Russian Police Raid Islamic Centers, Mosques, Muslim Schools, And Shut Down Jehovah’s Witness Churches

By Theodore Shoebat

In Crimea, which is now under Russian jurisdiction, police are now raiding Islamic centers, they have shut down numerous Jehovah’s Witness churches, and have even banned the Global Human Rights Torch Relay by the Chinese cult, Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that incorporates Buddhism with some Taoist elements. According to one report:

The human-rights situation in Crimea has seriously deteriorated since the region’s annexation by Russia in March, the Council of Europe said in a report Monday, citing allegations of politically motivated killings and disappearances on the peninsula.

“Clearly, the problems are much more serious now,” said Nils Muiznieks, the council’s human-rights commissioner and one of the few international monitors to be allowed into Crimea since it was annexed from Ukraine.

Crimean Tatars —the region’s Muslim minority—as well as ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Kiev activists and journalists have been targets of intimidation and violence, often perpetrated by “self-defense forces,” known as Samooborona, which have been acting as an informal police force on the peninsula, the council said in its report.

The council has counted at least two killings of activists that appeared to be politically motivated and five disappearances, said Mr. Muiznieks. The council has also received “several dozen” reports of abductions, in which activists were removed from the Crimean peninsula and onto the Ukrainian mainland against their will, he said.

These incidents “send out shock waves of fear to the politically active part of the population,” Mr. Muiznieks said. The council was promised updates on authorities’ investigation of these incidents but hasn’t received them, he said.

Both Ukraine and Russia are members of the Council of Europe, which is also home to the European Court of Human Rights, the only international court that can pronounce binding human-rights judgments on member governments.

During a two-day visit to Crimea in September, Mr. Muiznieks met with Sergei Aksyonov, the current leader of Crimea, and Oleg Belaventsev, the regional representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin , and with local community and religious leaders. That mission was preceded by visits to Moscow and Kiev.

The situation of the Tatars is particularly serious, the report said, with regular raids on religious institutions, businesses and private homes carried out by armed and masked guards claiming to look for extremist materials and weapons. “I’ve not heard of any reports of weapons being discovered,” Mr. Muiznieks said, adding that there was no tradition or evidence of religious extremism among Crimean Tatars.

Mr. Muiznieks said the raids continued after his visit to Crimea, despite assurances by local authorities that they would seek to resolve the problem.

As we read in another report:

The declared moratorium follows months of police, Russian FSB security service and Prosecutor’s Office raids and searches across Crimea – including for religious literature banned under Russian law – in libraries, schools, political organisations, Muslim private homes, mosques and madrassahs (Islamic schools), and Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls, Forum 18 News Service notes.

The raids have been overwhelmingly concentrated on properties of the Crimean Tatar minority, which is mainly of Muslim background. Officials insist they are searching for guns, weapons, drugs and religious literature which has been banned as “extremist” in Russia and added to the Russian Justice Ministry’s Federal List of Extremist Materials.

Some banned material on the Federal List argues for peace and respect for human rights, including Muslim theologian Muhammad ali Al-Hashimi’s “The Personality of a Muslim” and the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong’s leaflet “Global Human Rights Torch Relay”. Other banned material on the List promotes racism, xenophobia or violence. Any lower court can decide that material is “extremist” and so should be added to the List, banning the material throughout Russia.