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Police Search Home Of Outspoken Tatar Activist

Tatar writer and activist Fauzia Bairamova (file photo)
Tatar writer and activist Fauzia Bairamova (file photo)

NABEREZHNYE CHELNY, Russia -- Police have searched the home of well-known Tatar writer and activist Fauzia Bairamova in Naberezhnye Chelny, the second-largest city in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan.

Bairamova told RFE/RL that the search conducted on March 30 was linked to her participation in the 2019 annual commemoration of Tatars fallen during the 1552 siege of the city by Russian troops.

Earlier in March, police in Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, searched the home of Farit Zakiyev, who is the chairman of the All-Tatar Public Center (TIU) and interrogated him over the annual event known as the Commemoration Day.

Several participants in the event in October 2019 were sentenced at the time to community work or fined for praying and reading the Koran and speaking about "Tatarstan's statehood."

Last month, Bairamova was fined 30,000 rubles ($395) after a court in Naberzhnye Chelny found her guilty of calling for the violation of the Russian Federation's territorial integrity in a speech at the TIU event last year.

Bairamova pleaded not guilty, insisting that the translation of her speech at the event from Tatar into Russian contained errors, which distorted the essence of what she said.

In 2010, Bairamova was handed a one-year suspended prison term on a charge of inciting ethnic hatred with her words. Four years later, she received another one-year suspended sentence for public statements condemning Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

NGOs and activists in Russia's national republics and regions that are involved in promoting ethnic cultures, languages, and equal rights for indigenous groups have been under pressure in recent years.

Zakiyev held a hunger strike in February to protest a motion by prosecutors to label his organization extremist and to shut it down. A court decision on the prosecutors' motion is pending.

The situation mirrors similar developments in the neighboring Republic of Bashkortostan, where last year a court banned a prominent Bashqort group that had long promoted the Bashkir language and culture, after labeling it extremist.

Both TIU and Bashqort activists have been under pressure over the past few years after staging several rallies and other events challenging the policies of local and federal authorities, including Moscow's move to abolish mandatory indigenous-language classes in regions with large populations of native ethnic groups.