Moscow cracks down on Crimea Tatar dissidents

Russian tactics echo KGB practice of forced psychiatric confinement

Moscow cracks down on Crimea Tatar dissidents

World Bulletin / News Desk

Since it seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, sparking international condemnation, Russia has persisted in its abuse and attacks on Crimean citizens. For three weeks this past summer Crimean Tatar opposition leader llmi Umerov was forced into a mental hospital by Russian security officers. The conditions being so deplorable that he refused to use the bathroo for five days. Sharing a ward with 100 other people and, rather than use the shower, he chose to use wet towels  that his relatives brought him. Doctors ultimately decided he had no mental problems and discharged him.

“The secret services organised massive torture against me,” Mr Umerov said last month at his home in Bakhchisaray, the home of Crimean Tatar khans until Catherine the Great conquered the peninsula for Russia in 1783.

“The most important thing in Russia is that people are loyal. They don’t want you to love them — they want you to shut up.”

The 59-year-old’s confinement in Crimea’s Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 echoed the old KGB practice of enforced psychiatric confinement of Soviet dissidents. It is also a stark example of what Ukraine and its western allies say is a pattern of repression against the indigenous Crimean Tatar minority, which makes up just over a tenth of the peninsula’s population of more than 2m.

Deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Joseph Stalin, the Tatars were only allowed to return in 1989 when Mikhail Gorbachev’s government recognised their forced exile as a crime.

Since his discharge from hospital, Mr Umerov has not been allowed to leave Bakhchisaray. If found guilty of sedition under a new law used to prosecute several Crimean Tatar dissidents, he faces up to three years in prison for comments he made on a Crimean Tatar TV channel about US and EU sanctions on Russia.

Mr Umerov says the accusations are based on a mistranslation. He says he simply repeated western leaders’ statement that the sanctions will be lifted in full only when Russia ends the military conflict in eastern Ukraine and withdraws from Crimea.

A transcript provided by the FSB, the KGB’s successor agency, however, claims Mr Umerov said: “It’s important to make Russia leave Crimean … if it was only possible to restore Ukraine’s former borders.” Prosecutors say that Mr Umerov was “using the internet to call for actions that would violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation”. Mr Umerov, who also has multiple health problems, including Parkinson's disease, has said that this situation for Crimea is only temporary. Like many of his generation, he did not see his homeland well until he was an adult,  “Yesterday they were Ukrainian, today they’re Russian, and tomorrow they’ll be someone else,” he says of his fellow Tatars. “But we didn’t come back here [to Crimea] to leave again.”

Source: Financial Times

Last Mod: 12 Ekim 2016, 09:09
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