All my adult life I knew exactly what my country looked like. And then it turned out that you could easily tear off a piece of it. You could wear a military uniform without identification marks, imitate a referendum and convince people that everything would be better. In 2014 “Crimean referendum” depended on the political vector recognize different countries of the world. As Vladimir Putin said, Crimea has been “returned to its native harbor”. For citizens of Ukraine this is a time of deep despair, confusion, anger to themselves and the state of an absolute lack of understanding what was happening. Five years have passed, and even for a hint that Crimea was impossible to return, you would be publicly criticized. Although this situation is quite clear to everyone. Every year fences become higher, Russian flags – bigger, posters of Putin – more colorful.
Ten thousand Crimean people left their homeland and moved to mainland Ukraine. The UN refugee agency reported that most of them were Crimean Tatars, and a third of them were children. Forcing to change passports, threats, searches, pressure and persecution forced people to leave their homes. Many of them had been built stone by stone for the last 20 years after the returning from Stalin’s deportation. The remaining dissenting and uncomfortable Crimean Tatars, veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement, deeply religious Muslims, pro-Ukrainian activists, members of the Crimean Tatar Majlis were pressed by the new government.
The loudest case against “terrorists” on the Russian Federation territory, the “Hizb ut-Tahrir case”, hard hit for the residents of Crimea. More than a hundred Crimean Muslims are in places of detention. Some of them were convicted and transferred, or are preparing to this, to colonies on the territory of mainland Russia. Other are waiting for the decision of the military court in Rostov-on-Don. In Russia “Hizb ut-Tahrir” organization is banned and recognized as terrorist. However, in Crimea it’s not even necessary to be a supporter of the ideas of this party to fall into disfavor to the state security services. It’s enough to discuss at home in the kitchen or in the garage topics of a concern to even an apolitical Muslim: the meaning of life or everyday rituals. Large families of prisoners were left alone with reality: the lack of a breadwinner and the stigma of the terrorist’s relatives. This project is about them, about relatives of the political prisoners, not only the “Hizb ut-Tahrir case”, but also other less famous cases from the Crimea, whose life has changed dramatically one morning after the search.
“They said that they would take my father for three minutes, to sign the documents. We have been waiting for him for three years”, Diliaver said, the son of Remzi Memetov, who was arrested in May 2016 in Bakhchysarai. His father was sentenced to 9 years in prison for “participating in organizing a coup d’état and membership in a terrorist organization”, in fact, for religious conversations in a neighbor’s garage. The neighbor, the “organizer of the cell of terrorists”, Enver Mamutov, was sentenced to 18 years. He is the father of seven minor children. This story is about their life, daily small battles with the Russian court system in the revealingly exultant new Russian Crimea, which looks more like a Potemkin village then a successful political decision of the century.