By Anton Naumlyuk, photojournalist (text and all photos), Simferopol, Crimea. Correspondent for Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL)
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
Human rights journalist Anton Naumlyuk is in Crimea this month covering the trials of Crimean Tatar political prisoners, taking photographs and collecting information from their relatives. Voices of Ukraine highlights the faces and stories of Crimean Tatars who are being kidnapped, disappeared and persecuted on a regular basis by the Russian invader-occupants of Crimea through his work on the ground in Simferopol.
“Hold on, keep fighting, our cause is just,” said Emir-Huseyn Kuku [imprisoned Crimean Tatar activist] loudly, for the entire courtroom to hear, at the end of the court hearing on the extension of his indictment. He remained in jail, of course, but at least he finally got to see his family – his wife and two children. After the court session, a police officer pretended not to notice little Safie kissing her father’s hands, as he reached out to her through the bars of the [court’s prisoner] “aquarium.”
“Nobody knows our world, nobody is interested in our aspirations,” Muslim Aliev stated in court on the same day. “But as long as a person has not committed a crime, he should not be held for his thoughts. You never know what Muslims think about, you never know what they dream about – that is no reason to pursue them.” During the break, when the judge left to make a decision on Aliev’s future, everyone was asked to leave the courtroom. A woman with a broken leg, leaning on crutches, asked if she could stay. “Should’ve stayed at home with that leg,” quietly replied the so-called investigator Makhnev.
In reality, the investigators, the FSB officers, members of the E-center [Russian Federation’s anti-extremist center], and other like them do not seem to understand why these people come to trials if neither their relatives nor even their neighbors are being prosecuted there. Every single one of the Crimean Tatars understands that at any moment they could be charged in the same way that the defendants of the “February 26th Case,” or the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir, or have ammo planted during a search, as has most likely happened with Vladimir Baluch. But they nonetheless write in social networks, come to trials to support their own, and gather together during searches and arrests. They generally do everything together. Apparently, to the security forces, this looks incomprehensible and scary.
Today, it’s been a year since the “Yalta Four” were arrested in the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Back then, in addition to Kuku and Aliyev, Vadim Siruk and Enver Bekirov were also arrested. Today at Kuku’s house, Crimean Muslims gathered to read the Dua – a collective prayer for the fate of the prisoners. In the prayer they remembered, in fact, all of those who were arrested, disappeared and abducted. They prayed for Ahtem Chiygoz and the defendants in the “February 26th Case”, for Erwin Ibrahimov and many others. Little Bekir Kuku prayed with all the others for his father. He wasn’t feeling well after the Dua. He did not cry, and neither did he cry in court, he was just ill. Together with him, Ilyas Aliev prayed for his father also. As did Vadim Siruk’s wife – who came with their little daughter, who was born already after his arrest. For a year, they have only seen their relatives during rare courtroom appearances. While saying their goodbyes, they all sadly gave their wishes to each other: that at the next anniversary, they would no longer be praying for a release, but giving thanks for the return. “You listen,” Nadzhiye Aliev said to me, – “At the next anniversary, we will all gather together. We are now one family.”
Source: Anton Naumlyuk FB posts
Halya Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on Emir-Huseyn Kuku: “When Abduction Turns to FSB ‘Search’ in Russian-Occupied Crimea”
Halya Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on Kuku, Siruk, Aliev, Bekirov and Hizb ut-Tahrir:
Russia’s Invented ’Terrorism’ and its Crimean Muslim Victims
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