MINELRES: Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Krai in 2005

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Thu Mar 2 20:15:23 2006


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


Meskhetians in Krasnodar Krai in 2005
 
By Alexander Osipov
Human Rights Centre "Memorial"
Russia

February 2006

This report summarises the monitoring data the Human Rights Centre
“Memorial” and the Novorossiisk Human Rights Committee gathered in
Krasnodar Krai throughout 2005 in the frame of the project funded by the
Open Society Institute.

Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Krai, a southern region of Russia, is a
directly and blatantly persecuted minority group. By 2004, 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. By 2004, up to 11,000 Turks in Krasnodar were 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.
 
Meskhetian departure to the USA
 
In 2005, mass exodus to the United States within the special
resettlement programme for the Meskhetians remained the major factor
affecting the state of this group in Krasnodar Krai. The programme
covers the Meskhetians who live in Krasnodar Krai without residence
registration, allows them to apply for refugee status and to get a
package of social benefits on their resettlement to the U.S. The
programme is administered by the IOM and was open on 1 February 2004. On
21 July 2004, the first group led by one the Turkish leader Tionshan
Svanidze left Krasnodar for America. In June 2005, the IOM office
stopped acceptance of the applications. Üore than 21,000 in total
applied for the resettlement (a part of them actually do not reside in
the krai), and about 7,000 left for the U.S. by the end of 2005. These
people regularly call their relatives remaining in Russia and report
that they settle themselves quite well. 

The administration of Krasnodar Krai and the local authorities do not
help the re-settlers in any way. Worse, in some cases they even create
new obstacles: obstruct sales of houses, deny issuance of the
certificates confirming the place of residence, which are necessary for
the programme applicants, slow down the issuance of passports (it takes
sometimes up to 7 months). Notaries refuse to verify any deals and
papers if the clients were holders of the old-type passports of the USSR
although there IDs were valid until 1 January 2006. 
In the meantime, Krasnodar regional officials repeatedly claim that the
resettlement programme is their achievement, and the Meskhetian Turks
shall thank them for this. The federal and regional authorities still
insist that only Georgia shall bear the entire responsibility for the
Meskhetian Turks. 

According to the programme’s formal conditions, all Turks holding
passports of Uzbekistan are denied the refugee status. Meanwhile, many
Meskhetians who had left Uzbekistan in 1989-90, later on were to take up
the Uzbek passports to have any ID although they had actually lost all
ties with this country. According to some estimates, these people make
up around 10 per cent of the Meskhetian community in Krasnodar. This is
why some families have either to split or to decline the resettlement. 

The U.S. government opens the new immigration programme starting from 1
January 2006 for the nationals of Uzbekistan. The objective of the
programme is to facilitate family reunification, and that must open new
opportunities for the Turks remaining in Russia. The new programme
covers Uzbek nationals regardless of their ethnic origin who reside
outside Uzbekistan and have relatives in the U.S.

In 2005, some individual members of other ethnic communities in a
position similar to the Meskhetians (Yezids, Khemshils, Batumi Kurds)
also applied for participation in the resettlement programme and are
still awaiting decision. 
 
Local legislation and policies
 
The regional legislation basically remained unchanged. The Krasnodar
migration policies are based on the regional Law “On the Measures for
the Prevention of Illegal Migration into Krasnodar Krai” from 2 July
2004 # 735-KZ. It envisages a regime of permission-based obligatory
registration of residence and sojourn and a strict police control over
the people movement and registration. Article 1 of the law stipulates
that residence and stay without local registration of not only
foreigners but Russian nationals is deemed “illegal migration”. 
 
In 2005, public prosecutor of Krasnodar Krai lodged protests against 19
normative acts of the region, including 11 laws. Among them was the
protest against the Law No.735. This law was amended by the law
No.963-KZ from 14 December 2005. The title changed, and the new version
is called “On the Implementation of the State Policy with Respect to
Legal Status of Foreign citizens and stateless people on the Territory
of Krasnodar Krai”. The law does not concern Russian nationals any more.
Its content is limited to two things: there are can be interdepartmental
commissions at the regional and municipal levels which are empowered to
settle migration-related issues, and people violating migration rules
must be penalized according to the federal legislation. The amendments
do not alter the position of Meskhetian Turks and other former Soviet
nationals without recognized Russian citizens. At the moment one can’t
say how the new version of the law will affect the real treatment of
migrants and minorities. 
 
