Zarina Yunusova: “I Will Never Forgive What They Did to Me”

Zarina Yunusova: “I Will Never Forgive What They Did to Me”
Anora Sarkorova
BBC Russian Service
November 27, 2015

Зарина Юнусова
Zarina Yunusova: “I still remember holding him in my arms, feeling the warmth of his body, and seeing him smiling at me.”

Zarina Yunusova, the mother of the five-month-old baby who died in Petersburg after he was forcibly removed from his parents by Russian police officers, has called on the Russian authorities and concerned Russian citizens to conduct an objective investigation into the causes of her child’s death and reconsider previous decisions in the case.

In addition, the young woman has appealed to the Tajik authorities, who, according to her, should be bolder in defending the interests of Tajikistani citizens.

After returning home and burying her son, Yunusova has gone back to her parents’ home in the remote mountain village of Kandak, in Obi-Garm, in the east of Tajikistan.

Relatives and friends of the young woman that it will thus be easier to survive the loss of the child and rid herself of the painful memories of what she has experienced over the last month and a half.

“I constantly rewind that accursed day in my mind. I remember how the authorities came to our place at six in the morning, how they took the child from me. I did not want to give him up. I fought back, I screamed, I cried, I begged,  and I dragged me on the floor, but they removed the child anyway. I still remember holding him in my warms, feeling the warmth of his body, and seeing him smile at me. I will never forget it and never forgive those who did this to me,” says Yunusova.

Jail Cell, Fine, Deportation
When I met Yunusova at the gate of her house, I noticed that the quite emaciated young woman was limping a little. Her relatives explained that two of her toes were injured at the Petersburg police station where she and the child were taken.

“It happened when they were taking the child. While she was fighting for little Umarali, Zarina injured two toes. For some reason, the Russian Interior Ministry made public only video footage showing a female officer cradling the child, not the part where the child was removed. They should show the whole world how they did it,” says Nazar Boboyerov, a relative of Yunusova’s.

Five-month-old Umarali Nazarov died under mysterious circumstances in the early hours of October 14 after he was removed from his mother, 21-year-old Zarina Yunusova, detained for immigration violations, at a police station in Petersburg’s Admiralty District.

The woman was placed in a temporary holding cell. The same day, the court fined Yunusova 5,000 rubles and ruled that the Tajik migrant should be expelled from Russia.

According to Yunusova’s relatives, she tried to find her son, but the police did not give her the address of the medical center where the baby had been taken.

A day later, the parents were informed of Umarali Nazarov’s death.

Cause of Death

Могила Умарали Назарова
Umarali Nazarov was buried November 15 in the village of Boboi Vali in the Faizobod District.

According to the Petersburg Bureau of Forensic Medicine (BSME), the cause of five-month-old Umarali’s death was a generalized cytomegalovirus infection.

The child’s relatives categorically disagree with the official finding. The parents have numerous medical documents from the clinic where the infant was periodically examined. They suggest that the boy was perfectly healthy.

Umarali was Rustam Nazarov and Zarina Yunusov’s firstborn child. The young people had not met before their wedding. The bride was found on the advice of relatives.

As is typical in many Tajik families, a few months after the wedding festivities, Nazarov went to Russia to work, and later he was joined by his wife.

“We really wanted children. I joined my husband, got pregnant in Russia, and had the child in Saint Petersburg. I took care of the baby, associated only with members of our family, and almost never left the house. I went to the medical clinic where the baby had his examinations only with my husband. I know nothing about immigration laws, rules, and violations. My husband handled all these problems,” recalls Yunusova.

“There Is No Hate, Only Resentment”
Zarina Yunusova grew up in a large family.  She has nine brothers and a sister. She was unable to finish school. The school is located five kilometers from their house. Children have to spend nearly three hours getting to school on mountain slopes, so many children in the village do not attend school.

The majority of girls who do not attend school live in remote rural regions. While the numbers of girls and boys are approximately even in the lower grades, there are many fewer girls in the upper classes, say local teachers. Often parents decide that after the obligatory ninth grade a daughter should quit school and prepare for an early marriage.

At the same time, illiterate brides are valued in rural areas. They are meek, humble, and completely financially dependent on the husband’s family.

Zarina Yunusov went to Russia to be with her husband without fear. Until she traveled to Russia, she knew very little [about the country], but she could not have guessed that anything bad would happen to her.

