accounting for 13% of its population. Crimean Tatars had lived as Ukrainian citizens during the eras of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, before being caught under direct rule by Moscow seven years ago when Crimea became part of the Russia. Since then, Tatar citizens have been regularly detained and charged for being a "threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation and terrorist activities."

Searches, unwarranted arrests and criminal trials have taken place in violation of human rights and international laws. Ukrainian authorities have obtained reports that Russian intelligence officers regularly torture Crimean detainees and physically and psychologically abuse them.

Repeatedly, the European Union and international human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch have demanded an end to the persecution of Crimean Tatars.

Hizb-ut Tahrir treated as terrorists

The latest targeting came late last month, with more than 80 people arrested for coming to an open trial. The Tatar defendants were given harsh sentences of up to 17 years in penal colonies. The trial was against members of the religious organization Hizb-ut Tahrir, which Russia has targeted as a dangerous and radicalized group even though members are largely focused on educational activities. The profiling has occurred even though the SBU security service of Ukraine never classified Hizb-ut Tahrir as a terrorist organization and they've committed no terrorist acts and have no fundamentalist religious objectives.

Liliya Gemeji, an attorney helping to defend the Hizb-ut Tahrir organization, spoke about the situation around the detention of Crimean Tatars. She says the defendants in the Hizb-ut Tahrir case were detained in Crimea in February 2019, all accused of belonging to the political Islamic party banned in Russia since 2003. In Ukraine and elsewhere in the world, the organization operates without restriction at the level of national legislation. All of the accused were sentenced to 13 to 17 years in prison.

The international community has virtually zero effect.

One of the defendants is a human rights activist Server Mustafayev, a former coordinator of the NGO Crimean Solidarity. Mustafayev was sentenced to 14 years in a strict regime colony. "He was sentenced for talking in a mosque about needing to love for the sake of the Almighty," Gemeji explains. "He said that it is impossible not to love people, but it is possible not to love their actions that are contrary to Islam."

Gemeji says that the crimes the Tatars were convicted of were participating in a terrorist organization and also attempting to seize power and to overthrow the constitutional order in the Russian Federation.

Though largely ignored, even warnings and sanctions from the international community have had virtually zero effect on forcing Moscow to improve the situation in Crimea. And for this indigenous population of the peninsula — the Crimean Tatars — it is another painful page of history of being persecuted or even forced out of their land.

Mass deportation

Nariman Dzhelyalov, ex-deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, was charged with damaging a gas pipeline in Crimea

Sergei Malgavko/TASS/ZUMA

On May 18, 1944, by order from Moscow, the Crimean Tatar population of Crimea was deported. They were accused of collaborating with the Nazis and it became one of the swiftest deportations in world history. The main phase of the forced resettlement took place within less than three days.

According to the National Movement of Crimean Tatars, a total of 238,500 people were deported from Crimea, of which 86% were women and children. About 8,000 people died on the way to the resettlement in Uzbekistan and the neighboring regions of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

It was only after their home territory fell under Ukrainian rule that Tatars finally got the opportunity to return to Crimea. Now, 30 years later they are on the run again — and until the situation in Russia itself changes, there is not much hope for changes in the territories it occupies.

Manipulating evidence

Liliya Gemeji says the investigations and trials aimed at Tatars are structured in such a way that the defense essentially has no chance for acquittal. The prosecution makes extensive use of anonymous witnesses, who shift from case to case.

"A linguist, who is an expert in many cases in courts against Crimean Tatars, can write in her conclusion that the phrase 'I went to namaz' (make a prayer) is actually 'I went to Hamas,'" Gemeji says. "We've been living with this absurdity for several years now."

On top of the convictions of the defendants, the Russian court uses the trials to pressure others in the community. At the recent trial, more than 80 people was detained simply for coming to the court to watch the proceedings, including family members, friends, members of human rights organizations and journalists.

"These actions are aimed at intimidation," Gemiji concludes. "Yes, many are afraid, but in my opinion, the stronger the repressions, the greater the dissent."

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]


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• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.


South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.



In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.


Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️


"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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