In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Since then, many Crimeans have been detained and charged with political crimes. The majority are ethnic Crimean Tatars.
According to Simferopol-based human right lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, Crimean Tatars who used to be connected with the Tatar Mejlis assembly are usually charged with extremism, while those who are Muslim believers are accused of terrorism as a members of Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Islamic Party of Liberation), a pan-Islamic organization which has chapters all over the world.
Bizim Balalar (“Our Kids” in Crimean Tatar) is a non-governmental organization that provides support to the children and families of Crimean Tatar political prisoners. It was founded as the Russian authorities were jailing more and more Tatars for their opposition to Moscow’s annexation of their homeland. Photographer Alina Smutko was following after their fate over the course of last year
Hromadske gathered the data in this article from the activists of the Bizim Balalar organization, Crimean Solidarity, Crimea SOS, the #LetMyPeopleGo campaign and the lawyers and family members of Crimean Tatar political prisoners.
106 — the number of the children in annexed Crimea whose parents are political prisoners. There were only 50 such children when the organization launched in 2016.
58 — at least this many people are imprisoned in the annexed peninsula on political charges.
38 — the number of Crimean Tatars charged with extremism and terrorism or accused of trying to overthrow the Russian-imposed government.
190 years — the time all the convicts must serve collectively.
2 years — that’s how long Bizim Balalar has existed as a self-organised community support group for the families of imprisoned or missing Crimean Tatars.
140,000 euros (9,2 million Russian rubles) — the amount of money the Crimean Tatar organization has collected to support kids whose parents are in prison.
70 euros (5000 Russian rubles) — each kid receives this amount of money from Bizim Balalar monthly. Additionally, Bizim Balalar pays for medical care and child psychologists.
Every month — that’s how often the organization tries to gather together to organize small parties for the kids while their relatives and friends discuss their families’ legal defense.
60-70 — the number of Russian law enforcement agents who raided the last meeting of political prisoners’ relatives. Up to 200 people had gathered in the Crimean town of Sudak on January 2018.
Kids of the political prisoners who are Crimean Muslims are listening to the local muezzin before the evening prayer. The children gathered for Iftar (evening fast-breaking) at the end of Ramadan in the village of Strongovka near Simferopol. Activists are organizing a party for Crimean political prisoners’ children on the Muslim holiday of Uraza Bayram (Eid al-Fitr) in Strongovka. Last year Uraza Bayram fell on the Day of the Crimean Tatar flag, so local restaurants agreed to hold a gathering for kids from the organization Bizim Balalar.
Bekir, the son of Emir-Hussein Kuku, is praying on the anniversary of his father’s arrest while the neighbours’ girl waits for the prayer to finish. Recently, an unknown man came to Bekir’s school to talk to him and tell him that his father has ‘joined the bad people’ and will be staying in a prison for a while. Emir-Hussein Kuku is a Crimean Tatar human rights activist, the Chair of the Crimean Contact Group on Human Rights in Yalta. He was arrested on February 11, 2016, and faces up to 15 years in prison.
Safie Kuku, daughter of Emir-Usein Kuku draws on a paper boat on the stairs of the Crimean Supreme Court. Relatives are not allowed to attend the hearing.
READ MORE: Life in Annexed Crimea: Year Three
One of Rusland Zeitullayev’s three daughters Serbie plays at their home outside Simferopol. She has lived without her father since 2015. Ruslan Zeitullayev was accused of participating in the local Hizb ut-Tahrir – an organisation that Russia considers terroristic –and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Ruslan does not recognize the charges and refused to testify against himself in court. Several offenses were committed during the investigation: the court refused the defense team access to the case file, which justifies Zeitullayev’s extended sentence.
Uzeir Abulayev’s wife and their son Mansur. Abdulayev has four children. The Abdullayev brothers Uzeir and Temur were arrested in October 2016 during a routine search of their home. They were accused of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Uzeir Abdulayev’s daughters – Salsabil and Tasnim.
Temur Abdulayev has five small children. His wife and mother of his children Dilyara Abdulayeva wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him to stop persecuting Crimean Tatars.
The family of Emil Dzhemadinov from Simferopol. His wife Liana, sons Yunus and Yusuf, and newborn daughter Asya. Dzhemadinov is also charged with participating in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Dzhemadinov was arrested in October 2016. His family and lawyers believe he was arrested because he is a practicing Muslim and went on the Hajj in 2016.
Aider Saledinov’s wife Huzal and her daughter Zeinab next to the Crimean Supreme Court building. Subsequently, in November 2017, Huzal was detained at the administrative border of Crimea for some time when she went to mainland Ukraine along with four other wives of Crimean political prisoners.
Zevri Abseitov’s family having lunch in the home in Bakhchysarai. When Abseitov was at the pre-trial detention facility, during the first year of his imprisonment, his wife Fatima was not allowed to visit her him. The family has three sons – Akim, Serdar, Islyam and a daughter Sibriye. Zevri Abseitov was arrested on May 12, 2016, suspected of cooperating with the Hizb ut-Tahrir and accused of violent a coup.
Children of Crimean Tatar political prisoners listen to their local Muezzin before evening prayers. They have come together for Iftar (evening meal where they break their fast) at the end of Ramadan in the village of Strohonivka, not far from Simferopol.
“Those who make a child happy will be blessed by Allah.” Activists organize a party for the children of Crimean political prisoners in honour of the Islamic holiday Uraza Bayram in the village of Strohivka. This year, Uraza Bayram fell on the same day as Crimean National Flag Day, therefore the local restaurants agreed to host an event for children involved with the “Bizim Balalar” (“Our Kids”) organization.
This story was created in cooperation with N-OST for the magazine "Second Thoughts"