Russia continues to persecute Crimean Tatars and conscript young Crimeans into its military

14 January 2022, 02:47 PM

The Russian occupying regime in the Crimean Peninsula has persistently persecuted Crimean Tatars on religious and political grounds, and conscripted young Crimeans to serve in the Russian military, human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch said in its 2022 World Report, published on Jan. 13.

Along with four other members of the community, authorities arrested “one of the few Crimean Tatar leaders remaining in Crimea,” Nariman Dzhelyal, “on trumped-up charges” in September 2021, the watchdog reported. Dzhelyal is one of the senior political leaders of Crimean Tatars, serving as the deputy chairman of the Mejlis, the community’s deliberative body.

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“Dozens of Crimean Tatars continued to serve prison sentences on arbitrary charges for real or perceived affiliation with the organization—many of them members of Crimean Solidarity, a group that supports Crimean Tatars arrested on politically motivated grounds,” the group writes, adding that 11 Crimean Tatars had been arrested in February and August 2021 on “spurious claims.”

Russian authorities in Crimea continued to persecute members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir (a pan-Islamic organization which Russia has branded a “terrorist” group) and Crimean Solidarity activists, HRW said.

Along with Crimean Tatars, Russian authorities have arrested and detained a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious group banned as extremist in Russia, HRW reports. One Jehovah’s Witness, Viktor Stashivskyi, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for organizing the group’s activists, which HRW points out is the longest sentence Russia has yet applied to a Jehovah’s Witness member.

These actions place Russia in breach of international humanitarian law, due to its continuing efforts to conscript Crimean youths into the Russian military. The efforts are accompanied by propaganda and indoctrination campaigns aimed at school-aged boys.

The Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine fell under Russian occupation in March 2014.

The international community has condemned the occupation as illegal, while Moscow claims to have carried out a “historically justified” annexation.

After invading Crimea, Russia organized a sham referendum in an attempt to justify its occupation. Crimeans were encouraged to “vote” in the referendum, which was conducted under the oversight of armed Russian soldiers and in violation of Ukrainian law.

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