HYBRID DEPORTATION OF THE CRIMEAN TATARSPublished: Jun 15, 2017 Reading time: 4 minutes
In today’s Europe, it would be unthinkable to load an entire nation onto a train and transport it to somewhere beyond the Urals. However, you can do something else: you can create a situation where the representatives of the nation that are disloyal to the new authorities of Crimea are forced to leave their homes and abandon the peninsula to safeguard their freedom or even their lives.
Since Russia's annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014, international human rights organizations have reported on systematic human rights violations being carried out by the authorities and security forces. Dozens of people have been arrested, most of them Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists opposed to the Russian authorities. The detained have faced politically motivated prosecution and fabricated criminal charges, while the judiciary has been neither impartial nor independent in its approach towards them. Furthermore, dozens of people have been abducted by members of security forces and armed groups controlled by Russia.
Some of these individuals have been found killed with signs of torture. The torturing of individuals facing charges has become a common occurrence in cases initiated by the Russian intelligence services, particularly in relation to people described by Russian authorities as Ukrainian saboteurs, apprehended in Crimea. International observers have not been able to enter Crimea, while human rights activists and journalists face tremendous risks when working on the peninsula.
As a result, information on acts of repression by the Russian authorities against Crimean Tatars and activists often does not come from the annexed peninsula itself. This exhibition of photographs aims to show the human rights situation in Crimea based on stories from people who are still living there and have been exposed to repression on ethnic, religious, or political grounds.
One of the high-profile cases in Crimea, where nearly twenty Crimean Tatars now face prosecution, has been that of the Muslim organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. Even though Russia designated it as a terrorist organization in 2003, the organization is not banned and works legally in Ukraine and almost all other European countries. Following the annexation of Crimea, Muslims began to be prosecuted on the charge of being members of this organization. Several people have already been sentenced, while the trials of others are still under way. The number of persons detained on the charge of belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir is growing every year.
Crimean Tatars, who have largely remained opposed to the Russian authorities, are subjected to systematic repression. Activists who engage in online reporting through social networking sites or who write about the actions of authorities and intelligence services get arrested. In a situation where independent media is absent on the peninsula, social networking sites have remained the only source of truthful information, which is why Russian intelligence services actively fight activists, bloggers, and independent journalists. Journalist Nikolai Semena, who has published materials on the illegality of the annexation, has been charged with violating the territorial integrity of Russia, just like one of the Crimean Tatar leaders on the peninsula, Ilmi Umerov. The latter was confined in a psychiatric hospital for a month, which prompted human rights advocates to speak of Russian intelligence services returning to the practice of using punitive psychiatry as a form of repression.
In early 2014, Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists tried to protest against annexation. On the 26th of February that year, thousands of Crimean Tatars took part in a demonstration outside the Supreme Council building. They were confronted by pro-Russian activists, Cossacks, and members of paramilitary groups formed by Crimean separatists. Clashes broke out, which Russian authorities blamed on the Crimean Tatars. Since then, Akhtem Chiygoz, deputy chairman of the Mejlis, and other participants in the demonstration have been put on trial.
Russia has banned the activities of the Mejlis, a traditional self-governing body of the Crimean Tatars. The organization has been designated as extremist and all of its members now face persecution. Since the annexation, more than 90 Crimean Tatar children have been left without their fathers as a result of arrests and repression. Human rights activists and Crimea’s inhabitants, especially the Crimean Tatars, are in no doubt that the repression will continue…
A photography exhibition by independent Russian journalist Anton Namliuk
The exhibition “Hybrid Deportation” is a collection of reportage photos taken during court hearings and trials against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians as well as photos of their families. It is a way of mapping the cases of human rights violations in Crimea since its annexation. Anton Namliuk is one of the few journalists that regularly covers the politically motivated trials and writes about them openly, despite the risk to his personal safety, pointing out that they are artificial and their verdicts are decided in advance.