Archive for December 11, 2014


August 28, 2014

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s powerful military returned to the political arena on Thursday, agreeing to mediate between the government and protesters who have camped out in the capital for two weeks demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over alleged voting fraud.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who have led parallel anti-government protests, met with army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif late Thursday after saying they had agreed to his role as “mediator and guarantor” in talks with the premier.

The move marks a tentative return to politics for the military barely a year after Sharif became prime minister in Pakistan’s first democratic transfer of power. The country has a long history of political turmoil and military interventions in politics, and Sharif himself was removed from office during a previous stint as prime minister in a military coup in 1999.

This time around, he has sought to assert his independence from the military with friendly policies toward Pakistan’s longtime rival India and an attempt to negotiate peace with Taliban insurgents, which made little progress.

His decision to bring treason charges against the former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who overthrew him in 1999, is believed to have angered the military. But his main challenge over the past two weeks has come from the protests, which at their height brought tens of thousands of people into the capital’s so-called Red Zone, where they camped outside parliament and demanded he resign over alleged fraud in last year’s election.

Pakistani Defense Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif welcomed the offer of mediation, which came after the premier asked the military to broker talks. “I think we should view it positively that the army is playing a constitutional and legal role,” he told Pakistan’s GeoNews TV.

It was not immediately clear whether the military would be able to broker a deal. After the meeting, Khan said the general told him the army would guarantee an independent and impartial judicial probe into the allegations of vote fraud. But Khan said he “made it clear” that “there can’t be an independent investigation so long as Nawaz Sharif is prime minister.”

The decision to invite the army to mediate came after direct talks with the two protest leaders collapsed earlier Thursday, with Qadri, a popular Pakistani-Canadian cleric, saying he had “shut the door” on further talks with the government.

It also came after police filed charges of abetting murder against the prime minister and others over the killing of 14 Qadri supporters during clashes with police in June in the eastern city of Lahore. The police accepted the charges following a complaint by Qadri’s Minhaj-ul-Quran organization.

The criminal case names 20 other defendants, including Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz, who serves as chief minister of the eastern Punjab province, as well as other ministers and police officers, said police officer Sharif Sindhu.

The prime minister enjoys immunity as long as he remains in office, and has refused to step down. The anti-government demonstrations initially paralyzed Islamabad. In recent days they have fizzled out, though the crowds outside parliament still surge in the evenings.

The entry of the military raised hopes the crisis might soon be resolved but also alarm among some activists. “Now, we all know who rules Pakistan,” political commentator Asma Jehangir told DawnNews TV.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Zaheer Babar in Lahore contributed to this report.

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07.12.2014

Basnews

Karzan Sabah Hawrami

ANBAR

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the leader of Sunni tribes in Anbar province and the head of the Awakening Movement, has urged the international community to give military support to Iraqi Sunnis fighting Islamic State militants in the northern Iraqi province of Anbar.

The sheikh, who the US supported to set up the Awakening Movement against extremist groups in Iraq in 2007, has called for support for Sunni militants fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq.

Abu Risha is unhappy that his Sunnis have been neglected by international powers in the fight against IS, saying that while Iran is helping Shiite militia groups and the international community supports Kurdish Peshmerga forces, no one is arming Sunni militants.

He also said that although some Arab countries have shown willingness to help the Sunnis, the support must come via the Iraqi government.

“European countries have sent weapons to Peshmerga forces and Iran helps the Shiite militia groups, yet no one supports Sunnis and Islamic State militants have put Anbar province under a great deal of pressure,” added Abu Risha.

Meanwhile, the head of Anbar Province Council, Sabah Karol has told BasNews that they have asked Arab countries to send them military aid so they can fight the extremist group.

Following recent attacks by IS insurgents in northern Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, a number of western countries including the US, UK, France and Germany sent military support to Kurds and the Iranian army has supported Shiite militia groups in re-taking some towns in northern Iraq.

Source: Bas News.

Link: http://basnews.com/en/news/2014/12/07/abu-risha-calls-for-military-support-for-anti-is-sunni-militants/.

