Mejlis and extremism: how Crimean Tatars survive in Crimea occupied by Russia

Author : 112.UA 112.UA

Source : 112 Ukraine

Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people has been under attack since the Russian annexation of Crimea
15:27, 20 April 2016

April 18, Russia has officially banned the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people. It was introduced in the Russian list of "public and religious associations, whose activities are suspended in the exercise of extremist activity." It was the decision of the so-called Crimean Prosecutor Natalia Poklonska. In fact, the activities of the Mejlis are prohibited since April 13. The main office of the Mejlis in Simferopol will be given to the ethnographic museum.

Related: Crimean occupation authorities cancelled May Day demonstrations and rallies

April 25, Supreme Court of Crimea will start to study the Mejlis documents. Six hundred pages are attached to the case as an evidence. The Mejlis predicts that the court will satisfy the requirements of the prosecutor's office on the ban.

What's Mejlis?

Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people was established in 1991. It is the executive body of the Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people and is elected from its members. Mejlis is  accountable to Kurultai, it consists of 33 people, including the chairman. The term of the authority of the Kurultai is five years. Kurultai Sessions sould be held at least once in 2.5 years, or at the written request of at least 1/3 of the delegates.

Litigation to ban the Mejlis began in early March 2016, although formally it has been under attack since the occupation of the peninsula, where its representatives refused to cooperate with the "new" authorities and the authorities were in favor of preserving the territorial integrity of the country and Crimea as part of Ukraine.

At the beginning of the Crimean events, Mejlis even appealed to UN in order to dispatch the peacekeeping forces. Further events developed more rapidly, the leader of the Mejlis Refat Chubarov said about the establishment of the Crimean Tatar national autonomy. Later it was decided to delegate its representatives to the bodies "of the Crimean government," but it was canceled after some time. However, the process of struggle against dissenters has already been launched, and any attempt to express their views or to support Ukraine ended with the arrival of the "Crimean police." Just a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on the "acceptance" of Crimea to Russia, there was an attack on the building of the Mejlis with the aim to remove the Ukrainian flag, which was posted before the arrival of Mustafa Dzhemilev. He was forbidden to enter Crimea until 2019. Two years ago, Dzhemilev was sure that no matter what "resolutions" are signed, he would come to Crimea, but it did not happen. Besides that, he is also arrested by the court of Simferopol "in absentia" and included to the federal wanted list. The same measures are applied to Russian Refat Chubarov.

Related: Crimean journalist faces 5 years of prison for calling Crimea part of Ukraine

Over the 24 months the situation on the peninsula has sharply worsened: the human rights issues, searches, arrests, persecution of the Crimean Tatars, and high-profile trials, including "case of February 26, 2014," the organization "Hizb ut-Tahrir", which Russia has recognized the terrorist one, ban of Mejlis.

More than a year behind bars is the deputy chairman of the Majlis Ahtem Chiygoz, who is charged with "organizing and participating in mass disorder" in the Crimean parliament on 26 February 2014. There are five others people involved into tis case: Mustafa Degermendzhi Ali Asanov, Eskender Kantemirov, Talat Yunusov and Eskender Emirvaliev.

In connection with the continuing violations of human rights, Chubarov has announced the creation of "Chiygoz list" - a list of those responsible for the political persecution of the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians, for their detention and other reprisals.

Related: Chubarov: Pro-Russian authorities arrest more Crimean Tatars

List of persecuted Crimean Tatars is constantly updated, and searches and arrests take place regularly. For their implementation the Russian riot police is involved. Also the Tatars after the search were taken to an unknown destination. At the moment, it is known that 22 people are missing, most of them are the Crimean Tatars.

In January 2016, the Council of Europe mission has implemented 7-day visit to the island. The mission's mandate covered the issues of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of the media, freedom of assembly, minority rights, local self-government, anti-corruption and prison conditions. After leaving the peninsula there was a new wave of raids. Chubarov noted that some of those who have carried out a search, met with Special Representative of the Secretary General during his visit to Crimea.

The report on the visit said about the persecution of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. It was noted that the searches are often directed against the Crimean Tatars and conducted without warrants and "disproportionate use of force."

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch pointed out that after the occupation, atmosphere of fear and repression covered Crimea.

Punishment for blockade

The so-called "Crimean prosecutor" Natalia Poklonskaya once said that the three organizers of food and energy blockade already punished. It is about Dzhemilev, Chubarov and Lenur Islyamov, against whom criminal cases were opened. In September 2015, the Crimean Tatars began the "food blockade" of the peninsula, joined by representatives of the "Right Sector" and other activists. It is noteworthy that after the beginning of the blockade son of Dzhemilev Hayser, who was sentenced to five years in prison for murder, was transferred to the Astrakhan region of the Russian Federation. The lawyers team suggested that escorting Hayser Dzhemilev is the Russian response to the blockade. The next step was the energy blockade, which was accompanied by the undermining of power lines in the Kherson region, ensuring the supply of electricity to the peninsula. Then the state of emergency (disaster) was introduced in Crimea.

Related: Jagland: Mejlis of Crimean Tatars must be able to continue its activities in Crimea

Poklonskaya threatened that the property of persons involved in energy blockade would be seized. The same position was expressed by the "head" of Crimean authorities Sergei Aksenov. He said that the Crimean security forces found and detained all the people involved into the blackout.

In parallel with the blockade began and the formation of the Crimean Tatar battalion. Islyamov stated that in Crimean volunteer battalion named after Noman Chelebicihan will serve 560 people. Also recently appeared the information about the battalion "Asker", the "suicide battalion" that was guarding administrative border with Crimea.

"But it is not excluded that, if some bloody things to start in Crimea, then this battalion, apparently, will come to the aid of their countrymen," Dzhemilev said.

Reaction to ban the Mejlis

The ban of the Mejlis was announced on the eve of the anniversary of the deportation - 18 May. The reaction from its leaders and the international community was negative. Ukraine has already started criminal proceedings on the fact of illegal banning of the executive body of the Kurultai.

"Putin's regime, who occupied the Crimea, took another step, which has reduced the mental distance with Hitler's regime... Actually, I have no questions to Putin: he is rude because the international community allows it... Another thing is whether Western leaders are aware of the consequences for their own people. Russia is openly trying to hold on the role of arbiter of the fate of the world. Today Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Ukraine are under attack... Do not avoid the question of who will be sentenced tomorrow by Russia ... This is your country and your people,” Chubarov said.

Related: Ukraine called on UN Security Council to respond to ban of Mejlis in Crimea

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called the decision of the Crimean authorities continuation of Stalinist repression against the indigenous people of Crimea.

Dzhemilev said that the ban is a declaration of war against the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars.

"Russia has banned the activities of an elected government body of Crimean Tatars, ban of the activities of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars is a declaration of war to our people," he said.

The EU has demanded the immediate repeal of this decision, and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko urged the international community to respond to the actions of the Russian Federation.

Related: Dzhemilev: "suicide battalion" to protect Crimean administrative border

Related: Dzhemilev: 22 residents of Crimea went missing since the peninsula was occupied

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