On March 15, a day before the so-called referendum on the status of Crimea, a 39-year-old Tatar named Reshat Ametov was found dead after missing for several days. His body carried clear signs of torture: His head was wrapped with Scotch tape, and his legs were shackled.
His family said he had participated in protests against the seizure of the regional parliament by an unknown armed group, which Russian President Vladimir Putin later admitted was a Russian special forces unit. Police loyal to Moscow registered his cause of death as a traffic accident, but almost all Crimean Tatars heard the signal: Disloyalty to Russia would come at a price.
On March 31, a 14-year-old Tatar boy was beaten up by two Russian passers-by for speaking on the phone in the Tatar language. The incident occurred in the wake of calls by some Russians to discourage the use of the Tatar language and deport them again.
On May 6, a member of the Crimean Tatars’ self-governing body was beaten by Russian “samooborona” militants in Simferopol after they stopped his car and demanded to see his documents. He refused to follow their orders, arguing that they were an illegal armed group, acting on behalf of Crimea’s new rulers and using intimidation tactics to frighten and subdue their opponents.
More recently, veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzemilev, a Soviet-era dissident who spent 15 years in prison and survived several hunger strikes, was twice denied entry to Crimea. Again, Russian “self-defence groups” prevented him from returning home.