Date: 26 January 2023 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński

Russian Crackdown on Crimean Tatars

Russia is stepping up a campaign of repression against Crimean Tatars, undoubtedly fearing Ukraine’s effort to reclaim the peninsula forcibly annexed back in 2014. A small ethnic group has spoken out against Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula. In addition, Turkey is an official guarantor of their rights. Russian crackdown on Crimean Tatars could sour ties between Russia and Turkey.

SOURCE: Масові затримання у Криму: у списку 34 кримських татар – Меджліс (qtmm.org)

On January 25, the searches were conducted at the homes of more than 20 Crimean Tatars. Six people were arrested on charges of plotting to seize power and organizing the activities of a terrorist group in an apparent blow to the Muslim community in Crimea. Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, said on January 11 that five Crimean Tatar political prisoners, in custody since 2019, had been sentenced to 13 years in prison. These include Servet Gaziev, Dzhemil Gafarov, Erfan Osmanov, Alim Karimov, and Seyran Murtaza. A day later, a court in Russia’s southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Crimean Tatar activist and religious cleric Raif Fevziyev to 17 years in prison on charges of plotting to seize power and organizing the activities of a terrorist group. He was sentenced, with the first three years of his term to be spent in a prison cell and the remainder in a penal colony. In August 2022, Fevziyev was detained on charges of being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir religious group that is banned in Russia but is legal in Ukraine. Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, seizing key facilities, and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal. Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula was vocally opposed by many Crimean Tatars, who are a sizable minority in the region (12–15 percent of the population). The Sunni Muslims, who are of Turkic origin, consider Crimea their home––they speak a language similar to Turkish and have historical and cultural links to Turkey. Turkey’s foreign ministry voiced its concern over the sentence of Crimean Tatars in a statement. The communique noted Ankara expects the “necessary steps to be taken as soon as possible for the freedom of all our compatriots imprisoned in Crimea for political reasons.”

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