MINELRES: Meskhetians in Krasnodar in 2004

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Fri Jan 21 07:52:01 2005


Original sender: Alexander Osipov <aossipov@tochka.ru>


Alexander Osipov,
The Human Rights Centre 'Memorial
Moscow, Russia

17 January 2005

Meskhetians in Krasnodar Krai in 2004

Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Krai, a southern region of Russia, is a
directly and blatantly persecuted minority group. The number of
Meskhetian in Krasnodar Krai is estimated between 15,000 and 19,000.
After the 1989 ethnic clashes, they fled Uzbekistan to some other
republics of the Soviet Union, including the Russian Federation. The
Krasnodar authorities have arbitrarily refused to grant them 'propiska',
or registration by place of residence. Meskhetians, like other people
who did not have propiska by 1992 and in defiance of the Russian
citizenship law of 1991 are not officially recognised as Russian
nationals. Therefore, while being Russian citizens legally, most of them
are de facto stateless. However, some Meskhetians arrived in Krasnodar
Krai before 1989, got propiska and later on were recognized Russian
nationals. Some Meskhetians from Krasnodar (up to 5,000, according to
some estimates) in the recent years got propiska and Russian passports
in some neighbouring regions like Rostov oblast. While their actual
residence is in Krasnodar Krai, they find themselves in almost the same
position as those Turks who are considered ‘stateless’: they are denied
residence registration, the right to work, property rights, health care
etc. Totally, 11,000 – 13,000 Turks in Krasnodar are deprived of almost
all civil, political and social rights because they don’t have local
propiska. Since 1992, the regional authorities in Krasnodar Krai
repeatedly singled out the Meskhetian Turks by special normative acts as
a distinct category and subjected them to discriminatory treatment. The
Meskhetians are regularly checked and fined by police for the absence of
registration. The Krasnodar government and local officials overtly and
publicly recognise that their goal is to ‘squeeze’ the Turks out of the
region. The Turks are also suffering from checks, violent acts and
harassment of the extreme nationalist paramilitary units, which call
themselves 'Cossacks'. The federal government clearly supports these
policies.

In 2004, immigration to the United States within the special
resettlement programme for the Meskhetians became a major factor
affecting the state of this group in Krasnodar Krai. The programme has
allowed many Meskhetians to escape from persecutions in Russia, but also
aggravated some earlier problems like official recognition of the
Meskhetians’ property rights in Krasnodar Krai. In a number of
statements some regional officials clearly acknowledged that they would
like to force as many Meskhetians as possible to flee. In the meantime,
participation in the resettlement programme enabled many Turks to avoid
negative effect of the police checks and detentions. The regional media
vividly debated the resettlement programme, and many authorss
demonstrated hostility (as a rule, in a covert form) towards this group.
A search for spy plots and for a hidden intent of the U.S. government
and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) was also present
in a number of publications. Throughout 2004, there were several violent
actions, including murders, against the Meskhetians Turks. There is no
clear evidence that all these crimes were committed on racial ground.
However, inaction of the law enforcement clearly demonstrated
discriminatory attitude of the police and public procuracy. 


The resettlement programme for the Meskhetians 

The programme covered the Meskhetians who lived in Krasnodar Krai
without residence registration, allowed them to apply for refugee status
and to get a package of social benefits on their resettlement to the
U.S. The programme was administered by the IOM and actively carried out
throughout the year. A series of meetings of the IOM officers with
Meskhetians activists and local officials took place in February-March
2004. During the first meeting in Krymsk on 11 February, the
representatives of the regional administration warned the Meskhetians
that those who would keep staying in the Krai will ‘permanently face
troubles’. In mid-February, the IOM launched the information campaign
for the Krasnodar Meskhetains; on 17 March, official representatives of
the U.S. government had the first meeting with the Meskhetian leaders.
At that time, the Turks demonstrated different attitudes to the
resettlement; many activists did not approve the idea.

In April, the IOM opened its office in the region and started
consultations on filling in the application forms. On 24 April, the
first group of 84 Meskhetians left for Moscow and had interviews in the
U.S. Embassy. All 84 people, who were not recognized Russian nationals
and were deprived of residence registration in Krasnodar Krai, were
granted refugee status. On 21 July they arrived in Philadelphia.
Regional and federal mass media broadly announced this event; some
Krasnodar TV channels demonstrated a film about the first weeks of their
stay in America. In the aftermath, the number of people wishing to
emigrate raised drastically. Later on, all interviews with the
applicants were conducted in Krasnodar Krai. The IOM office ended to
accept applications on 1 November; by that date the number of
Meskhetians claiming refugee status reached 11,250. It is not obvious
that all applications will be satisfied, however, none has been rejected
so far. 

