One Week after Mosques in Crimea Set on Fire: Perpetrators Still Not Found
This year's celebration of Eid al-Adha will definitely be memorable for Crimean Muslims. And this is not because of the magnitude of the holiday or the religious enthusiasm that filled the souls of the believers, but because of a scandal. Fires in two mosques in Saky and the Krasnohvardiyskiy district that occurred with an interval of two days shook the public and generated numerous publications in the media.
Let’s recall the timeline.
October 13, about 9:30 p.m. a fire was discovered in the central mosque of Saky. It took two fire brigades an hour to extinguish the flames. No one was injured, and as for the religious structure, several areas were damaged.
The following day the police reported that experts collected material from the scene and will determine the cause of the fire. At the stage of investigation, the police launched criminal proceedings under Part 2 of Article 194 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – Willful Destruction or Damage to Property. But Emirasan Umerov, the Chief Imam of Saky and Kezlev, the very next day after the incident described the cause to be arson. He made the conclusion from the traces that remained after the fire.
Less than two days later, on October 15, in the village of Rovnoe in the Krasnohvardiyskiy district, at about 4 o'clock in the morning a fire was discovered in the prayer room of the local mosque. This time, the fire brigade was not called, but an appeal was sent to the police. Imam Arsene Yahliyev said that the fire was found by believers who stopped it from spreading to a larger area. The fire damaged the floor and eight Korans.
The police launched criminal proceedings similar to the ones in Saky.
When asked whether these events are linked, the leaders of the Crimean Tatars have given a definite answer – yes. At a specially assembled press conference titled “Fire in the Mosques of Crimea: A Test of Tolerance or the Beginning of a Large-Scale Provocation in Crimea?” first deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Refat Chubarov, called the events that took place “terrorist acts.” In particular, he stressed that “the nature of terrorism is to intimidate society. The aim pursued by the criminals is obvious. The goal of the instigators is to introduce distrust into society...to carry out actions that will transform this distrust into hatred.”
According to the Crimean Tatar leader, the police are able to solve these “crimes,” and the government of the peninsula should make a statement to calm the residents of Crimea and prevent escalation. Refat Chubarov urged the Muslims not be provoked by the actions.
The leadership of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea (SBMC) addressed the faithful with a similar statement. In the published address it listed numerous problems that exist in relations with local authorities concerning the allocation of land for the construction of mosques and the disrespectful treatment of Muslim burial places and other religious sites. However, the SBMC believes that these events should not provoke the aggression of believers and urges Muslims to remain calm.
The total damage done to the mosque in Saky, according to the Muslims, is worth about 500,000 hryvnias. Funds for its restoration are already being collected. The announcement of this along with the account number for the collection was posted on the site the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea.
It will certainly contribute to settling the situation if the “arsonists” are detained, that is, if the commission recognizes that the fire was started by outsiders. But the police still keep silent on the progress of the investigation. Instead, a meeting of senior officers from all parts of the peninsula was held. At the meeting, the offices argued that “stability in the region depends largely on efficient and competent police work.”
Let’s see how it will continue. But so far no organization has taken responsibility for the burning of the mosques. Longtime opponents of the Mejlis, pro-Russian organizations vied to repudiate the claim of “arson.” Without naming names, they directed criticism at those who, in their opinion, have lost confidence in the Crimean Tatar community and are trying to restore authority this way. However, it should be noted that prior to these events, namely on October 11, leaders of the Russian Community of Crimea held a press conference in Simferopol titled “Threats to the Stability of Peace in Crimea.” The main threats, according to speakers, are “Ukrainian nationalists and radical Muslim sects.” They, according to the “Russian countrymen,” want to create in Crimea “‘hot’ spots on the political map of Europe.”
Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea Anatoliy Mogilev in a comment to the program “Extraordinary News” said that he already had a talk with the head of Internal Affairs of the peninsula on the events that occurred. “I suspect who is behind this, but I do not want to say. It requires proof. Our law enforcement officers are working on this. They have to give an assessment,” said the official.
The deputy opposition leader Hennadiy Moskal in an interview with Crimean news agency QHA suggested that local authorities were informed about the burning of mosques: “Imagine if something similar happened in western Ukraine, if Orthodox churches were burned. Probably the regional council would have convened, there would have been appeals, the chief of the Regional Police Department, the public prosecutor, and head of the Regional State Administration would have made statements. In Crimea you have silence and grace ...Crimea is the most vulnerable part of Ukraine. If the Crimean authorities are so quiet and calm it means they knew it was going to happen.”
So for now the two assertions are almost an axiom in assessing the situation: it is arson, which was aimed at destabilizing the situation in the peninsula. However, the question “who is to blame” remains unanswered.
At a press conference the leaders of the Mejlis gave police officers two weeks to find the perpetrators. Otherwise, they promised to consider the police to be the main destabilizing force in the peninsula.