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On 2 June, a press-conference was held at UkrInform Agency, dedicated to religion-based persecution on the occupied territories of Donbas. The reason of that gathering was shuttering od “Al-Amal” mosque in Donetsk, which remained the only acting mosque of the city after occupation. The mosque was shuttered and sealed off, with religious literature confiscated and Imams questioned by so-called “Ministry for State Security of DPR”, and were released only after having signed acknowledgement of travel restrictions. The administration, the imams and the believers were accused of ties with All-Ukrainian Association “Alraid” (which they consider as extremist), and of “stirring up national hatred”.
The participants of the press-conference (in Ukrainian and Russian, please see the full videorecording here) were Ihor Kozlovskyy, President of Centre of Religious Studies and International Spiritual Relations, Mykhailo Yakubovych, Head of Centre of Islamic Studies of National University Ostroh Academy, and Seyran Aryfov, Head of the CSUAUA “Alraid”.
Mr. Aryfov noted that the Association had, unfortunately, lost ties with Donetsk islamic Cultural Centre and “Al-Amal” mosque in 2014, due to the occupation of Donetsk. Since then, the local community functions autonomously. He stressed that the mosque, which was basically the only Muslim religious building to serve the needs of local believers that was left in the city, was accused of being pro-Ukrainian, which for them is much worse than being really extremist or terrorist.
— neither we, nor “Al-Amal”, which today is totally independent from us, have anything to do with extremism or terrorism. As for us, we will approach every International Human Rights institution. […] That (start of repressions against Muslims, — Ed.) first of all, is aimed at the public opinion, to produce fear and phobia. Me can presume that the public opinion is being prepared for bans, persecutions, arrests and imprisonment, etc.
Famous Ukrainian religious studies researcher Ihor Kozlovskyy believes, that the recent events are alarm signal. He himself was the prisoner of “DPR” for two years, and knows this terrorist group’s repressive powers firsthand:
— It reveals system approach to the believers in general, not just Muslims. It is backed by the Russian state policies, implemented by Russia’s satellites in occupied Crimea and Donbas, and this is another step to increasing repressions. [...] As for the All-Ukrainian Association “Alraid”, it consistently stood on pro-Ukrainian positions both before the war and during it. It also demonstrated social activism and stood for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and against any infringement on out land. That, no doubt, is very irritating for “the other side”, the one that’s against Ukraine, and they try to link the Association’s pro-Ukrainian positions with different problems arising on the occupied territories [...], create the face that can be easily triggered in the conscience of an average citizen. Our goal is to ruin such myths.
Religious Studies expert Mykhailo Yakubovych noted that today we see, both in Crimea and Donbass, attempts of driving out the religious organisations that operated there before the occupation, and the question remains, who is to replace them:
— Perhaps, there will be an attempt to create some “DPR Muftiate” in the nearest future, to forge representation of the local Muslims. It’s no secret that such attempts were done before; thus, several years ago, during the conference in Grozny, Russia, where they adopted the famous “Grozny Fatwa” on what sects of islam were “right” and what were “wrong”, — there was a representative of Donbas who signed the document as “Mufti of DPR”.