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We Experience First-Ever Discrimination of Such Scale – Crimean Tatar Women Activists about Situation in Crimea

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A press conference “Women of Crimea – Victims of Occupation” was held in Ukraine, dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The event was organised by the Crimean Tatar Resource Center (CTRC). The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979 as an extension of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and aimed to introduce mechanisms to combat discrimination against women.

The Convention entered into force on 3 September 1981. According to CTRC’s communications manager Tetiana Podvorniak, the problem has not been resolved over 40 years. In particular, the Russian administration of the occupied Crimea has launched repressions and harassment of women on the peninsula, including Crimean Tatars.

Historian Hulnara Abdullayeva pointed out that discrimination against Crimean Tatar women in the occupied territories was of unprecedented scale in the history of this people. She reminded that women played a significant role in the life of the medieval Crimean Khanate and were even members of the Khanate’s Divan, an advisory body to the khan. Crimean Tatar women, side-by-side with men, lit the fire of national revival in the 19th century. In 1917, several women activists of the national movement joined the governing bodies of the Crimean People’s Republic. It was women who were among of the drivers of the return of Crimean Tatars to their historical homeland after 1989. They also play a significant role in the current resistance to the occupation regime, which is why Russian security forces launched repressions against Crimean Tatar women as well.

Crimean Tatar women have come under double pressure – both from direct reprisals for their activities and civic stance and as members of the families of persecuted activists. “Hundreds of women and girls have been persecuted and discriminated against. The most vulnerable group on the peninsula are the families of the Kremlin’s political prisoners who have been left without male support: 64 wives, 119 mothers, and 98 daughters,” said CTRC’s manager Zarema Bariyeva. According to Bariyeva, the CTRC has registered a series of repressive actions against women since 2014. In particular, about 18 searches carried out in homes of journalists, bloggers, and even a teacher of the Crimean Tatar language are known.

So far, five women have been criminally prosecuted for civic activity; 21 administrative cases have been opened. Russian security forces have made three attempts to criminally prosecute (fortunately, all three women are currently at liberty), and two IDPs from Crimea were arrested in absentia on the peninsula. There are reports on two cases of pressure on lawyers and one forcible abduction of an activist to intimidate her.

The worst manifestation of the occupiers’ arbitrariness was the 12 deaths of civil society activists under unknown circumstances. Russian security forces pay special attention to the women members of the Crimean Tatar People’s Mejlis and its local branches, which have been banned since 2016. Four women members of the Mejlis and more than 200 of its local women activists have been prosecuted and intimidated. Twenty-six delegates of the Qurultay of the Crimean Tatar People had to limit their activity due to persecution threats.

Lawyer Emine Avamileva, who lives on the occupied peninsula, spoke on behalf of these women. She and other activists of the Mejlis, currently banned by the occupiers, are closely followed by the FSB and the prosecutor’s office. The most common practice has become the mass mailing of “warnings against the inadmissibility of violating the law” on the eve of memorable dates – the Independence Day of Ukraine, the Day of Remembrance of Victims of the Deportation of Crimean Tatars, the Day of the Crimean Tatar Flag, and more. However, Avamileva stressed that she and other women activists would not give up working on the development of the national identity of the Crimean Tatars.

CTRC’s manager Liudmyla Korotkykh reported on legal ways to protect the rights of Crimean women based on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. As she explained, in order to leverage the mechanisms of the Convention, it is necessary to “exhaust all domestic remedies” up to the cassation appeal, and then it is possible to resort to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. In addition, citizens and human rights organisations should actively involve other international institutions, such as the ECHR and the OSCE, in protecting the people of occupied Crimea. For example, the UN International Court of Justice already indicated provisional measures against Russia, ruling to resume the activities of the Mejlis on the peninsula.

Source: Ukraine Crisis Media Center

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