The Meskhetians who leave Russia for the USA face the problem of selling
their houses. Contrary to the law, their ownership rights are not
recognised officially under the pretext that these people do not local
residence registration. Since February, officials of the municipal and
regional levels repeatedly promised to solve this problem. However,
local administrations refused to document sales of real estate owned by
Meskhetian Turks, and no one of them have succeeded in selling their
property so far. Complaints to the krai’s administration had no effect.

Another problem was detentions of the Meskhetians going to Krasnodar for
the interviews. Although the regional administration promised that
people holding invitations to the interview wouldn’t be stopped and
fined, detentions and extortions of money for the absence of
registration took place throughout the entire second half of the year.

By the end of the year, 189 Meskhetian Turks got refugee status and left
for the U.S. 

 
Violent crimes against Meskhetian Turks

On 16 January around 10 p.m., a group of 10-12 youngsters assaulted and
beat up 3 Meskhetians who worked at the night shift in a bakery in
Abinsk; one of the injured victims was put in a hospital.  

On 7 October, a group of armed people wearing camouflage and masks
rushed into the house owned by the Akhmedovs, a Meskhetian family. The
family head was wounded from a firearm, and his wife was severely beaten
up. The police concluded that someone poisoned the Akhmedov’s dogs the
day before; at the same date, the Akhmedovs neighbours witnessed a car
with a sign ‘Cossack patrol’ and several camouflaged men inside. Later
on, Akhmedov’s wife reported that policemen were forcing one of their
relatives to bear testimony that Akhmedov was involved in illegal arms
and drugs trade. Probably, the police was trying to put forward a
‘version’ of the conflict on a purely criminal ground and thus avoid
investigation of racist motives of the assault. Anyway, the criminals
were not found.

On 15 September, a group of youngsters beat up retailers and customers
who did not look like Russians at the bazaar in the town Nizhnebakanski
(the Krymsk district). On 2 December, Anvar Poltsykharadze urged his
salary from the owner of the house he was building in the settlement
Kholmski (the Abinsk district); instead of getting his money his was
severely beaten by a group of men. In the aftermath, the local hospital
refused any medical care to him; the local Meskhetian leader had to
interfere to make the hospital admit Anvar. Fortunately, on 15 December
Anvar and his family left for the U.S. 

On 18 December, a group of young people attacked the discotheque in the
settlement Kubanskaya (the Apsheronsk district) and beat up the people
looking like Turks as well as those who tried to defend them including
two girls. The young people were not locals; they came up in a few cars,
were shorthaired and were keeping baseball bats. Totally, 35 people were
beaten up; the criminals promised to come again the next day. On 19
December, they came back, but no one attended the discotheque. The
criminals started to search the streets, chased and injured three
Meskhetian Turks. 

A local leader of Khemshils (Khemshils are a Moslem group from South
Georgia deported alongside Meskhetians to Central Asia), Abdamit
Salih-oglu reported that he had called the police around 9.30 p.m. and
midnight, but no one had come. The precinct officer and the Apsheronsk
district inspector on ethnic affairs visited A.Salih-oglu the next day
and recorded the information. Since that day the discotheque did not
take place, later on the policemen blamed Salih-oglu for false
communication. 

On 26 December, two sisters – 26 and 19 years old – were shot dead in
village Russkoye (the Krymsk district). Their family participated in the
resettlement. The police detained the suspect, a 57-old neighbour of the
victims. The public prosecutor of the Krymsk district N.Pupyrin denied
that the murder had been committed on the motives of racist hatred.
Meanwhile, the victims’ mother and sister had a different opinion. They
told that the neighbour came up to their home about 8.00 p.m. and wanted
to see their brother Nariman, who was absent at that moment. The
neighbour said then: 'Why did you come? You all guests here! Who did
invite you here? I will shoot you all! I will shoot all Turks here!’
Then he took the hunting rifle hidden under his coat and fired twice;
Nargila and Narmina were killed, their mother and elder sister Leyla
escaped. 

 
Official abuses and harassment against Meskhetians
 
Throughout 2004, the regional authorities were making pressure on the
Meskhetians Turks. The forms remained the same: unlawful detentions,
extortions of money, confiscation of personal identity papers, and fines
for the absence of registration in Krasnodar Krai. 

In January-February, September and December, the regional immigration
inspection together with the police patrol service made house-by-house
checks of the Turkish houses in Abinsk and Krymsk districts and imposed
fines up to 1000 roubles (35 USD) on those who had no local
registration. In the meantime, Turks are denied residence registration
in their own dwellings. 

