Being yourself is not a crime: look into the eyes of kids of Crimean Tatar political prisoners jailed by Russia

Article by: Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Russian occupation of Crimea was not just a violation of international law. It was a watershed for the Crimean Tatars. Before 2014, they were in the process of returning to the homeland they lost when Stalin deported them to Central Asia in 1944. After 2014, they once fell under the blows of the Russian repressive regime: in what has been called a “hybrid deportation, approximately 10% are estimated to have been forced to relocate to mainland Ukraine.

One of the forces of this “hybrid deportation” are fabricated trials in which Crimean Tatar men are accused of terrorism simply for practicing their religion. Their arrests have also become a watershed moment, for their children. A photo project based at the Ukrainian MFA invites us to look into the eyes of these children. We are making it available for all Euromaidan Press readers.

Childhood is a time of brightest memories, which you remember for the rest of your life.

The childhoods of many Crimean children were cut short on the day when the representatives of Russian occupational forces broke into their homes in the early morning. Ever since that day, neither women nor children feel safe. Their usual ways of living fell apart in that one moment.

Over the 7 years of occupation, the Russian authorities have committed large-scale persecution of native Crimeans. Special repressions were directed at Crimean Tatars – a historically disloyal group, who openly stated their non-recognition of the occupation of Crimea on February 26, 2014 and held a mass protest against the occupation.

To reinforce their power on the peninsula, occupants recourse to arrests, forced searches in houses and mosques, as well as interrogations of residents. Over the past few years, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSS) and The Center “E” have opened about a hundred criminal and administrative cases against Crimean Tatars. Many of the defendants in these cases are relatives.

As of today, 177 underage children are now left without their fathers. In some villages, where there are compact groups of Crimean Tatars, the neighborhoods have turned into entire “women’s streets” after the arrests. Many children need long psychological rehabilitation. In the home of one political prisoner, FSS officers tried to make a joke: “We are making a movie, boy. Don’t worry!”. After that “movie” was “filmed” in October of 2017, his father has yet to return home.

Any religious beliefs, not sanctioned by the Russian occupation administration, are criminalized in Crimea. Since 2014, 74 people have already been arrested for reading “forbidden” books and accused of terrorism within the fabricated “Hizb ut-Tahrir cases”. All of them are recognized as political prisoners by a coalition of Ukrainian human rights NGOs that protect the rights of the Ukrainian citizens, who suffered from the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.

All the detainees are facing huge sentences of 15 to 20 years of imprisonment in a strict-regime colony. All of them are denied their freedom without the body of crime and in violation of international law. All of them became hostages in their own land, occupied and militarized by the Russian military forces.

Among those arrested in the criminal cases of Hizb ut-Tahrir, more than 10 people are civil journalists who filmed searches and court sessions in Crimea, human rights advocates, volunteers, and activists who helped families of political prisoners by collecting food and clothes in pre-trial detention centers.

Cases of harassment by the Russian military troops have spread throughout Crimean Tatar society and their consequences will remain felt by Crimeans for a long time to come.

 

Zekiryaev Server, 47 years old

Physical education teacher at school. Crimean Solidarity activist. Helped transfer provisions and clothing to political prisoners, attended court sessions and searches.

Case name: Second Bakhchisaray group of the The Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Charged under Part 2 of Art. 205.5 and under part 1 of article 30 and Art. 278 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation (RF). In custody from October 11, 2017.

Server Zekiriyaev has been sentenced to 13 years in a maximum security prison colony under Part 2 of Article 205.5, Part 2 of Article 30 and Article 278 of the criminal code of the Russian Federation

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Zekiryayev.

Children:

  • Zekiryaev Edem. 10/02/1998
  • Zekiryaeva Nazife 07.12.2002
  • Zekiryaeva Safiye. 08/30/2004
  • Zekiryaeva Uriye. 08/10/2008
  • Zekiryaeva Melek. 08/31/2011
  • Zekiryaeva Hatidzhe. 06/01/2013
  • Zekiryayev Ibrahim. 10/11/2016
  • Zekiryaeva Kevser. 07/18/2009
  • Zekiryaev Muhammad. 05/05/2011
  • Zekiryaeva Meriem. 05/05/2012
  • Zekiryaeva Asiye. 04/12/2016
  • Zekiryaeva Gulsum. 09/28/2017
  • Zekiryaeva Aisha 03/21/2018

 

Omerov Riza, 32 years old

Economist. Attended courts, searches, helped families of political prisoners.

Case name: Belogorsk group of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Prosecuted under Part 2 of Art. 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code

Riza Omerov has been sentenced to 13 years in a maximum security colony, with the first two years in prison, under Part 2 of Article 205.5, Part 2 of Article 30 and Article 278 of the criminal code of the Russian Federation

In custody from June 10, 2019. His father and brother-in-law are also detained and arrested under part 1 of article 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code. This is the largest “family case” in Crimea.

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Omerov.

Children:

  • Omerov Imran 08/13/2012
  • Omerov Suleiman 05/08/2014
  • Omerov Ahmad 01/28/2017
  • Omerov Isa. 08/09/2019

 

Dzhapparov Ayder, 40 years old

Electrician, Muezzin (minister in a Mosque). Attended courts, searches, helped families of political prisoners.

Case name: Belogorsk group of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Charged under Part 2 of Art. 205.5 of the Criminal Code of RF.