Mon Dec 8, 2014

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to make teaching of Ottoman language compulsory in high schools.

Speaking at a religious council meeting in the capital, Ankara, on Monday, Erdogan underscored the necessity of Ottoman lessons as a way to restore Turkey’s severed ties with its “roots,” noting that the majority of Turkish people are unable to read the tombstones of their ancestors.

“There are those who do not want this to be taught. This is a great danger. Whether they like it or not, the Ottoman language will be learnt and taught in this country,” Erdogan stated.

At the weekend, Turkey’s National Education Council, mainly composed of members backed by the Erdogan administration, voted in favor of making Ottoman classes compulsory at religious high schools and an option at regular high schools.

Ottoman Turkish was used as the administrative language of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire. In 1928, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, abolished the Ottoman language and replaced its alphabet with a Latin one.

Erdogan described the abolition of Ottoman language as cutting Turkey’s “jugular veins,” saying, “It is a disaster that this nation, which had superior scientific qualities, has lost its wisdom.”

The Turkish president expressed regret over the fact that Ottoman language can be studied in Germany, while “unfortunately this isn’t the case here (Turkey).”

Critics say the new plan is aimed at rolling back Ataturk’s secular reforms.

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, warned that such measures seek to prevent children from “questioning the world.”

“They want to turn Turkey into a medieval country, but they will never succeed.”

Supporters of the plan, however, argue that compulsory Ottoman language lessons are necessary for the Turkish nation to maintain its links to the past after Ataturk’s radical reforms.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/12/08/389333/turkey-plans-to-revive-ottoman-language/.

Wednesday, 03 December 2014

ISTANBUL – With almost a million students joining Islamic schools this year, reflecting a sharp rise in Islamic schooling system in Turkey, education officials have also  taken measures to create more places for imam hatip schools, a move criticized by secular parents.

“We are against the governance of education by religious rules,” Ilknur Birol, spokeswoman for the “Don’t Touch My School” initiative, an umbrella grouping for angry parents, told Reuters on Tuesday, December 2.

“This system is not rooted in youth with a forward-looking perspective enlightened by science, but in a generation that values obedience.”

This school year, 2014-2015, about a million students have enrolled to join imam hatip schools, marking a sharp increase from only 65,000 in 2002 when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first came to power.

The schools teach boys and girls separately, and give around 13 hours a week of Islamic instruction on top of the regular curriculum, including study of Arabic, the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

“When there is no such thing as religious culture and moral education, serious social problems such as drug addiction and racism fill the gap,” Erdogan told a symposium on drug policy and public health earlier this year.

Facing dilemma to create more imam hatip places, education officials have requisitioned parts of schools along with new buildings constructed to serve students.

The move, however, prompted protests from parents who want secular education for their children.

Filiz Gurlu, a parent at the Kadir Rezan Has school in Istanbul, protested the conversion of one of the school’s two buildings to imam hatip facilities.

“The library, laboratory, computer and music rooms were in the confiscated part, so the kids don’t have access anymore,” she said.

“Some classrooms have barely enough space … This is an unplanned move, kids just can’t simply fit in.”

Change for the Better

Rejecting parents’ criticism, imam hatip school officials confirmed that the changes were made based on people’s demand.

Speaking to Reuters, Huseyin Korkut, head of the imam hatip alumni association, said there was strong demand for imam hatip schools, according to surveys made in Kayseri, Konya and Erzurum provinces.

He said the body had urged the government to conduct a nationwide survey.

Isik Tuzun, a coordinator at the Education Reform Initiative, a think-tank at Istanbul’s Sabanci University, rejected his argument.

“Changes in school types were decided by local bureaucrats in a rather arbitrary manner,” he said.

“(It) has definitely been rushed.”

Nevertheless, reforms under the AK Party were seen as redressing the balance after decades of secularist rule.

Religious middle schools were shut in 1997 under pressure from the secularist military after an Islamist-led government was pushed from power.

A secularist government later tried to undermine religious schools by tweaking university entrance exam grading to make it more difficult for their pupils to gain access.