Unlike the previous years, in 2005 there were no significant xenophobic
statements of the Krasnodar high-ranked officials. Just a Moscow
newspaper “Izvestia” (13 Octover 2005) publicized a fragment of an
interview with the Krasnodar governor Alexander Tkachev. Tkachev: “There
is no and has never been any ethnic problem in the krai. We are talking
about attracting new investments now. What investments can come if the
situation becomes unstable, moreover, if ethnic tensions take place? I
admit, I made some not completely correct statements. All [TV] channels
smashed Tkachev, but later noticed that there were no real problems! Go
to France, England! People there also say that this is not good when too
many of this or that nationality came”. 
 
During the year, the federal and regional authorities mastered a new
explanation of the Meskhetian case. In their view, the problem was
caused by the Turks themselves who deliberately refused to get
registration and to document their Russian citizenship to have better
chances to go to Georgia. This version was put forward for the first
time in a letter from 15 March 2005 sent by the Department on
Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights of the RF Ministry of Foreign
Affairs to the Novorossiisk Human Rights Committee. Simultaneously, it
appeared in the Russian official report on Russia’s compliance with the
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (second
cycle of monitoring). Public prosecutor of Krasnodar Krai Sergei Yeremin
also stuck to this point of view (see Novaya Gazeta, 8 December 2005);
repeatedly Krasnodar paper voiced it too (see Novaya Gazeta Kubani. 7
July 2005).
 
Law-enforcement activities
 
Meskhetians Turks, even those who participate in the resettlement
programme or who have confirmed Russian citizenship, but registered in
other regions of Russia, are penalized for the absence of local
registration. For example, on 10 June 2005 Dilara G., a Russian
national, registered by place of residence in Rostov) come to
Novorossiisk for selling greens. Policemen detained her at the bazaar,
kept in the police station for 3 hours and extorted the fine of 2,000
roubles (60 Euros) for the lack of local registration. Local authorities
in Krymsk district fined Turks who were leaving for the U.S. and thus
selling their property in the courtyards and on sides of the roads. For
example, Nabira M. was fined in the settlement Nizhnebakanski on 3 June
for the “illegal trade”. 

In the first half of February all Turkish households were checked by the
police in Krymsk district. 
Leyla and Murad Safarovs resided in the town Krymsk and did not have
recognised Russian citizenship and registration in Krasnodar Krai. The
family applied for the refugee status and got all papers for the
resettlement to the U.S. In June 2004, the immigration inspection of
Krymsk district detained him for the lack of registration and made a
protocol on administrative violation. The court convicted him to the
fine of 2,000 roubles although Murad was not given a copy of the
protocol on was not properly notified about the court sitting. The
Safarovs had no money to pay the fine. In October 2004, a court marshal
was unable to enforce the decision by confiscation of property since
there was nothing to confiscate in the Safarovs’ apartment. In January
2005, Murad was brought to court for the lack of registration again, and
the court convicted him to arrest for 15 days. The court did not take
into consideration that Leyla was on the last stage of pregnancy, there
was a minor child in the family, and the family had got refugee status.
Leyla bore a child on 1 February 2005, when her husband was in custody. 

On 14 December 2004, the Leninski district court of Novorossisk found
Bakhadir Chalaev guilty in violation of the rules on foreigners’ stay in
Russia (Art. 18.8 of the RF Code of Administrative Violations).
Meanwhile, Chalaev has been living in the region since 1989 and
participating in the programme of resettlement to the U.S. He was
sentenced to the fine of 1,500 roubles (appr. 40 Euros) and to
deportation from the RF. On 25 January, the Krasnodar regional court
overruled this decision and sent the case to a new consideration in the
same court. In the meantime, the chief of the district passport and visa
service in Novorossisk started implementation of the first decision and
put the stamp “Expelled from the Russian Federation” into Chalaev's
passport. On 9 February, the district court found Chalaev not guilty.
Later on, the stamp in the passport was cancelled.

