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Викриття How Russian propaganda discredits the Crimean Tatars

In shaping the image of the Crimean Tatars, Russian propaganda uses a number of predatory narratives that Russia has nourished for centuries. Some of them are taken from tsarist times. In particular, we are talking about the Slavic, and not the Crimean Tatar nature of the Crimean peninsula. Russian propaganda repeats Soviet narratives about the “unreliability” of the Crimean Tatars and about the “positives” of Stalin’s deportation. Read more about how Russian propaganda discredits the Crimean Tatars here.

The modern propaganda machine is spreading the message that Crimean Tatars are political and religious extremists. According to the pro-Russian anonymous telegram channels, the qırımlı cooperate with the Ukrainian special services, carry out subversive activities, mine territories, lead the Defense Forces to targets, and participate in sabotage. We looked at four key organizations against which propagandists are spreading more defamatory messages regarding the message of Crimean Tatars as “political and religious” extremists. A number of theses about Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Noman Çelebicihan battalion, the Turan battalion and the Mejlis in almost 100% of cases describe them in a negative way, contain unfounded accusations of criminal activity; manipulative statements that personally and expediently discredit members of organizations.

1. Immediately in 2014, the Russians launched a campaign to persecute the Crimean Tatar community by outlawing the Mejlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people. Russia accused the Mejlis of fomenting inter-ethnic tension and facilitating the extremist activities of the Crimean Tatars on the peninsula. Russia discredits the only supreme executive and representative body of the Crimean Tatars, recognized throughout the world and officially representing the nation at the international level. The Mejlis were critical of the Russian annexation of Crimea and defended the rights of Crimean Tatars, including the restoration of their property and cultural heritage. In 2016, Russia banned the Mejlis and labeled it an extremist organization, leading to harassment of its members, including arrests, detentions, and intimidation tactics.

2. The propaganda machine is also conducting a discrediting campaign against members of the volunteer Crimean Tatar battalion named after Noman Çelebicihan, who has been fighting on the side of Ukraine since 2016. Russian propaganda often accuses the members of the battalion of extremist political beliefs and participation in the food and energy blockade of Crimea. Russia has recognized the battalion as a terrorist organization. A large number of those detained for their alleged links to the battalion reported that they were tortured to extract confessions. So, it is highly likely that most of those arrested and found to be involved in the battalion are innocent. Over the past year, several members of the community who are charged with participation in the battalion have already received harsh sentences of 5 to 8.5 years in prison.

3. Russian propaganda in every possible way denigrates the activities of the Turan battalion, created in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The ideological basis of the battalion is ethnic and religious solidarity with the Crimean Tatars. In particular, propaganda accuses the participants of neo-Nazism. Turan is the name of the territory inhabited by Iranian-speaking nomadic peoples. The battalion is formed partly from fighters from other units of the Ukrainian army, and partly from those who have not served before, but live on the territory of Ukraine. Religion in it is an important factor, as the head of the battalion Almaz Kudabek assures: those who protect the interests of the Kremlin and kill Ukrainians automatically renounce their religion.

4. But the most frequent targets are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international political organization seeking to create a unified Muslim state where the Islamic way of life will be restored and where Muslim law will prevail. Although some of the ideas of the organization run counter to democratic values, it is still not criminal, and is also far from terrorism and violent actions. Propagandists accuse the members of the organization of religious extremism and a powerful anti-Russian underground on the peninsula. In fact, Hizb ut-Tahrir insists on peaceful methods of struggle. The work of Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Russia, China, and most Arab and Central Asian countries. In other states, in particular in the UK, Hizb ut-Tahrir operates openly. The community operated in the same way legally in Ukraine. However, after the annexation of Crimea, the Russians arrested more than 70 people in the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. Russian human rights activists consider the persecution of members of this organization politically motivated.

Russia is persecuting the most active members of political associations, and its propagandists do their best to discredit any Crimean Tatar initiatives. This indicates that the Russian intelligence services see a threat to the ability of the Crimean Tatars to organize themselves and identify their own political position that contradicts the Kremlin.

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