“Those were truly hurtful days. I hope God never makes us live through days like those again,” Erdogan told the school opening last month.

Primary school students no longer recite a deeply nationalistic vow at the start of each week beginning with the words “I am Turk”, a legacy of Ataturk.

University entrance grading was revised in 2011 so imam hatip pupils were no longer disadvantaged, and a ban on the Islamic headscarf in middle schools was lifted last year.

The Turkish model of Imam Hatip schools is fusion of Islamic and modern education as it contains as much arts and science classes as normal high schools do.

Originally founded to educate Muslim imams in the 1920s, the imam Hatip syllabus devotes only around 40 percent of study to religious subjects like Arabic, Islamic jurisprudence and rhetoric. The rest is given over to secular topics.

The network has incubated the elite of the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party which came to power in Turkey in 2002.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who went on to study economics — and around one third of his party’s MPs attended imam hatip schools.

Apart from secularists’ anger, education experts asserted that the past decade under Erdogan’s AK Party has witnessed an improvement in average test scores for 15-year-olds.

“Turkey still has a long way to catch up with the industrialized world in education,” Andreas Schleicher, an education expert at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said.

“But if you just look at the amount of change that has happened, both on quality and equity, that’s still remarkable.”

Source: OnIslam.

Link: http://onislam.net/english/news/europe/480369-islamic-schools-angers-turkey-secularists.html.

December 10, 2014

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian Cabinet member died Wednesday after a scuffle with Israeli troops during a West Bank protest, and images of an Israeli officer grabbing the 55-year-old by the throat before he collapsed quickly stirred Palestinian anger at a time of badly strained relations with Israel.

An autopsy has yet to determine what killed Ziad Abu Ain, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called him the victim of a “clear crime” and a “barbaric act.” He decreed three days of mourning for the minister, whose portfolio included organizing protests against Israeli settlements and the West Bank separation barrier.

The incident threatened to further inflame tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Calls grew for Abbas to suspend security coordination with Israel — a policy that has become the cornerstone of relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the absence of peace talks.

Abbas met with officials from his Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization late Wednesday to consider a response and said all options were open. In the session, Abbas held up a photo of the Israeli officer grabbing Abu Ain’s throat. Palestinians circulated the photo on social media under the hashtag #ICantBreathe — drawing a link to the death of an unarmed black man after being placed into a chokehold by a white police officer in New York.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the military was ready to investigate the incident jointly with Palestinian officials, and an Israeli pathologist was to attend an autopsy, along with Palestinian and Jordanian doctors.

The United States called for a “swift, fair and transparent” inquiry into the incident. “At this difficult time, we continue to call on both sides to work to lower tensions and prevent an escalation of violence,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged restraint, amid fears the minister’s death could lead to a further deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations, already at a low point after failed U.S.-led peace efforts.

Ban said he was “deeply saddened” by the death, while Mogherini said “reports of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces are extremely worrying.” The Israeli military said it was sending two battalions of soldiers and two companies of paramilitary border police to the West Bank as reinforcements.

The day’s events began around mid-morning when several dozen Palestinians, including Abu Ain, marched from the West Bank village of Turmus Aya toward an unauthorized Israeli settlement outpost, Adei-Ad. They planned to plant olive tree saplings on land belonging to one of the villagers, who has repeatedly been barred from reaching his property by Israeli troops citing concern about frictions with the settlers, participants said.

Several dozen soldiers and members of the paramilitary border police blocked the marchers, firing tear gas and stun grenades, according to Palestinian witnesses and members of Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group that joined the protest.

Eventually, marchers and troops faced each other, scuffling and shouting. Abu Ain, who was at the forefront of the group, told reporters: “We came to our Palestinian land to plant some olive trees and they attacked us immediately. No one threw a stone or attacked them, but this terrorist army is attacking us.”

At one point a border policeman grabbed the Palestinian minister by the throat and pushed him, according to an Associated Press photographer. Other witnesses said a soldier also pushed a rifle butt into Abu Ain’s chest.