On 9 February 2005, a car with a family of Meskhetian Turks was stopped
at the traffic police check-point in Yablonovski, at the southern
outskirt of Krasnodar. Four people, namely, Hidia Mehridze, Vano
Mehridze, Nariman Mehridze and Narhanim Tashtanova, residents of the
settlement Nizhnebakanski (Krymsk district) were going for the interview
to the office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
since they took part in the resettlement programme to the U.S. They told
the policemen that they had to go to the interview, but nevertheless
were detained and brought to a police station in Krasnodar. They were
kept there for several hours; they were not given copies of the reports
on administrative offence and on the detention. The police withdrew
their passports and informed, that the passports would be returned back
to them only after payment of the penalty. But already on 11 February,
the documents were returned to them, probably, after the intervention of
the IOM Krasnodar office. The IOM staff in Krasnodar quite often
encounter with similar incidents. In such cases the IOM officers
directly approach the Krasnodar regional Human Rights Commissioner or
other regional officials and ask them to set the whole families free
from the police and to return them back their papers.
 
Activities of the “Vatan” Society
 
The Krasnodar branch of the International Society of the Meskhetian
Turks “Vatan” (“Motherland”) was liquidated by a decision of the Abinsk
district court the decision under an arbitrary pretext in July, 2002. In
2005, the branch actually ceased its work since all its leaders and
activists emigrated to the U.S. On 19 November, the chairman of the
regional branch Sarvar Tedorov left for Phoenix, Arizona. 
Formally, the “Vatan” Society in Krasnodar Krai is represented by Sarvar
Seifatov, a resident of village Pshekhskaya, Belorechensk district. He
was elected by any grass-root vote, but appointed by the chairman of the
International society “Vatan” Suleiman Barbakadze (Moscow). Both
International “Vatan”, and Seifatov himself repeatedly declared, that
they did  not see anything wrong with the Meskhetians position in
Krasnodar Krai and considered the future resettlement to Georgia as the
only one legitimate goal of the organization. In his  interview to the
state-owned TV company “Kuban” on 21 November Seifatov declared, that he
would co-operate exclusively with the authorities of Krasnodar Krai.
 
Condition of the children. Access to education 
 
Still birth certificates of children whose mothers have no passports are
not issued. In 2005, there was the first precedent of legal recognition
of birth by a court decision. On 6 September 2005, the Krymsk district
court considered the application of Gulnar Akhmedova for establishment
of the legal fact of birth of her daughter Elnura in 2004. The court
ruled to recognize the legal fact of this birth and obliged the Registry
Office of Krymsk district to register the birth and to issue the birth
certificate. Besides, the court obliged the registry office to put the
name of Elnura Ahmedova’s real father into the birth certificate (the
marriage is not registered because of the absence of local residence
registration). 

Throughout the year, there were several refusals in school enrollment of
the children of Yezids who did not have local residence registration in
Abinsk and Gulkevichi districts. After the human rights activists
intervened, the children were admitted to school. 

The secondary school of settlement Nizhnebakanski (Krymsk district)
still practicise compulsory division of children of minority (basically
the Turks) and Russian origins into separate classes. However, in late
2004 – 2005, the situation improved a little. Earlier, the children from
“Turkish” classes did not study English language up to 9 grade, and
later not admitted to 10-11 grades under the pretext that they were
failing to pass the English language examination. After the intervention
of IOM, during the 2004/2005 school year English as a subject was
introduced from the 5-th grade to “Turkish” classes too.
 
