Staunton, June 24 – Hundreds of Muslims are now confined in Russian prisons and camps on trumped up charges of extremism. Many of them are subject to the worst forms of torture and abuse. Some of them have even been killed by their jailors. But little will change unless Muslims outside these institutions protest, Pyatimat Yusupova says.
Yusupova whose own brother was killed by prison guards whose convictions for abuse she ultimately achieved says she never intended to become an activist but ultimately concluded that she had to work with other Muslim activists to ensure that her fellow believers would not continue to suffer (kavkazr.com/a/31321845.html).
This is an uphill battle, she says, because most Russians simply assume that anyone behind bars is guilty of a crime and deserves whatever treatment he receives. They do not recognize that many prisoners have been convicted on the basis of false charges, and the prison authorities, along with Russian officialdom want to keep things that way.
The activist says that she and her colleagues do not take up the cases of those convicted of genuine crimes like murder and armed robbery. Instead, they focus on those charged with “extremism” or illegal missionary activity, two rubrics under which a large share of Muslims in prison have been convicted. Most if not all such charges are political acts, not legal ones.
It should be enough to call the attention of more senior jail officials to the illegal actions of their subordinates, Yusupova says; but that is almost never the case. These senior people either refuse to meet with protesters or deny that the rank and file jailors are guilty of anything. What is necessary is to protest in public and via the Internet. That works more often.
One category of Muslim prisoners she and her group do not get involved with are those who have been convicted of going to fight in Syria or Iraq. Such people show that they are not ready to live in a peaceful way. “But in the race for advancement,” many in the legal system charge that Muslims have done so even when they haven’t. That must be clarified.
It is important to remember that in the camps, prisoners do not so much separate into Muslims and Christians on their own. Instead, this is largely the result of the efforts of the jailors, Yusupova says. Jailors mistreat the Muslims so as to win points with the Christians and to suggest that the latter are somehow superior.
And they mistreat Muslims in the most hyperbolic ways, taking prayer rugs away from them and serving only pork during Ramadan. This may not be true everywhere, she says; but it is the case in all the prisons and prison camps she and her colleagues have visited. Now, because of a shortage of resources, her group doesn’t make visits but keeps in touch via other means.
Muslim prisoners across the Russian Federation are thus at risk of mistreatment, but the worst cases, Yusupova says and other rights activists confirm, are to be found in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Daghestan where Muslim prisoners are regularly tortured, particularly if they try to complain (kavkazr.com/a/30866347.html).
As a result, it is becoming ever more difficult to learn the truth about what is going on behind bars but ever more probable that Russian jailors feel even freer than they did to abuse Muslim prisoners, with most certain that no one will find out what they are doing and nothing will happen to them if anyone does.
If Russia is to become a law-based state, that must change, Yusupova says.