“After what happened, I will never go to Russia again. How can I forget what they did to me, how treated me? There is no hatred, but the resentment will last a lifetime,” says Yunusova.

The Authorities Did Not Arrive
The body of five-month-old Umarali Nazarov was flown to Dushanbe on November 15. He was buried the same day in the village of Boboi Vali in the Faizobod District, in the east of the country, where the baby’s father comes from. Only several foreign and independent local journalists were on hand to meet the family.

The baby’s relatives waited several hours for officials from the Tajik Ministry of Health, Interior Ministry, and General Prosecutor’s Office, but none of them arrived to meet the Nazarov family, despite promises from the Tajik Consulate in Saint Petersburg that they would be met at the airport and a forensic medical examination would be performed.

Officials from Dushanbe visited Zarina Yunusova several days after her arrival.

At the request of the Tajik Interior Ministry, Yunusova gave blood for a blood test, whose outcome will be known within a week.

In addition, the Tajik police took a statement from Yunusova in which the young woman asks for a criminal investigation into the death of Umarali Nazarov and that the Russian police officers and doctors at the Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital responsible, in her opinion, for his death be brought to justice.

In her suit, Yunusova also asks for 10 million rubles [approx. 141,00 euros] in financial compensation from the Russian side.

“I want to know the cause of my child’s death. The Tajik Interior Ministry explained to me that I had to give blood so they could put an end to all the rumors and prove that I am healthy and that the baby was healthy. When we asked them why the relevant agencies did not show up the day we flew in and conduct an independent examination,  we were told they had not known about the family’s arrival in Tajikistan,” says Yunusova.

Hush Up the Case, Hide the Perpetrators

Каримджон Еров
Karimjon Yerov says that Dushanbe is attempting to hush up the Umarali Nazarov case.

The major case squad in the investigative department of the Tajik Interior Ministry declined to comment on the particulars of the case to the BBC Russian Service while the investigation was still underway.

According to Karimjon Yerov, president of the Russian non-profit partnership ETMOS (Ethnic Tajiks for Responsible Migration by Compatriots), the results of a forensic examination of Umarali’s death would change nothing.

“Russia has never recognized medical records from Tajikistan. All the certificates that Tajik citizens get at home have not been recognized by the Russian side, despite an agreement to that effect. But in this case Russia will recognize an outcome that the parties could have agreed in advance, an outcome that blames the family and helps save face in the name of the so-called strategic partnership,” argues Yerov.

According to Yerov, Dushanbe is also not interested in getting to the bottom of the case and is now doing everything it can to hush the case up.

“The Tajik Consulate in Petersburg repeatedly stated its intention to conduct an independent forensic medical examination. Later, however, people from the Tajik Embassy claimed that such promises had never been made to the Nazarov family. A few days ago, a man identifying himself as an employee of the Tajik Interior Ministry and declared that he had arrived to detain and send home the Tajik nationals who had organized the protest rally outside the Tajik Consulate in Petersburg. I am not certain that Tajik nationals need a Tajik-Russian partnership based on humiliation, disempowerment and the deaths of Tajik nationals,” says the president of ETMOS.

Karimjon Yerov speaking at a November 14, 2015, protest rally at the Field of Mars in Petersburg, demanding an objective investigation of Umarali Nazarov’s death (in Russian). Around a hundred people attended the rally.

The Prosecutor General’s Office told the BBC that the supervisory authority had not opened a criminal case in the death of the Tajik baby and was not currently involved in any investigation of the matter.

“In terms of government agencies, the Tajik side is quite dependent on the Russian side, so it is hardly worth expecting a conflict between them, even over the mother of the deceased child. As for punishing the guilty in Russia, the course of the investigation clearly displays an unwillingness to do this. The mother’s deportation, for example, speaks volumes. It may well turn out that departmental interests will prevail over the rule of law and basic human values. If we don’t manage to insist on a proper investigation of the Umarali Nazarov case now, then in the future we might see numerous such cases throughout Russia,” stresses political scientist Anton Yevstratov.

