04/15/2016, 16.40
RUSSIA – UKRAINE
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Crimean Tatar council banned

by Nina Achmatova

Prosecutor bans Mejlis from using state and municipal media, holding mass events, accessing bank accounts, or any activity. For some analysts, the move is part of a broader plan by Russian authorities in the Ukrainian peninsula annexed two years ago to ghettoise the pro-Ukrainian Muslim minority.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Crimean Prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya on Wednesday suspended the activity of the Mejlis (Council) of the Crimean Tatar People because of its destabilising “extremist activity”.

The Tatars are a Muslim minority in the Crimean Peninsula. They were deported from their homeland under Stalin, and allowed to come home only in the 1990s.

Russian authorities have been putting pressures on them since 2014 after they voted in a referendum against Russia’s internationally unrecognised annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

The Mejlis is now "banned the use of state and municipal media, the organisation of mass demonstrations, the use of bank accounts and any activity,” Prosecutor Poklonskaya said.

The European Union and human rights activists have slammed her decision, which will be valid until Crimea’s Supreme Court rules on Poklonskaya’s ban. Earlier, she had called for the Mejlis to be declared an extremist organization.

According to the prosecutor, the Crimean Tatar organisation ought to be added to Russia’s list of suspended public and religious associations. For some Tatars analysts, the move is part of a broader trend.

"The Mejlis’s political activities have been blocked for some time. Many of its leaders have been expelled from the region, and those who are left are involved in providing social and moral support to the community,” writes Ayder Muzhdabaev, deputy general director of ATR, a Tatar language TV channel that used to broadcast out of Simferopol, but was forced to move to Kiev to continue its activities.

For Muzhdabaev, what is really worrisome about the ban is that it is part of a plan by Russian authorities to create a "hybrid ghetto" for Crimean Tatars.

This is being done by, “On the one hand, turning them into a kind of untouchable caste, reducing the contacts with the rest of the population; and on the other, frightening the Crimean Tatar community to such an extent that people are afraid to communicate, and thus resist.”

"There is no doubt” that the Mejlis will eventually be declared as an extremist organisation. "The laws against extremism in Russia were adopted precisely to suppress all dissent," Muzhdabaev writes.

What is worse in this case, notes the journalist, is the fact that for the first time the laws “will be applied to a representative body elected by an entire people, and so consequently the whole Tatar people will be deemed as extremist."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the European Union slammed “Yesterday's decision by the so-called prosecutor of Crimea to suspend the activities of Mejlis.” This development “is extremely worrying”, and “must be reversed immediately.”

Likewise, Amnesty International noted that the ban “is aimed at snuffing out the few remaining voices of dissent in Crimea”, and “signals a new wave of repression against Crimean Tatar people” after “Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine two years ago.”

Since then, “Amnesty International has documented the suspected enforced disappearance of at least six Crimean Tatars”. In March 2014, one missing Tatar was found dead.

For Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland, “banning the Mejlis would discriminate against the whole Crimean Tatars community and is therefore unacceptable”.

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