Investigation of the murders
 
On 26 December 2004, two sisters, young Turkish women Narmina Lomanova
and Nargila Akhmedova, 26 and 19 years old, were killed in the village
Russkoye (Krymsk district). The both were participants of the
resettlement programme. They were shot dead by their neighbour Nikolai
Drozdov who was under a strong alcoholic intoxication. The witnesses
testified that Drozdov was a Cossack activist and demonstrated hostility
to Turks. 
The murderer was taken in custody and on 24 June 2005 sentenced by the
Krasnodar regional court to 11 years of imprisonment. The court thus did
not examine the evidences that the murder could be motivated by ethnic
hatred. On 18 July, the regional public prosecutor lodged the cassation
protest to the board on criminal cases of the Supreme Court of the
Russian Federation on the reason that the verdict was too light. On 26
October, the Supreme Court uphåld the initial decision.

On 2 January 2005, a young Meskhetian Turk Alexander Tedorov was killed
in the village Varenikovskaya (Krymsk district). In spite of the fact,
that the murder was committed by a group of people, only one person,
Ivan Naumov was brought to trial and accused not of murder, but just of
bodily injuries. On 24 June the district court found him guilty and
sentenced to 3.5 years imprisonment. On 29 June, the Krymsk
inter-district public prosecutor lodged the cassation protest to the
board on criminal cases of the Krasnodar regional court. The reasons
were that the court’s ruling had contradicted actual circumstances of
the case, the verdict was inadequately light, and the court had violated
several rules of procedure. As a result, the board on criminal cases of
the Krasnodar regional court overturned the verdict and sent it to the
new proceeding of the same court with the same composition of judges. On
15 October, he was found guilty in infliction of death by carelessness
and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.
 
Acts of violence
 
On 9 January 2005, Victoria Akhmedova who lived in the settlement
Kholmskaya (Abinsk district) turned to the Novorossiisk Human Rights
Committee. Victoria and her husband Islam participated in the
resettlement programme. They were attacked in their home by an armed
gang on 7 October 2004; Victoria and Islam were injured. On 8 January
2005, there was a new assault. Two unidentified drunken persons rushed
into their house at night. They called themselves police officers, show
from afar their business ID cards, and threatened the Akhmedovs with
violence. 

As Malik Karaev, representative of the “Vatan” Society in Khomskaya,
told later, two men in civilian dress who demonstrated identity cards of
police officers, really made threats to the Akhmedovs family. The
Ahmedovs friends and neighbours called the police, and those two men
were detained and brought to the local precinct. Despite of the
Akhmedovs’ application and the presence of numerous witnesses, the
detained persons were released shortly after. 

On 22 January, Victoria Akhmedova called to the Novorossiisk Human
Rights Committee and informed the district public  prosecutor had opened
the criminal case on the incident. Two men who threatened the Akhmedovs
family Ahmedovyh were detained, and they really turned out to be offices
of the special riot squad (OMON). 
Later on, the Akhmedov’s left for the U.S. The Novorossiisk Human Rights
Committee has failed to get any information on the investigation from
the public prosecutor’s office. It is obvious, that no one was accused
of the crime, and the case is likely to be closed under a formal
pretext.
 
Actions of protest and reaction of the authorities
 
On 14 November, more than 30 people - representatives of different
ethnic communities and human rights organizations – made a picket and
procession in the village Varenikovskaya (Krymsk district). They were
protesting against the Law of Krasnodar Krai “On the Measures for the
Prevention of Illegal Migration into Krasnodar Krai” from 2 July 2004. 

On 11 December, before the Constitution Day of the Russian Federation,
representatives of the Batumi Kurds (Kurmanj), Yezids and Khemshils
together with human rights activists and some local dwellers gathered
near the deportation camp in the farm Kopanski not far from Krasnodar. A
few days prior to the action all prisoners had been taken out from the
camp to other camps or temporarily released under their relatives’
guarantees. 
On 24 December, another action was held under the motto “Passports of
the USSR have cancelled – the people are forgotten!”. Several dozens
people took part in the action, and among them were representatives of
human rights organizations and various ethnic groups of Krasnodar Krai –
Yezids, Khemshils, the Batumi Kurds (Kurmanj), Russians, Armenians, the
Crimean Tatars. 
 
