Thursday, February 26, 2015

Russia mistreats indigenous Crimeans, as expected

Quoting from today's article Crimean Tatars living in fear in homeland ruled by Russia (by Maria Antonova, AFP):

"Bakhchysaray (AFP) - The day after her husband was arrested, Elvira Ablyalimova woke up to find her home in Crimea surrounded by snipers while a squad of men combed through her belongings for 10 hours, letting nobody in or out.

Russia's takeover of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine a year ago was hailed by many ethnic-Russian locals, but for Ablyalimova and others from the indigenous Crimean Tatar minority, the new rulers have brought little but fear.

Ablyalimova's husband Akhtem Chiygoz is a deputy head of the Tatars' traditional decision-making assembly, the Mejlis.

But he is now under arrest for allegedly organising riots, inciting violence and committing involuntary manslaughter...

A Muslim community that comprises about 13 percent of the province's population, the Crimean Tatars were opposed to Moscow's takeover from Ukraine...

Native to the peninsula, the Crimean Tatars were brutally deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Joseph Stalin for alleged collaboration with the invading Nazis during World War II.

The return of Russian rule has triggered anxiety.

"After the Russian authorities came to Crimea, things that had never happened in Crimea before started to happen," said Mejlis member Ilmi Umerov...

Umerov said four young men remain missing after suspected kidnappings and that four others who disappeared were later found dead...

Crimean Tatar survivors of Stalinist repression were not allowed to return and settle on the peninsula until the 1990s, when they began building fragile cooperation with the post-Soviet Ukrainian authorities.

But now, their homeland doesn't feel much like home anymore. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Tatars have opted to leave, heading to mainland Ukraine, Umerov said.

"In every Crimean Tatar family there is a feeling of fear and lack of security while living in our own homeland," Ablyalimova said, listing "disappearances, sadistic murders... attacks on media, and arrests on trumped-up charges."

The probe against Chiygoz stems from a rally the Mejlis called on February 26 last year near the Crimean parliament, just hours before heavily armed soldiers in unmarked uniforms occupied the building, raised the Russian flag and forced the lawmakers to vote for installing a new pro-Russian government.

Clashes broke out when pro-Russian activists turned up at the same location. Footage shows two groups facing off, ignoring calls for order, yelling "Referendum!" or "Crimea is not Russia!" In the ensuing disorder, two people died.

However, the probe only targets Crimean Tatars and applies Russian law to events that preceded Russia's jurisdiction...

"Most of us are shocked by what happened in Crimea. Those who could not get over the shock have left," said Liliya Budzhurova, deputy director of the Crimean Tatar television channel ATR and also a reporter for AFP.

Those who stayed "made a difficult choice", she said, to live in what is essentially a hostile environment in which the channel must employ self-censorship if it wants to survive...

The channel was openly pro-Ukrainian before, but recent Russian anti-extremism and separatism legislation has forced it to cut potentially compromising terminology from coverage, she said. They even avoid mentioning that Crimea was until a year ago part of Ukraine.

She described the process as having "scissors inside our heads".

"For half a century we didn't have the right to speak, listen and read in our national language and to rob us of that right would be a repeat tragedy," she said, vowing to stay and work in Crimea no matter what.

"I cannot breathe here, but I will not leave, because it is my homeland," she said. "I will not leave, even if they blow up a nuclear bomb.""

I am very sorry for the Crimean Tatars. They do not deserve such a fate.

What should they do now?

To my opinion, they must stay quiet and low. Open resistance of any sort is no good against an enemy as strong and barbaric as Putin's Russia.

Instead, Crimean Tatars must keep their culture and gradually develop it in a direction to the West.

And, above all, they must prevent their numbers from shrinking. Russia can outlaw public rallies and censor local media, but it cannot impose laws banning childbirth.

Make love, not war! In the long run, it always works.

The same is valid for the Chechens, the Ingushs and other oppressed nations in Russia.

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