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My previous posts on Umarali Nazarov’s death:

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An Example of Senseless Brutality 
Why the Story of the Death of 5-Month-Old Umarali Nazarov Becomes No Less Important over Time 
Maria Eismont
Vedomosti
November 26, 2015

I want to tell you how Zarina Yunusova is doing. Yunusov is the mother of the five-month-old boy Umarali Nazarov, who in mid-October suddenly died in a Petersburg hospital after he was taken from his mother at a police station. Yunusova still hardly eats or sleeps, and she cries constantly. Journalists from the Tajik news website Asia-Plus, who visited her at her parents’ home, where she has lived since she was expelled from Russia, describe her as terribly emaciated and depressed. Yunusova has still not met with a psychologist. The trip to the village is long and hard, and she is not permitted to go anywhere alone without her husband. Her husband, meanwhile, has stayed in Petersburg, where he has been trying to gain recognition as an injured party in the case of his son’s death. The independent forensic examination of the body in Tajikistan they were promised was never performed, but Yunusova herself was recently summoned to the Tajik Interior Ministry, where they took a sample of her blood without really explaining why.

Yes, and the current news agenda is completely different. The Russian public has been discussing the Russian bomber downed by the Turkish air force on the Turkish-Syrian border and the response of the Russian side. Before that, there was news of the deaths of Russian civilian pilots at the hands of terrorists in Mali, and a mere three days before the bloodbath in Bamako, the Russian authorities had officially recognized the Kogalymavia plane crash in the Sinai as a terrorist attack. Convoys of angry truckers have been lining the roadsides and threatening to move on Moscow. Crimea has been plunged into darkness due to the explosion of a power line in Ukraine, and the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court upheld the tellingly cruel sentence (twenty years in prison) against Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, accused of terrorism.

So why I am talking today about Yunusova when Umarali Nazarov died a month and a half ago, was buried ten days ago, and the decision to expel his mother was made long ago and has been carried out? Because however long ago it happened, whatever dramatic and frightening events have filled our lives since then, the Tajik baby’s death has shocked a huge part of active society. Nearly 150,000 people have signed a petition demanding a thorough investigation of Umarali’s death, and dozens of people still ask me how they can help the family and what can be done so that something like this never happens again.

Because Umarali’s story is special. It is an example of pure, completely senseless inhumanity manifested publicly by the system towards the most defenseless people in the total absence of extreme necessity and all political expediency. At each stage of this story—from the Federal Migration Service officers who raided the Nazarov apartment and decided not wait until Umarali’s grandmother brought them the family document’s and did not let Yunusova put a cap on the baby, to Judge Elena Shirokova, who made the final decision to deport the dead baby’s mother—one person with a heart might have entered the picture and everything would have been different. But no such person was to be found.

Neither Yunusova nor her husband, with whom no one has been able to get in touch for several days, can fight for their rights in this case. So it is we who have to demand an objective investigation and punishment for the guilty.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Tajikistan, the Forgotten Country

http://liva.com.ua/tajikistan-crisis.html
The Forgotten Country
Farrukh Kuziyev
The only stable resource supporting the national economy is migrant laborers. Their remittances account for the lion’s share of the country’s GDP.

In my view, the Soviet Union’s collapse had the most devastating impact on Tajikistan.

First, Tajikistan was one of the most heavily subsidized Soviet republics. In some years, sixty percent of the republic’s budget consisted of federal subventions, and eighty percent of the budgets of some areas in the republic were subsidized. Tajikistan could be considered Central Asia’s industrial, economic and cultural periphery. Despite the fact that a number of different enterprises were built in the republic itself, the region’s real centers were Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The steep terrain (ninety-three percent of the country is mountainous) significantly increased the costs of transporting goods and people, as well as the construction of important facilities, which was paid out of the Soviet budget.

Second, because of its specific geographical location, Tajikistan was heavily dependent on neighboring republics, especially Uzbekistan. The closure of the Uzbek border has had grave consequences for the country’s food and energy security. The railway lines to Tajikistan run through Uzbek territory, and now trains carrying vital goods idle for long periods at the borders; in cases of conflict, they are not let through at all. The once-integrated Soviet energy system, under which Tajikistan supplied surplus electrical energy to Uzbekistan during the summer, in exchange for electricity, fuels and lubricants in the winter, has been destroyed. Many of the cross-border power lines have been disconnected, and Tajikistan cannot afford natural gas and oil. It is agriculture that has primarily suffered as a result. Food prices are among the highest in the post-Soviet countries.

