devastation of bodies



Spiral № 1.  The devastation of bodies:

During one of the most large-scale and hence one of the most well-known deportations of Crimean Tatars in 1944, people peeked out of overcrowded train carriages in order to get a breath of air or brought to the windows those unable to move by themselves. An officer, strolling by the carriages with a couple of soldiers, kept asking the same question: “Any bodies?” Colonial violence reduces people to bodies, with the only difference between them consisting in whether they are alive or dead. The “bodies” most frequently belonged to children and the elderly. The dead were thrown into hollows near railway lines (Williams). During deportations, Crimean Tatars did not even have the opportunity to bury their dead, and those who died on the way were reduced to “roadkill”, i.e. to “inevitable” victims of the operations of colonial infrastructure, resulting from its very structure.

Dehumanisation is a specific tactic of colonialism – it reduces human lives to parts of the landscape, which could then be managed and disposed at will from the point of view of the vertical imperial gaze. In an interview given to the GULAG museum, Sevilya Izidinova says, referring to research conducted by her husband, Sabri Izidinov: “In 1945, 300 Crimean Tatars who had served in the army, war heroes with medals, returned to Crimea, came to the garrison headquarters, threw their medals on the table and said: 'Why did you deport our families? Why did you do that? What kinds of traitors are we?' I don't know how exactly it came to be, but they were gathered in one building and all burnt down.” The “Avdet” newspaper cites data concerning the executions of Crimean Tatar war veterans and accounts of eyewitnesses.

The methods of Soviet postwar government towards Crimean Tatars did not significantly differ from the methods of imperial field-marshals of the XVIII century. In 1736 field-marshal Münnich has “completely burned down settlements in the steppes” and a year later field-marshal Lacy did the same in submontane areas, to which a part of Crimean Tatars had relocated. Little has changed since the middle of the XVIII century. The policy of genocide regarding Crimean Tatars, formulated in 1771 as part of the political vision of Russia to “with that very same victorious arms of ours … entirely destroy them in their very being and completely devastate their lands, as they are a kind of people, from whom no use or benefit could be drawn” , has remained the same for three centuries, with burnings transforming into, in effect, life sentences.

On the 11th of July the Supreme Court in Moscow held hearings in the case of “Hizb-ut-Tahrir” – a Muslim organisation, which is prohibited in Russia and the members of which are accused of terrorism. Many journalists and activists were not allowed to enter the courtroom and were forced to sit in the corridors and police vans (44 people were arrested that day in front of the courthouse), watching the events unfolding in the neighbouring room on a bluish screen. Enver Mamutov, Remzi Memetov, Rustem Albitarov and Zevri Abseitov, sentenced to 7 to 19 years for frame-up terrorist cases, were not brought to Moscow; they took part in the hearings via constantly malfunctioning videoconference. The voices of Crimean Tatars, faced with state Islamophobia, turned into noises. Thus they were not merely deprived of their freedom, but also of their speech. Similarly, according to Emil Kurbedinov, the word “suhbet,”, meaning “conversation” in Crimean Tatar, “was turned into a terrorist word”. An analogous policy is reproduced in the arrests of Muslims due to “forbidden literature” found (or planted) in their homes – where “forbidden literature” means Muslim religious and political texts. Hence, for those whom an Islamophobic government proclaims to be terrorists, conferring upon them long sentences comparable to life in jail, it is impossible to say something in their own defence – and this is not a technical mishap, but a part of the endlessly tightening spirals of colonial oppression.

Emil Kurbedinov, a lawyer, says in his comment to OVD-info: “I have, since childhood, heard tales of our elders about how we got labelled as traitors, of how the national movement of Crimean Tatars had fought to return to their homeland and now we face a new label – that of 'terrorists'.”