Crimea’s deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliyev has revealed that the Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir will be banned in the peninsula in accordance with Russian law after the Crimea was annexed by Russia.
The deputy PM said: ‘This organization is banned in Russia and should therefore be banned in Crimea as well.’
HT has been active in Crimea for over a decade, where it has held many conferences and publishes newspapers and magazines.
The organisation’s influence continues to grow within the Muslim Tatar community in the mainly Russian-populated peninsula.
Crimea has an estimated 266,000 Tatar Muslims and they make over 13% of the local population. They are all from the Turkic ethnic group, which is spread across Russia, Central Asia, China, Moldova, Turkey and Bulgaria. Ukrainians and ethnic Russians make up the remainder of the population.
During Stalin’s era the Tatars were deported to the southern fringe of the Soviet Union, more than half died during or after the journey. They were only allowed to return after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. By this time their homes had been destroyed or occupied by the locals. Their culture and religion had been erased from the landscape or Christianized.
Ever since they returned to their homeland, like other minorities in Ukraine such as the Jews, they have experienced discrimination over land rights, education and employment.
The Tatars adhere to Sunni Islam and belong to organisations allied to the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Crimea (DUMK), which has close links to the “official Islam” in Turkey. There are two reasons for this: the region was part of the Ottoman Empire and present day Turkey has a large Tatar population living within its boarders.
In recent years there has been a surge in Crimean Muslims and other Turkic people returning to Islam, as a form of identity, a culture and a form of politics.