Thursday, January 16, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Wants to Divide ‘Good’ Human Rights Groups from ‘Bad’ Ones

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 16 –Russian officials are working on an ethical “code” for human rights activists so as to able to declare who can and who cannot be involved in human rights work, a move that is both part of the general tightening of the screws under Vladimir Putin and a response to efforts by non-Russian groups to set up their own human rights organizations.

            The Duma working group for the development of social control and defense of the rights of citizens has sent a proposal to the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights and to the Social Chamber calling for a meeting next month to discuss this idea (

            According to the group, many declare themselves to be human rights activists “for public relations purposes” and “do not defense rights at all.” There must be a way to ensure that those who are not legitimately involved in human rights activities are not able to present themselves to the public as if they were.

            This is obviously another step along the road that President Vladimir Putin has been travelling to suppress such NGOs. Indeed, in many ways, it is first and foremost a logical progression from the law that required NGOs receiving money from abroad to declare themselves “foreign agents.”

                But it is also a Moscow response to the appearance of rights groups in non-Russian areas. This week, for example, activists in Kazan formed a Muslim Human Rights Center to support those accused of being extremists ( and

            The new Kazan group will have its founding congress on February 1. Its head is slated to be Almira Zhukova of Ufa who has been serving as the coordinator for the project.  She says that the center is needed because as the media have reported, many Muslims confined in jails and camps are beaten (

                Because two Tatar nationalists –Fauziya Bayramova, the head of the Milli Mejlis of the Tatar People, and Rafis Kashapov, the head of the All-Tatar Social Center (VT0Ts) – were among the founders, some Russian analysts argue that this is not about the defense of human rights but rather about defending extremism and attacking Moscow.

            Rais Suleymanov, a RISI analyst who has been a leading critic of Tatars and Muslims, for example, describes the emergence of such an organization as “paradoxical” because what he calls “Islamists from their own milieu promote “human rights defenders” for the defense of Islamists who in essence are conducting extremist activity.”

            But Bulat Mukhamedzhanov, the head of the press service of the Kazan Human Rights Center, says that he does not see “any threat from the establishment of this center.”  If its members can help even a few of those who are being mistreated in the jails and camps of the Russian Federation, that will be a positive development (

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