3 Years Without Loved Ones: Stories From Families of Imprisoned Crimean Tatars
18 March, 2020
From left to right, relatives of Crimean Tatars prisoners: Eleonora Ametova, Aisha Asanova, Niyara Ibrahimova, Lilia Smayilova, Zarema Zekiryaeva, and Rustem Mustafayev next to the wall at Hromadske office. The wall bears the names of political prisoners held in Russia and occupied Crimea. October 13, 2019. year Evgenij Zhulai / hromadske

“The Second Bakhchisaray Hizb ut-Tahrir Case” is a story of searches, arrests, court hearings and allegations of “attempts to overthrow the government and terrorism” of eight Crimean Tatar activists. At first they talked about injustice in the Russia-occupied Crimea and repressions against their people. After the detention, dozens of activists of the Crimean Solidarity civic movement continue to cover their case.

After each hearing, their relatives wait for them at the courthouse. Parents, wives, and children. We met with them and recorded their stories.

Rustem Mustafayev

Rustem Mustafayev is the father of human rights activist and political prisoner Server Mustafayev from Bakhchisaray.

Server was detained on May 21, 2018. He has four children. When Rustem Mustafayev came to Kyiv in September 2018, his son had already spent almost 4 months behind bars. Server Mustafayev, one of the co-founders and coordinators of the Crimean Solidarity social movement, helped other families and worked to draw the attention of the international community to human rights violations in occupied Crimea. Since then, another year and a half has passed in captivity for the Server. In September 2019, he was transferred to a prison in Russia's Krasnodar city.  

The FSB accuses Server Mustafayev of "participating in a terrorist organization." He faces up to 20 years in prison.


Niyara Ibrahimova

Niyara Ibrahimova is the mother of political prisoner Tymur Ibrahimov from Bakhchisaray. Tymur was detained on October 11, 2017. He has four children.

Tymur Ibrahimov is being tried in Russia's Rostov-on-Don. Over his detention period, his health deteriorated significantly.

Tymur helped families of political prisoners, conducted live broadcasts of detentions. Niyara still, after more than two years of his imprisonment, tells her grandchildren that their father is on a far-away business trip.


Lilia Smayilova

Lilia Smayilova is the wife of political prisoner Eden Smayilov from Bakhchisaray. He was detained on May 21, 2018. Eden Smayilov has three children.

In January 2020, the Russian human rights center "Memorial" recognized the activist and human rights activist Eden Smayilov and 10 other Crimean Tatars who are behind bars as political prisoners. The reason is because they are being persecuted, which a violation of the rights to freedom of conscience, religion, and peaceful assembly.

Eden Smayilov started helping detainees since the start of repressions. In the village of Dolynne near Bakhchysarai, Smayilov led a religious community. Russia's State Security Service (FSB) accuses him of involvement in the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization. When Lilia came to Kyiv for the first time in September 2018, she told us how her husband was detained a month before the wedding of her eldest daughter. This time, she's sharing her life story as the wife of a political prisoner who is trying to support her family and help her husband, who is being held in Russia.


Aishe Asanova

Aishe Asanova is the wife of Marlen Asanov. He was detained on October 11, 2017. The family has three sons and a daughter.

Marlen Asanov is the owner of the ethnographic complex Karavan-Saray "Salachik" in Bakhchisaray. Since the repressions against the Crimean Tatars began, Asanov helped the families of prisoners and arranged dinners for them in his institution. Since 2014, searches were constantly conducted there, and the complex had to be closed. Asanov, however, was accused of involvement in the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization that was banned in Russia-occupied Crimea. In 2018, when Asanov was already in custody, he received the Euromaidan SOS volunteer award.

The court in Russia's Rostov-on-Don began reviewing the case of Marlen Asanov only in November 2019. According to lawyers, in February 2020, Marlen Asanov started having health problems, in particular, pain in his kidneys.

Zarema Zekiryaeva

Zarema Zekiryaeva is the wife of political prisoner Server Zekiryaev from Bakhchisaray. The man was detained on October 11, 2017.

Server Zekiryaev worked as a physical education teacher in Bakhchisaray. On the day the FSB officers came to the house of the Zekiryaevs with a search, the couple had their twentieth wedding anniversary. Zekiryaev is accused of terrorism and an attempt to overthrow power in Crimea. In January 2018, Zekiryaev was sent to a psychiatric hospital for an examination. The political prisoner regards these actions of the special services as pressure on him.

Server Zekiryaev has 13 children. In December 2019, one of his daughters, Nazife, married.

In September 2018, Server Zekiryayev's mother, Lilia, came to Kyiv and told the story of the arrest of her son. Now we spoke with his wife Zarema.

Eleonora Ametova

Eleonora Ametova is the wife of political prisoner Ernes Ametov from Bakhchysarai. He was detained on October 11, 2017. Ernes Ametov has two children.

Before his arrest, Ernes Ametov was engaged in the production of advertising and shooting video stories about the culture of the Crimean Tatars. Now his wife Eleonora is making a film about their children — Aladdin and Imran. The woman documents the growing up of the sons who have not seen their father for more than three years.

Ernes Ametov took an active part in the public movement “Crimean Solidarity”. He is accused of involvement in the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization, which is banned in the Russia-occupied Crimea. Ametov faces up to 20 years in prison.


Zekiye Belialova

Zekiye Belialova is the mother of political prisoner Memet Belialov from Bakhchisaray. He was detained on October 11, 2017. Memet Belialov was arrested when his son was 8 months old.

The Belialov family returned to Crimea in 1991 from Uzbekistan. By education, Memet Belialov is a radio engineer. Like most political prisoners from the “second Bakhchisaray group of the Hizb ut-Tahrir case,” Belialov was arrested in October 2017. He is accused of terrorism and an attempt to overthrow power in Crimea by force.

The son of Memet Belialov knows his father only from the photos that his mother and grandmother show him.

READ MORE: Separated - Life for Family Members of Political Prisoners From Crimea

/By Nataliya Gumenyuk and Tetiana Bezruk

/Translated by Hromadske International