21 January 2009-01-25

Irek Bikkinin

As already reported by Azatlyk, at the beginning of January, Russian security service agents searched for severals hours the apartment of Fauziya Bayramova, Chairwoman of Milli Mejlis (National Council) in the Chally City (Republic of Tatarstan). The search warrant was hastily issued by the court on 02 January 2009 even without waiting for the end of the holiday season. Similar searches took place at the apartments of several other members of Milli Mejlis and in the offices of three other Tatar organizations.

Fauziya Bayramova visited Mordovia these days and Irek Bikkinin, an Azatlyk journalist, met with her and asked her about the reasons for persecution of Milli Mejlis leadership.

Bayramova: Declarations, announcements and appeals proclaiming that the Tatar people must be independent have been made since Perestroika (Restructuring). The Supreme Soviet (Counnil) proclaimed the same and adopted a declaration. Tatar Public Centre, Milli Mejlis, Ittifaq parties have always adopted such memoranda and announcements.

Abroad, not much attention was given to our announcements. Anyway, we appealed several times asking “to recognize our independence and the fact that, without its own independent state, the Tatar people was moving towards its end”, but for some reason nobody paid any attention to us.

Not only that, in the 90-ies, both in the European countries and in America, we were constantly being persuaded: “do not obstruct building of democracy in Russia, there will be democracy in Russia, together you will be a democratic country”. However, 20 years have gone by and both foreigners and nations inside Russia have understood very well that Russia, unable to remain even in its present condition, is heading towards fascism.

Here, murder of representatives of other nations, extermination of their languages, religions, traditions and history are taking place on the state level. Not even on the level of separate individuals. Less numerous peoples have resigned to this, some of them are not saying anything and are looking at us.

However, we, the Tatar people, with its dozens of independent states in its history, with its dozens of heroes, with its amazing to the entire world epic poems, literary masterpieces, with its great culture and life in Islam, of course, can not agree with this. We can not agree with this, i.e. with disappearing. That’s why, having recalled the Declaration, we made an appeal, foreign countries paid attention to us, it is necessary to speak the truth.

This appeal of ours, i.e. our appeal to recognize Tatarstan’s independence, appeared on many Internet sites, was published in a lot of newspapers, was part of many TV programs in the US, Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia. Even the UN came out to confirm this.

Initially, Russia didn’t pay attention to this: oh well, it’s one of those groups, they will talk and talk about this and then will stop. Russia saw that the situation had become very serious, but it is them who showed us the example now by recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Now we only show their own methods to them, here, you’ve shown the way to us. I think that when Russia understood that the situation had become very serious, it decided to apply measures to us.

I think that opening this criminal case is not only against Fauziya Bayramova and her adherents, they opened the criminal case against the entire Tatarstan Repubic, which had proclaimed independence, against the Tatar people, who want to be independent, because we said our word on behalf of the Tatar people. Milli Mejlis said it, scholars said it, writers said it, previous patriots said it.

And they relied on the Declaration of Independence. We relied on the results of the referendum. This criminal case was opened against the entire Tatar people. I think that is should be looked upon like this. I can’t say now what the end will be, which way will be chosen by Tatarstan’s leadership, whether Tatarstan’s intellectuals will rise, whether the Tatar people will understand that the ongoing struggle is for whether it will live or disappear. Only God knows this. But anyway we need to move, to explain to the people.

Fauziya, how did the search of your apartment, taking away of your things take place? Did you expect this to happen or not?

Bayramova: Of course it was rather unexpected to me. I was sitting and working on my computer. In a very rude fashion, shouting and screaming, beginning with a lie “we have come to check your gas, this and that”, they told me “Open!” And I never open, especially to male strangers.

After that, they began knocking on the door, invited the Ministry for Extreme Situations specialists, threatened that “if you don’t open, we shall break in using a saw”. After suffering like this for half-an-hour, my husband arrived from the external side of the door, and after he said: “Open, anyway, they will break in, they have a court decision on their hands!” – I, of course, opened the door. It was very difficult for me, both from the physical and moral sides. All my work stopped, all my daily routine got disrupted.

Especially, after they took away my computer. Nowadays, nobody writes by hand, all the archive materials are in the computer. All my novels, all my personal letters, all my scholarly works, my Masters thesis, my PhD thesis, which I had just begun to write, hundreds of articles were all gone too. Now some man’s hand is touching them, some man’s eye is seeing them. I didn’t want it, not because there is something clandestine there, but because, for example, I didn’t want anybody to read my personal letters.

Many things were taken away from my comrades, from my supporters, 5 bags full of their things were taken away from each of them, while from me, for example, only 2 bags full of my things were taken away. Now we count archives by the bag, laugh if you want to laugh, cry if you want to cry, as the saying goes. So there are 5 of us here. They are Bayramova’s 5 supporters, I counted 5 people together with my husband.