Several minutes later, a pale-faced Abu Ain was seen sitting on the ground, then leaning back against a large rock, his right hand clutching his heart. A bystander tried to help him, patting his back and getting him to sit up, before Abu Ain slumped backward.

An aide, Abu Sassaka, said an Israeli soldier administered first aid to Abu Ain before protesters carried him away. An ambulance later took him to Ramallah Hospital and he died en route, Abu Sassaka said.

The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted relatives of Abu Ain as saying he suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure. The Israeli military said that about 200 “rioters” had gathered in Turmus Aya and that troops prevented them from reaching Adei-Ad, using “riot dispersal means.” That typically means tear gas and stun grenades.

Yesh Din, the Israeli rights group, said the Palestinian protest had been peaceful. An attorney for the group, Shlomy Zachary, “reported to a senior army official that IDF soldiers were exercising extensive force against Palestinian civilians without any justification,” the group said.

Earlier Wednesday, Yesh Din appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court on behalf of four villages surrounding Adei-Ad, demanding that the military enforce long-standing orders to dismantle such unauthorized settlements. Adei-Ad is one of dozens of such outposts set up by settlers across the West Bank without government authorization, though a number have been retroactively legalized.

The international community considers all settlements, including those sanctioned by the government, to be illegal. The settlements are built on occupied lands the Palestinian seek for a future state.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian activist said he hoped the #ICantBreathe hashtag would draw more attention to Abu Ain’s death. “What is happening here is no different from the discrimination against blacks in America,” said Mahmoud Hreidat.

Abu Ain headed a Palestinian Authority department dealing with Israeli settlements and the Israeli separation barrier, and had the rank of Cabinet member. Previously, he served as deputy minister for prisoner affairs.

A member of Abbas’ Fatah movement, Abu Ain had spent several years in Israeli prisons. He was arrested in the United States in 1979 and extradited to Israel two years later, according to a nephew, Baha Abu Ain. In Israel, he was sentenced to life in prison for being a member of a cell that planted a bomb that killed two Israelis. Abu Ain was released in a 1985 prisoner swap.

During the second Palestinian uprising in 2002, he spent a year in administrative detention without trial or charges.

December 10, 2014

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which is concerned about Shiite Iran’s regional influence and the rise of Sunni extremist groups, agreed on Tuesday to create a joint naval force based out of Bahrain and announced a police force based out of the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi.

The creation of the police force, known as GCC-POL, and the naval force were announced at the conclusion of the Gulf bloc’s annual summit in Qatar. The meeting was held just weeks after the Western-allied countries reached a reconciliation agreement linked to Qatar’s support for Islamist groups throughout the region.

The summit took place on the same day that the price of brent crude oil hit a five-year low of $65, with Kuwait’s emir warning in his remarks that the slide in price is impacting development programs. Gulf monarchs rely on income from oil to sustain generous welfare programs used to appease the public.

Qatari Foreign Minster Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said the police force would improve cooperation against terrorism. “It will be an Interpol-like force but inside GCC countries,” he said at a news conference. GCC leaders announced officially at the summit that the force been established, but did not say when work had begun.

State-linked local newspapers say the police force is also expected to tackle drug trafficking, money laundering and cyber-crime. “The emergence of terrorism … requires a concerted group effort from us and the international community to reach its root causes and cure its real political, social and economic causes,” Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said at the opening of the summit.

The Gulf monarchies hold that the marginalization of Sunnis in Iraq and Syria is a factor for the rise of extremist militants in those countries. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are staunch backers of Sunni rebels in Syria seeking to oust Iranian-backed President Bashar Assad.

Of the six GCC nations, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have taken part in airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Qatar and Kuwait are hosting bases for Western countries active in the U.S.-led coalition.