Regional authority and civil society
 
The regional administration was changing its approach to
non-governmental organisations and ethnic minority activists. First, it
widened the list of loyal people admitted to the dialogue with the
authorities. This list for the first time included a Meskhetian Turks -
the representative of the International Society “Vatan” for Krasnodar
Krai Sarvar Seifatov. Secondly, the loyal  ethnic minority leaders were
strongly encouraged to publicly dissociate themselves from human rights
activists. Thirdly, the authorities were not ignoring, as earlier, the
events connected with minorities and were trying to organize alternative
media coverage. However, as before, such loyal organisations as the
Center of National Cultures, the Advisory Council of Public Associations
and the Council for the Assistance to Development of Civil Society
Institutes and Human Rights avoid discussions on the theme of ethnic
discrimination.
 
Deportation camps
 
There are four camps in Krasnodar Krai where the persons sentenced to
expulsion from Russian are kept in custody. The Novorossiisk Human
Rights Committee interviewed relatives of number of people kept at the
camp near the farm Kopanski. All the interviews confirm that the
detainees are kept in intolerable conditions. 
In November 2005, there were 16 women and 37 men in the camp. People
live in army tents which are hardly heated by small stoves because of
the coal shortage. Almost all are chilled and, probably, have chronic
diseases of respiratory airways. The people get hot feed once a day
only. There is no hot water, and no baths or shower. There are no
additional bed-clothes. The detainees have to wait for several days when
the bed linen is washed until it is brought back again, and before they
do without it. There is no soap and other washing liquids; no hygienic
packages for women. There are no necessary medicines and syringes; no
permanent medical personnel. Among the detained persons there are
citizens of Turkey and Angola, and one of them is a HIV-infected and
requires a special treatment. 

The other three camps in Krasnodar Krai are in a similar condition. Many
people when taken into custody were dressed in summer cloths. Warm
clothing is not given; the female personnel for work with the detained
women is not available. Relatives of the detainees tell that the people
in the camps are often convoyed outside the camps and forced to work.
The detainees are deprived a legal aid as lawyers are not allowed into
camps. People spend for three months and more in such conditions. 

As the RF Code of Administrative Violations does not determine the
duration of custody for the people sentenced to deportation, they can be
kept imprisoned for unlimited time, especially the holders of USSR
passports.
 
Deportations
 
Bakir Gurji-ogly, a Batumi Kurd, was sentenced to expulsion from Russia
and placed into a deportation camp. Bakir Gurji-ogly (born 1975) is a
native of the Osh province (Kyrgyzstan) and has been living in
Belorechensk district of Krasnodar Krai since 2001. He is married and
has two kids – the daughter (born 1995) and the son (2000). His daughter
is disabled and needs a special medical treatment. Gurji-ogly’s wife and
children are citizens of the Russian Federation. All his seven brothers
and one sister also live in Belorechensk district and are citizens of
the Russian Federation. The Parents, the grandmother and the grandfather
are buried there. 
>From the moment of his arrival in Russia, Gurji-ogly had had temporary
registration and repeatedly extended it for three years until an officer
of the local passport and visa service declared, that his personal file
was lost, and for that reason refused to renew his registration. On 13
May 2004, a judge of Belorechensk district made a decision on
Gurji-ogly’s deportation from Russia. However, he was not detained, and
his passport was declared “lost” by the district passport and visa
service. Afterwards, Gurji-ogly lived in Belorechensk district with his
family, and was repeatedly paying fines for the absence of registration. 

On 8 September 2005, the migration inspection of the Belorechensk
district took him in custody and brought him to the deportation camp
Kopanski. The officers said they were enforcing the court decision of 13
May 2004; meanwhile, this decision had expired according to the Russian
Code of Administrative Violations. On 6 December 2005, the police
quickly, without noticing the relatives put Gurji-ogly on the train
Adler - Nizhni Tagil. He had to reach Saratov, change trains and follow
to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). He was given no money and no food for the
travel, and his ticket and passport were at the conductor serving the
train. 

Gurji-ogly had to get off the train and return back. In Kyrgyzstan he
does not have either relatives or dwelling. His family remains in
Belorechensk district; he himself has to be in
hiding.

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