Ayder Dzhаpparov has been sentenced to 17 years in a maximum security prison colony, with the first two years in prison, under Part 2 of Article 205.5, Part 2 of Article 30 and Article 278 of the criminal code of the Russian Federation

In custody from June 10, 2019

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Dzhapparov.

Children:

  • Yasmin Dzhapparova. 07/16/2005
  • Ali Dzhapparov. 08/01/2007
  • Maryam Dzhapparova. 10/01/2009
  • Abdullah Dzhapparov. 02/04/2011
  • Ahmad Dzhapparov. 03/30/2013
  • Umar Dzhapparov. 09/20/2015
  • Osman Dzhapparov. 06/16/2017
  • Fatima Dzhapparova. 05/25/2019

 

Adilov Bilyal, 50 years old

Gas-electric welder, minister in a Mosque. Attended courts, searches, helped families of political prisoners.

 Case name: Second Simferopol group on the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Charged under Part 2 of Art. 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code.

Faces 20 years in prison.

In custody from March 27, 2019.

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Adilov.

Children:

  • Adilov Asan 08/15/1994
  • Adilova Fera. 01/04/2001
  • Adilov Fevzi. 07/20/2002
  • Adilov Suleyman. 10/24/2005
  • Adilova Sultaniye. 05/03/2010
  • Adilova Gulzar. 07/06/2013
  • Adilova Sabriye. 09/06/2015

 

Abdullaev Teymur, 45 years old

Lawyer, trainer, and teacher of the Taekwondo sports section. 

Case name: First Simferopol group on the Hizb ut-Tahrir case.

Sentenced to 16 years and 6 months in a strict-regime colony with restriction of liberty for a term of 1 year 6 months under part 1 of Art. 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code.

In custody from October 12, 2016. Arrested on the same day as his brother Uzeyir Abdullayev, who was sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in a strict-regime colony.

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Abdullayev.

Children:

  • Abdullayev Umar 01/22/2010
  • Abdullayeva Raikhan 10/06/2011
  • Abdullayev Usman 10/22/2013
  • Abdullayev Ali 04.04.2008
  • Abdullayeva Asma 06/22/2016

 

Mamutov Enver, 45 years old

Plasterer, organizer of mass national holiday events.

Case name: First Bakhchisaray group on the Hizb ut-Tahrir case.

Sentenced to 16 years 9 months in a strict-regime colony with  restriction of liberty for 1 year 6 months under Part 1 of Art. 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code and 2 Article 35, part 1, article 30, article 278 of the Criminal Code.

In custody from May 12, 2016.

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Mamutov.

Children:

  • Mamutov Suleyman 07/01/2006
  • Mamutova Madina 07/25/2008
  • Mamutov Sahib-Giray 07/07/2011
  • Mamutov Umar 01/16/2014
  • Mamutova Samira 03/19/2016

 

Muyedinov Yashar, 52 years old

Builder. Attended courts, searches, helped families of political prisoners.

Case name: Second Simferopol group of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Charged under Part 2 of Art. 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code.

Faces 20 years in prison.

In custody from March 27, 2019.

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Muedinov.

Children:

  • Ibragimova Evelina. 11/20/2000
  • Muedinov Muhammad. 12/09/2006
  • Muedinova Azime. 07/11/2008
  • Muedinova Sumaya 06/21/2011
  • Muedinova Amal. 12/22/2013
  • Muedinova Ayat. 03/20/2017

 

Aivazov Raim, 27 years old

Carpenter. Organized food and clothing provisions to the Crimean Tatar activists arrested in Crimea.

Case name: Second Simferopol group of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Charged under Part 1 of Art. 205.5 of the FR Criminal Code.

Faces life imprisonment.

In custody from April 17, 2019. He was detained when crossing the Armyansk checkpoint, then tortured. The FSS officer imitated an execution by shooting a gun right next to him. After that, he was taken to the FSS department, where the detention was documented officially.

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Aivazov.

Children:

  • Ayvazova Ayat 01/02/2018
  • Ayvazova Amaliya 02.12.2019

 

Suleymanov Ruslan, 37 years old

Physics teacher, Crimean Solidarity civil journalist, volunteer of “The “Crimean Childhood” project (the association helps children of political prisoners).

Case name: Second Simferopol group of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Charged under Part 1 of Art. 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code.

Faces life imprisonment. In custody since March 27, 2019.

On June 10, 2019, The FSS officers detained Ruslan Suleymanov’s brother, Eskender. He is also charged under part 2. 205.5 of the RF Criminal Code.

On April 17, 2019, OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media, Arlem Desir condemned the arrest of Crimean Solidarity activists after mass searches on March 27 in annexed Crimea and called for their immediate release from the Russian pre-trial detention center.

On July 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Suleymanov.

On November 6, 2019, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine recognized the Crimean Tatar civil journalists persecuted in Crimea, including Suleymanov, as a collective prize winner of the Igor Lubchenko National Prize for the Protection of Freedom of Speech.

On February 3, 2020, Freedom House, an international human rights organization, called on Russia to review the sentences of Crimean Tatar journalists related to the Crimean Solidarity human rights movement.

Children:

  • Suleymanov Ali. 02/06/2004
  • Suleymanov Muhammad. 11/08/2009
  • Suleymanova Asiya. 09/10/2014
  • Suleymanov Musa. 06/12/2017

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