The GCC also includes Oman, which has differed from its Gulf neighbors on Iran. Oman serves as a bridge in talks between Iran and the U.S. The plan for a joint naval force was announced in the summit’s final communique, without giving further details. The Gulf bloc already has an emergency military force called Peninsula Shield, which intervened in Bahrain to help the monarchy crush protests led by the Shiite majority in 2011. (moved the graph)

Bahrain currently hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The Gulf naval force there is expected to act as deterrence to Iran, which shares the world’s largest gas field with Qatar in the Persian Gulf. The Sunni-led monarchies of the Gulf have collectively spent billions of dollars on U.S. and European military equipment amid lingering regional tensions with Iran.

In its statement, the GCC called on Iran to respect its members-states’ national sovereignty. Gulf leaders have accused Iran in the past of meddling in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia.

The GCC also condemned the use of arms by Shiite rebel Houthis in Yemen, and called on the rebels to withdraw from areas they have overrun. It also condemned Israeli actions against Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The Arab Gulf countries additionally expressed their political backing for Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. It marks a pivot for Qatar, which backed former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who el-Sissi ousted from power amid widespread protests last year when he was defense minister.

“There has never been disagreement between Qatar and Egypt for there to be reconciliation,” Qatar’s foreign minister said after the summit. “Egypt is strong and capable and is the backbone of all Arabs.”

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain formally withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March in a move widely seen as a protest over Doha’s support for Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi was a leading member. They reinstated ambassadors last month after an agreement was reached. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE consider the Brotherhood a “terrorist group” and see the 86 year-old movement as a political threat.

Al-Thani said that the recent events “have taught us not to rush to convert disagreement in political viewpoints… into differences that would affect sectors such as economy, society, media and others.”

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and UAE Prime Minister and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum took part in the summit. Also in attendance were Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and a senior official from Oman.

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

December 09, 2014

SARY-SU, Crimea (AP) — Since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, armed men have shown up frequently and at odd hours to search the cinder-block houses, mosque and school in this settlement of Crimean Tatars, a Muslim ethnic minority that has long suffered from discrimination in the peninsula that is its historic homeland.

The worst shock came in September, when two men in the town of 3,000 were abducted. Now the community of Sary-Su “is trembling with fear,” said Rebiya Setarova, an 80-year-old Tatar as she tottered anxiously across a dirt road to check on her son and grandchildren ahead of Friday prayers. “Now I worry for the fate of my son. Everybody worries about the children.”

Police have made no arrests, and the kidnappers’ identities remain a mystery. But Setarova has no doubts about who is responsible: “This is what we get when Russia comes to Crimea.” The fears and uncertainties of people in Sary-Su sum up how life has been upended for the 300,000-strong Crimean Tatar community. Deported en masse to Central Asia by the Soviets 70 years ago, they began returning to Crimea in the 1980s to rebuild their lives in an independent Ukraine.

Russia’s annexation in March, which many Tatars vocally opposed, overturned their world. Since then, the Tatars’ self-ruling body, the Mejlis, has been disbanded by Russian authorities, its highest-ranking leaders barred from re-entering Crimea and dozens of impromptu searches for narcotics, weapons and banned literature conducted in Tatar neighborhoods across the region.

Human-rights experts say that Russia is punishing them for speaking out against annexation. “For their openly critical position, the authorities have been cracking down on dissent,” said Yulia Gorbunova, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

It was a warm September evening in Sary-Su when Abdureshit Dzhepparov’s 18-year-old son, Islyam, served him Turkish coffee and left the house. A half hour later, neighbors were on the phone: They had seen Islyam, along with his 23-year-old cousin, frisked and forced into a dark blue Volkswagen van by men dressed in black.

The van sped away. Neither of the kidnapped men has been seen since. “When these things happen, you can’t even make plans — every night, if your children are out … as a parent you can’t sleep until they get home,” said Dzhepparov, who also has a daughter in high school.

Elsewhere in Crimea, at least seven other Tatars have vanished since March, including three who had been active in demonstrations calling for the region to remain part of Ukraine. Two of the abducted were later found dead. The others are missing.

Police have opened investigations into the disappearances. And Sergei Aksyonov, Crimea’s leader, has attempted to reassure the Tatars that their community is being treated fairly. “We have respect for people of any faith or confession, and I can guarantee that there will be no infringements based on nationality on Crimean territory,” Aksyonov told The Associated Press in an interview.

