Crimean Tatars raise alarm over men's disappearances

2nd October 2014, Comments 0 comments

The ethnic-Tatar minority in Crimea, the Ukrainian region seized by Russia earlier this year, expressed alarm Thursday over a growing list of unexplained disappearances.

At least seven men have vanished -- one of them later found dead -- frightening the Muslim community, which largely opposed Moscow's takeover of the majority ethnic-Russian region in March.

Feride Asanova's 25-year-old brother, Edem Asanov, went missing Monday in the latest in a series of murky disappearances. He set off for work but stopped answering his telephone and has not been seen since, she told AFP Thursday.

"I don't know who my brother could have got on the wrong side of. He is an ordinary, good guy and a patriot of his people, but he has never been involved in politics," Asanova said.

Crimean Tatars are native to the Black Sea peninsula but were deported by Stalin. They returned to Crimea after the USSR collapsed. Most boycotted the referendum on joining Russia in March and they also largely stayed away from Russian local elections this month, which Ukraine says were illegitimate.

The disappearances come against a backdrop of steadily eroding political rights under Russian rule.

The new Russian authorities have detained activists, evicted Tatars from their assembly and accused a community television channel of extremism.

More than 400 Crimean Tatars gathered in the town of Belogorsk on Wednesday to protest against the disappearances of two local youths, 20-year-old Dzhevdet Islyamov and 17-year-old Islyam Dzhepparov, who were pushed into a minibus by men in uniform on September 27.

Crimea's acting leader, Sergei Aksyonov, promised to search for the missing while meeting Dzhepparov's father Abdureshit, a well-known activist, on Monday.

Aksyonov also met Crimean Tatars in Belogorsk on Wednesday, pledging to create a mediating group to resolve disputes.

The disappearances began in March when activist Reshat Ametov was pushed into a car while picketing local government building in protest at the takeover of the peninsula by Russian troops.

Two weeks later, his body was found with traces of torture.

Three more went missing in May, their fate unknown.

Activists Timur Shaimardanov and Leonid Korzh disappeared and then their friend Seran Zinedinov was abducted while searching for them.

© 2014 AFP

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