More than a hundred people demonstrated opposite the Russian Embassy in Kensington against the arrests and harassment of Muslims in Russia by the security agencies and calling for the immediate release of Sidikova Ganevna. London, UK. 18 June 2011
The protest, organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, was a part of an international campaign by Hizb ut-Tahrir to expose the oppression of Muslims in Russia and comes after a number of recent incidents. A simultaneous demonstration was taking place at the Russian embassy in Brussels, and there have been earlier protests in Jordan, Australia, Turkey and Indonesia.
Sidikova Ganevna was taken from her Moscow home on May 19 without being allowed to inform anyone of her arrest and her three children were placed in an orphanage. Her husband had been arrested in December 2010 and charged with membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir; her arrest is thought to be an attempt to get him to make a confession to various untrue allegations.
The Russian Supreme Court banned Hizb ut-Tahrir in 2003 as a terrorist organisation, and there have been numerous arrests since then. In 2007, 12 Muslims were imprisoned for attempting the violent overthrow of the state in a trial in which the only evidence against them was thier possession of Islamic literature, mainly that published by Hizb ut-Tahrir in 2003. Osman Bakhash, Director of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut-Tahrir last month claimed “The world over knows very well that Hizb ut Tahrir does not condone violence, nor has it ever resorted to any violence whatsoever in its long record as a political party”, although its global leader since 2003, Ata Abu-Rishta, called for the “destruction” of various groups, including the Russians in Chechnya, in a speech broadcast on the BBC in 2006. However despite the rhetoric and the uncomprising attitudes of the organisation there seems to be little or no hard evidence linking it to any actual violence.
Various groups, including the Russian Human Rights Institute comment that repression against Muslims – roughly one seventh of the Russian population is increasing in Russia, at least in part as a deliberate policy against separatists in Chechnya, and that anti-terrorism operations by the state are creating large numbers of innocent victims who are left with no legal means of defence.
Last month security agents in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan and one of the largest cities in Russia – over a million people, with a little under half Muslim – made a number of raids and arrests in Muslim households, harassing and arresting a number of Muslim women.
Among those who were searched, verbally abused and physically threatened was Elmira Yonnerova who was 8 months pregnant, and under the stress of the search in danger of losing her child. Other women were threatened with the removal of their children to orphanages and knives and other weapons were waved at their faces.
The searches appear to have been mainly aimed at finding unlawful written material, particular any produced by Hizb ut-Tahrir, or of any other material linking them to this proscribed organisation.
The demonstration was still continuing when I left after around an hour as torrential rain was falling.