As the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea nears two years under Russia’s occupation, so does the repression of Crimean Tatars by occupation authorities.

Over the past month, Russian authorities have conducted dozens of raids on Crimean Tatar villages, terrorizing the population and arresting at least 13 people. Four Crimean Tatar activists continue to be held on trumped-up “terrorism” charges. Among them: Emir Hussein Kuku, a prominent human-rights defender.

Former Mejlis head Mustafa Jemilev was barred by Russian authorities from returning to Crimea in April 2014. (© AP Images)

On February 15, the “prosecutor general” in Crimea filed a request with the territory’s “supreme court” to ban the Mejlis — the Tatars’ self-governing body. The measure would make it a crime to show support for or finance the Mejlis, circulate any of its materials, or use its symbol, which is on the Crimean Tatar flag.

The Mejlis is the executive body of the Congress of the Crimean Tatar people and has publicly opposed the sham referendum that the Kremlin orchestrated in Crimea on March 16, 2014, as well as Russia’s occupation of the peninsula. Mejlis chairman Refat Chubarov has been barred from returning to Crimea, while deputy chairman Akhtem Chiygoz is faces charges at a much-criticized show trial. Russian authorities physically seized the Mejlis building from the Tatar community in September 2014.

The Mejlis “is guilty of no crime — only of protesting Russia’s occupation and repression of the Crimean Tatar people,” U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Daniel Baer said. He condemned the request to ban the Mejlis and observed that “Russia’s repression of the Tatar community in Crimea has reached a new level.”

Russia’s pattern of abuse

Russia’s repression of Crimean Tatars is not new. Since the March 2014 occupation of Crimea, Russian authorities have singled out and persecuted Crimean Tatars, forcing over 10,000 members of the native ethnic group to flee Crimea. Those who remain have been subjected to abuses, including interrogations, beatings, arbitrary detentions and police raids on their homes and mosques.

On February 4, a European Parliament resolution condemned Russian authorities’ repression of Tatars. The body called on Russia to end immediately its systematic persecution of indigenous Tatars, respect their cultural and religious rights, and release those who are illegally detained.

Baer has similarly called on Russia to dismiss its charges and release the imprisoned Tatars. He said the brutality must end, “as must Russia’s occupation of Crimea.”

Follow the Twitter conversation on Ukraine @UnitedforUkr and sign up for weekly updates at United for Ukraine.