Third, immediately after the Soviet Union’s collapse, in 1992, unrest broke out in the capital, Dushanbe, with such Islamist parties as Rastokhez (Rebirth) playing a central role. This led to a bloody civil war between the United Tajik Opposition and government forces. Both sides engaged in looting, property seizures and atrocities, resulting in the most profound social and economic trauma for the country. According the most conservative estimates, more than 175,000 people were killed in the civil war, and hundreds of thousands of people became refugees. The country’s intellectual elite—teachers, scholars, politicians and artists—fled the country, leaving it at the mercy of militant clans. Tons of narcotics and weapons constantly flow into Tajikistan from neighboring Afghanistan, and members of terrorist groups slip through the border as well. That is why in recent years government troops and police have been involved in armed clashes with drug traffickers and religious extremists in the east of the country, for example in the Pamirs in 2011 and 2012. The banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb ut-Tahrir are active in the north of Tajikistan.

The collapse of secular education and the cultural sector has led to an intensive Islamization of the population, especially in rural and suburban areas. In addition, relations with Uzbekistan have deteriorated, primarily because of the “water problem,” caused by the Tajik government’s plans to build the Ragun hydroelectric power station on the Amu Darya River. China has already received part of the Pamir Mountains that once belonged to Tajikistan, and now lays claim to another section of the mountains in the Murghab district, causing widespread discontent among local residents.

Economically, Tajik society is in the midst of a deep stagnation, caused by the mass migration of skilled laborers and young professionals. This is facilitated by the total incompetence and corruption of the authorities, who completely ignore the need to support education and health care, the construction of transportation networks, housing and roads, science, and much else. In terms of its level of development, Tajikistan has been compared to the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the only stable resource supporting the national economy is migrant laborers, most of whom work in Russia. Their remittances account for the lion’s share of the country’s GDP.

Three relatively independent camps constitute the main political forces in Tajikistan.s The first is the political and economic elite, distinguished by its close clan and family ties, which collectively supports the current president, Emomali Rahmon. The second camp is the liberal opposition, whom we might call national-liberals. This group includes businessmen in Tajikistan itself and outside the country. Although all opposition forces are united in their desire to remove the Rahmon clan from power, this camp’s position on solving social issues and Tajikistan’s future is not clear. The opposition’s political horizon is probably limited to the demand for a change of elites. However, both groups of politicians actively employ nationalist rhetoric.

Finally, there is the Islamist underground, concentrated in different areas of the country, mainly in rural areas. This movement’s stated objective is the overthrow of the current ruling elite and the establishment of a Shariah Islamic state. The Islamist movement is quite active. Aside from terrorist activities (attacks on military convoys, murders of policemen, stockpiling of weapons), Tajik Islamists are engaged in extensive outreach work, recruiting followers on social networks, and distributing leaflets and brochures. In addition, they have extensive contacts with Islamists in neighboring Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

With the exception of a few activists, journalists and bloggers, there is practically no secular intelligentsia in Tajikistan capable of giving critical voice to a social issues agenda. Prospects for the future are thus bleak. The authorities attempt to rule the country in the repressive style of autocratic monarchs, and the only ideologies capable of consolidating society are the religious and nationalist discourses. Most likely, we can expect a local variation on Islamic revolution to be implemented here. Nearly everything in Tajikistan is ripe for this: the long years of social and economic stagnation, the collapse of the secular education system, the extremely difficult economic situation in the provinces and the unresolved conflicts left over from the civil war. There is almost no hope for a peaceful outcome.

Editor’s Note. Reader Olja Jitlina made the following comment on this article, which she has kindly permitted us to reprint here:

In the autumn of 2011, I spent six weeks in the Sughd Province of Tajikistan, in the capital city of Khujand (formerly Leninabad), and the towns of Chkalov and Taboshar, which was once a closed town where uranium was mined. There had been a huge cotton mill in Leninabad. Nowadays, a very small number of the production units, which have been bought by Italian companies, are functioning. When you travel north from Khujand, you first pass pomegranate fields, then the mineral-rich mountains begin. Near one village there are mines, which have been acquired either by a Chinese or an Italian company, depending on whom you talk to. Gold and other minerals are extracted there without compliance with any environmental and health standards. According to the locals, the soil has become unsuitable for agriculture, and the miners die after working there for five years. As you approach Taboshar, Geiger counter readings go off the scale. The uranium tails in the large mines a kilometer from this beautiful semi-ghost town were not properly buried. The locals distinguish the town’s radioactive irrigation ditches (there is no running water) and the ones whose water is suitable for farming. By Russian standards, the prices are ridiculously low. But for local, whose wages amount to twenty or thirty dollars a month, they are sky-high. People survive mainly through agriculture and remittances from migrant workers in their families.