Getting registration by place of sojourn also poses a problem. In early
January 2004, some 15-20 Khemshils and 20-25 Meskhetians applied for the
sojourn registration in the village Kubanskaya (the Apsheronsk district)
since the previous one had expired on 1 January. The local police
station responded that it had no instructions concerning registration of
Turks and advised them to apply to the regional passport and visa
service in Krasnodar. Krasnodar asked them to wait, and these people got
registered only in mid-February. 

By the end of the year, Sarvar Tedorov, a Meskhetian leader in Krymsk
district told that from 10 December the police had started to impose
fines automatically on those Turks who had their Russian citizenship
documented in other regions of Russia and who were applying for
temporary registration in Krymsk and Abinsk districts. Those who came
for sojourn registration first had to sign a protocol of administrative
misdemeanor and to pay the fine of 1,500 roubles (54 USD) and then were
allowed to submit their papers for registration. The police as a rule
refused to give the people copies of the protocols.  

Below are some typical examples of detentions and extortions. 

On 25 February, Bakhtiyar Savkatov and Zakir Kamalov, residents of
settlement Kholmski (the Abinsk district) were detained in Novorossiisk,
taken to a city district police department and searched. Later,
Bakhtiyar was released and Zakir, who had no sojourn registration, was
put under arrest in special venereologic clinic under the pretext that
he was a vagrant and required medical testing. He was to be kept up to
10 days in custody in that closed clinic, but was released shortly when
the Novorossiisk Human Rights Committee interfered.

On 11 August, around 11.00 p.m., criminal police officers detained S.A.
and Z.K., two Meskhetians in Novorossiisk. Z.K. had no passport on him,
his friend brought it in two hours, but Z.K. was released only in the
morning. The officer on duty took Z.K.’s passport and promised to return
it back only on getting 500 roubles. The police made no protocols of
administrative detention and administrative misdemeanor. 

On 17 August, the Novorossiisk immigration inspection confiscated the
passport of H.M., a resident of settlement Kholmski (the Abinsk
district), and on 12 September also of N.I. from the settlement 
Nizhnebakanski although she was a Russian citizen. On 7 September, H.K.,
a woman from Kholmski was stopped and had her fingerprints taken at a
traffic police station. He was released only when her husband brought
200 roubles. H.K. had a surgery operation not long ago and needed a
special care. On 16 September, an officer of the patrol service checked
passports and registration of the Turks at the Southern bazaar of
Novorossiisk. They took away the passport of S.U., a resident of
Kholmski, and passed it to the city immigration inspectorate where it
was lost later. On 9 October, an investigator of the Krymsk public
procurary ordered to confiscate passports of E.Ch. and his family
members. The pretext was the investigators suspicion about the
passports’ validity.

In September, the local authorities in Krymsk and Abinsk districts
launched a campaign of forcing people, especially participants of the
resettlement programme, to pay the earlier fines, even imposed in 2003.
Court marshals checks the houses of the people (exclusively Turks) who
had been fined but had not paid the penalty fares. If the people had had
no money they threatened to confiscate their property and cattle. The
authorities did not care about the fact that many orders on penalties
had expired. 

There were also other manifestations of ethnic discrimination against
the Turks.

There were a number of ethnically selective firings; for example, two
surgeons of Meskhetian origin, who had Russian citizenship and
registration in Krasnodar Krai, were dismissed from the city hospital of
Novorossiisk. The police regularly prevented Turks from retail trade at
rural bazaars throughout the Krai, particularly, in the settlements
Kubanskaya and Kholmski. In April, the state-owned power company cut off
electric supply in Turkish houses in Kubkolonka (the Krymsk district).
The only pretext was the fact that real dwellers were people other than
formal occupants of the houses. The real tenants had paid their electric
bills in time, and electricity was switched off only for the Turks.
Later on, the conflict was settled.

At least, registrar offices refused to issue death certificates of the
Turks who had no local registration and died from November 2004 on.
Sometimes, registrars issue such certificates with an entry that the
late had no place of residence. 