That statement and a visit by Aksyonov to the Sary-Su area have done little to reassure Dzhepparov. He said he does not understand why action was not taken faster, especially since witnesses jotted down the license plate number of the van used by his son’s captors.

“With the capabilities they have, they could have blocked off all of Crimea, all the roads, and stopped and checked every Volkswagen van,” Dzhepparov said. “So now I’ve started to think: Who in actual fact did this?”

Such questions have reverberated in Sary-Su, where residents are worried that the new lives they built from scratch in Crimea could quickly unravel. This settlement by a creek — the name means “Yellow Water” in the Tatar language — sprang up in the 1990s, when families returning from exile occupied empty fields and built their homes.

Most people here do not legally own their houses or the plots they were built on and cannot afford to return to ancestral Crimean Tatar cities or villages now populated by ethnic Russians or others. That feeling of vulnerability has only been reinforced in recent months, as Sary-Su became one of the targets of “dozens of very intrusive and in some cases unwarranted searches” of Tatar homes throughout Crimea, according to Gorbunova.

The pro-Moscow authorities say the searches were intended to look for drugs, guns and literature banned by Russian law. Human Rights Watch noted that many searches, sometimes conducted in the middle of the night, involved dozens of masked men with guns.

On the same street where Dzhapparov lives, Setarova’s son had his house searched in September by men claiming to be from the prosecutor’s office. Unlike his mother, Akhseid Dzhedzhekov is determined to remain calm and face the new facts of life in Crimea with quiet resolve. He said the men took nothing, and he has not heard from them since.

“You can’t stare down a tank,” said the 40-year-old builder. “So today, our strategy is patience. We know that God is with us.” Sary-Su’s mosque was searched in August when children were attending religion classes. That same month, at nearby School No. 4, armed men burst into the empty classroom of Asiye Abduvelieva, who teaches Tatar language and culture. They seized dozens of books. The instructor was later found guilty of violating Russia’s strict law against the spread of religious extremism, and fined 1,000 rubles ($22).

“I have been working for 33 years and suddenly at the end of the career I have a court conviction against me,” the 54-year old educator with a bouffant hairdo said with indignation, clacking around the classroom in her black leather stiletto heels. “When (we were) in Ukraine, I always won all the teaching awards.”

Abduvelieva’s conviction was annulled on appeal, and the fine dropped. But the sting remains — not just for her but for many in Sary-Su outraged that a well-loved and long-honored local teacher could be treated like a criminal.

In October, when Aksyonov met with Dzhepparov in the nearby city of Belogorsk, hundreds of angry Sary-Su residents massed to vent their outrage over the kidnappings and official actions toward the Crimean Tatars. Footage of the protests was captured by ATR, a Tatar television station and other news outlets.

“There were snipers on the roofs, the entire city was surrounded by troops,” said Dzhepparov, who said he was nervous the enraged crowd might get out of hand. “If something had suddenly gone wrong, it would have been a catastrophe.”

Such fears seem well-founded: Tatar protests occurred frequently and peacefully under Ukrainian rule, but since Russian annexation, they have sometimes ended in confrontations with ethnic Russians or police.

In May, hundreds of Crimean Tatars defied authorities and broke through a border checkpoint to greet their leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev, who had been banned from entering Crimea. Forty-nine people were charged with minor administrative violations, such as engaging in an unsanctioned protest or crossing the border illegally. More serious charges of injuring a government official — which can carry a prison term of 10 years — were later brought against three people.

Defense lawyers said the case could end up ensnaring dozens more and voiced concern about the wider implications of official policy and actions for the Crimean Tatars. “Ukrainian authorities were diplomatic and allowed the steam to be let out of the valve,” said attorney Dzhemil Kemishev. “People came out and protested, talked about the things that were worrying them, and things ended there.

“But when you’re being told not to do that, it’s like when you don’t lift the lid off a pot of boiling water: Sooner or later it will explode.”

Dahlburg reported from Kiev, Ukraine.