Many national movement organizations, 3 national movements have been searched, dozens of computers have been taken away from them as well. They opened a case against us “for distributing materials inciting conflict among peoples via the Internet”, and now after the interrogations I’ve understood from my comrades and prosecutor’s office people that they treat us as the ones wanting to destroy constitutional order.

We by any means don’t want to destroy Russia’s constitutional order, we want to restore our own Tatar statehood. Here they said that they had recognized Abkhazia without destroying Georgia state’s wholeness. And we want to restore Tatarstan state’s independence without destroying Russian state’s wholeness.

Mrs. Fauziya, how did you feel during those searches? After them, how did you manage to pull your strength together, what were you doing?

Bayramova: When they came, though I wasn’t feeling well, I persuaded myself to calm down, did two cycles of prayer and asked Allah for help, I behaved very calmly with them, even to my own surprise. I showed my photos, books, archives to them, even signed and gave books to them.

My shock began after they had been gone. After they had been gone, I began thinking, - wait, what is it that had happened here? I am a person well-known to the nation, a writer, an author of 31 books, a woman that has reached her 60th Birthday, I pray, have an MA in History, am a political figure, a former deputy. The most difficult thing is not that they stormed in, because they are a security service, FSB, they have always stormed in, taken away and imprisoned.

The hardest was to recognize this: Tatarstan’s leaders, who are Tatars just like us, blessed this, understanding this was the hardest. Wait, I said, let me go myself to Kazan. I wrote a letter to Shaymiev on 3 pages and, on the 7th of January, I went to the Kremlin to look for Shaymiev.

Of course, I could not find Shaymiev there. I asked to pass on this letter to Shaymiev through the President’s apparatus. The letter was passed on to him. Then we wrote another letter, and that letter was also handed over into Shaymiev’s hands by the State Council deputies. Having done so, I calmed down a little bit and thought: wait, let me go to the regions, meet with our Tatar patriots, religious figures and calm down a little bit.

I went to Sary Tau. But before I got there, news about me reached there, it scared the people living there, as if I went there to divide land, as if I went there to stage a revolution. Some people received me very nicely, some people went into hiding from Sary Tau. After staying here for 3 days I understood, felt that I was putting people in a difficult condition, spoke about this only with my supporters and, having returned to Kazan, organized a press-conference.

I conducted press-conferences in the editorial departments of two newspapers – “Vatanym Tatarstan” and “Tatarstan yashlere”. It turned out that even journalists don’t understand many things, they were surprised and shocked. If I am imprisoned, I said, in the first days I will announce a hunger-strike, please know that. In case I die, I said, this will be their job, I would never commit suicide, because I am a true Muslim.

At “Vatanym Tatarstan” I was asked the following question: “Mrs. Fauziya, you know these people’s methods, they can put you to jail just like in 1937, don’t you have an intention to leave for some other country?” I said that if I went to Turkey on that day, they would give me citizenship the same day. I have no doubt about this, because I am connected to people at the highest levels there. However, I won’t go, because my comrades are here, according to this case I am the Chairwoman of Milli Mejlis, these people follow me, of course I won’t abandon and leave them. Whether they will imprison me or will leave me free, this is in the hands of Allah I believe. Until that I can’t make long-term planning. After that I went to see the Tatar Congress. However, I didn’t find too much of a defense at the high level of the Tatar Congress. And I didn’t ask them about defense. Nevertheless, they didn’t even try to understand my situation.

After that, I did my prayers in the Kazan Mosques, in Kol Sharif, in the Nurullah Mosque, decided to go to Mordovia, because I know that my fellow Tatars here are strong in their faith, brave Tatars, who are not afraid, who don’t shake with fear because one woman said “independence”. I will calm down a little bit and my faith will become stronger.

And I did the right thing by coming here, I get inspired by religious books, historical books, can speak here without fear. But this time around I don’t want to go to big meetings and to put people in difficult situations, but I can meet with people with whom I want to meet.

And now ahead of me is the planned continuation of my trip to the Samara region, because my life doesn’t consist only of sorrow, I also have joys. My book called “The Land of Turan” has just been published. In this “The Land of Turan” book there is some absolutely new information regarding the Samara region in the form of an historical essay called “Czar’s Hill And The Tatar History”. I was intending to show this article as part of the presentation of my book to the Samara Tatars, to organize a meeting. Before this situation. But I can’t disrupt my plans just because a criminal case has been opened.

And after that, my return to Chally and appearance in court are awaiting me…

Translated by Murat Hajji Misheri.

E-mail: irek@moris.ru