Article by: Ihor Vynokurov
Late in the evening on May 24, 2016, people in Russian road police uniform intercepted and abducted the 30-year-old Crimean Tatar lawyer Ervin Ibragimov. This moment was shot by CCTV cameras. The video shows him trying to escape from the kidnappers without success. Ibragimov’s car was found next day, and his documents reemerged shortly later. But there has been no evidence where Ervin is.
Ervin was a member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of the Crimean Tatars and a member of the pre-annexation Bakhchysarai City Council. He de facto managed the affairs of the local Crimean Tatar Mejlis of Bakhchysarai, the medieval capital of the Crimean Khanate. Until early 2015, the head of the Bakhchysarai Mejlis was Akhtem Chiygoz, now one of the Kremlin’s hostages held in a Simferopol remand jail. After the arrest of Chiygoz, Ervin was the first aide to Ilmi Umerov, another Crimean Tatar leader, whom Russian authorities are going to convict for the non-recognition of Crimea’s annexation.
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“It seems to us that his [Ervin’s] figure was chosen to show: ‘We are already close. Something like that can happen to any of you.’ The idea was to cause fear among those who had not been afraid anymore,” stresses Nariman Dzhelyalov, head of the information department of the main Crimean Tatar Mejlis.
Having seized Crimea, Russian occupiers tried to engage some Crimean Tatars, including Ervin Ibragimov, in their illegitimate administration but he refused to become a collaborator. Neither did Ervin agree to move to Kyiv and work in the office of the Presidential Envoy for Crimean Tatar Affairs because he had to take care of his sick mother in Crimea.
After the kidnapping, Ervin’s father Umer applied to all Russian enforcement agencies in the peninsula: the Federal Security Service (FSB), Interior Ministry, and Investigative Committee. On paper, the latter is conducting the investigation but practically nothing has been done over the year. The investigator contacted the family for the last time back in January 2017. Moreover, the officials ignore the information collected by the relatives, friends, and indifferent Crimeans during their own independent searches.
From time to time, Umer Ibragimov received messages from people who demanded a huge ransom for his son. The man says that he was ready to sell all his property and pay but only if he were shown a video with Ervin. No such video ever followed.
Umer is sure that Russian secret services are behind the crime. FSB officers had reportedly blackmailed his son trying to make him work for them. A few days before the kidnapping, Ervin complained about constant surveillance.
Every month on the 24th, activists in Kyiv come to the embassy of the Russian Federation demanding to find Ervin and other Crimeans who have disappeared since February 2014. Similar actions take place in other countries. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, OSCE, and the European Parliament urged Russia to take measures in this case. However, the year has passed but we still do not know what happened to Ervin that ill-fated night on 24 May 2016.
According to the organization Crimea SOS, at least 43 forced disappearances (of Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and others) took place since the Russian invasion of the peninsula, of which only 17 subsequently returned home. Nineteen persons are considered missing, six were found dead, and two are known to be in custody on politically motivated charges.
Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, Erwin’s father is not going to stop his search and his fight. “I will not rest until I find him,” he says. “That’s what keeps me living.”
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