 
Legal defence of the Meskhetian Turks. Major problems

Several lawyers affiliated with some local and Moscow-based human rights
NGOs, including the Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’, defend the rights of
Meskhetian Turks. In 2004, most of the judicial cases were on refusals
in issuance of Russian passports (i.e. official recognition of Russian
citizenship), refusals in registration at the place of residence,
recognition of property rights and on contesting administrative
penalties. All defence lawyers who deal with the Meskhetians in
Krasnodar Krai face a strong resistance of the regional judiciary. The
main troubles and obstacles they faced in 2004 were basically the same
as in the previous years. The courts as a rule take a biased position
and disregard testimonies of the Meskhetian Turks. A good example is the
Muradovs case on deportation. On 16 December 2003, a judge of the Anapa
district court V.Lantukh in an administrative process convicted two
Turks – Lutfi and Ridvan Muradovs - to deportation from Russia. The
hearings were conducted with a number of procedural violations and in
absence of the accused, who were thus unable to defend themselves. On 10
February 2004, the regional court ignored all procedural disjunctions
and confirmed the decision of the Anapa city court. Fortunately, the
decision was not fulfilled so far. Some courts of the Krasnodar Krai
refuse to commence Meskhetian lawsuits under various arbitrary pretexts.
Usually they urge from the claimants additional proof on the pre-trial
stage; in most cases the claimants fail to contest these decisions. The
executive, primarily police, often avoid enforcement of the court
decisions taken in favour of Meskhetians. For example, in May 2004 the
passport and visa service of the Belorechensk district refused to issue
Russian passports to a number of local Turks although all of them got
court decisions confirming their compliance with the 1991 Russian
citizenship law. The lawyer of the Memorial Human Rights Centre was to
contest this inaction of the local police department anew.

 
Major developments in internal policies

Basically, the policies of the Krasnodar regional administration
remained the same. One should mention that Krasnodar Krai legislature
adopted the new regional Law ‘On the Measures for the Prevention of
Illegal Migration into Krasnodar Krai’ from 2 July 2004 # 735-KZ. To
implement the law the governor issued the Resolution ‘On the Measures
for the Prevention of Illegal Migration into Krasnodar Krai’ from 20
July 2004 # 715. These acts basically reproduce the restrictions on
residence registration and the system on control and penalties which
existed for at least a decade. It is worth saying here, that, first, the
regional legislation is not significant any more for foreigners because
the federal regulations impose severe limitations on non-nationals, and,
secondly, the law defines as ‘illegal migration’ also living of Russian
citizens without registration, that does not correspond the federal
legislation.

In February and July, the Krasnodar governor Alexander Tkachev publicly
welcomed the resettlement of Meskhetian to the U.S.

In December, the Krasnodar administration announced its plan to
establish a number of ‘deportation camps’ for the ‘illegal migrants’
sentenced to deportation. The camps were to be built by ‘migrants’
themselves; the detainees and people administratively sentenced to
deportation are to be kept in tents, surrounded by barbed wire.
 

Meskhetian Turks and the regional mass media

There were two peaks of hate speech against Meskhetian Turks: one in the
beginning of the year and the other one in July. The resettlement
programme might have been provoked the first one, and the actual
departure the first Turkish group for the U.S. – the second one. 

For example, on 11 February the newpaper ‘Novorossiiski Rabochii’ (a
city paper with the circulation of 32,000 copies) issued an article with
the title ‘You are not welcome here, or why illegal migrant feel so
comfortable in the city’. It contained the following wording. ‘… The
city operative [law enforcement] staff on its meeting concluded that the
law enforcement and the supervisory services did not control migration
processes. The participants mentioned the Anapa nursery forest and some
farms at the village Rayevskoye which leased lands to the Meskhetian
Turks. That means that local inhabitants are pushed away from their
jobs’.

On 16 February, the local TV channel of Krymsk city gave the floor to
the Cossack activists who publicly stated that ‘all Meskhetian Turks are
thieves and criminals, let them get out of here!’ The local authorities
did not react anyhow.

The Krymsk city newpaper ‘Electron-TV’ from 23 February issued a paper
‘Turks, go home to the U.S.A.’. ‘Does he [George W. Bush] know about the
Russian boys raped here, on the Kuban?’ And that the Turks (by the way,
relatives of one leader of their national society “Vatan” are involved
in armes and drugs trade? That Turkish youngters beat up and rob Russian
boys in Nizhnebakanskaya? We wonder, who of the Turks suffered from the
authorities here at the Kuban within the last 15 years. And how
suffered? Their son was not conscripted to the army? They did not pay
taxes? We, ordinary Russians, would wish to suffer in that way’.

In March 2004, ‘Novorossiiskii Rabochii’ issued a series of publications
on the resettlement programme. The paper accused the IOM and the U.S.
Embassy in creating a base for espionage in Krasnodar Krai and in
fostering ethnic tensions on the Black Sea coast. 

In July 2004, most of the regional media welcomed the Meskhetian
emigration, and some even called it ‘eviction of the illegal dwellers’.

In the second half of the year, the regional mass-media actually were
not touching upon ethnic issues, but vividly debated ‘illegal
migration’, special police operations like ‘Filter’, ‘Net’, ‘Illegal
Migrant’ and the establishment of ‘deportation camps’, but without
references to individual ethnic groups.