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

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Deported Mother Returns to Tajikistan with Baby Son’s Body

Yunusova after arriving in Tajikistan with the body of her five-month-old son Umarali Nazarov. Photo courtesy of Gogol's Wives
Zarina Yunusova after arriving in Tajikistan with the body of her five-month-old son Umarali Nazarov, who died in unexplained circumstances while in the custody of Petersburg police and medics. Photo courtesy of Gogol’s Wives

Mother of Deceased Tajik Baby Leaves Petersburg, Taking His Body with Her 
November 16, 2015
Mediazona

Zarina Yunusova, expelled from Russia by order of the court, has left Petersburg, writes Fontanka.Ru. Yunusova had been recognized as the injured party in the investigation into the wrongful death of her five-month-old son Umarali.

In the early hours of November 16, Yunusova left Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport on Flight SZ204, bound for Dushanbe, the family’s lawyer, Oleg Barsukov, informed online news website Fontanka.Ru.

Yunusova took the child’s body with her in order to perform a forensic medical examination on it and bury the child there. Barsurkov noted that no problems had arisen while arranging for transport of the body.

Earlier, the October District Court in Petersburg had reaffirmed the decision to expel Yunusova from Russia since she was in the country illegally.

Face-to-face confrontations between Yunusova and police and Federal Migration Service officers had been scheduled for November 16 and 17 in Petersburg.

Five-month-old Umarali Nazarov died on October 14 at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital, where he had been sent by police after local FMS detained him during a raid on the family’s home. According to the forensic examination [allegedly performed in Petersburg], Nazarov died of acute cardiopulmonary failure.

According to FlashNord news agency, citing relatives who attended the funeral, Nazarov has been buried in the Tajik village of Boboi Vali. The news agency did note whether a forensic medical examination had been performed before the funeral, as had been planned after the body arrived in Tajikistan. 

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade GV for the heads-up

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Our Swimmer

Do Tajik lives matter in Petersburg? The official answer has so far been a resounding no. (And the “grassroots” answer has been a resounding yawn, actually).

Well, now that that pesky Zarina Yunusova and her creepy little dead baby are out of our hair, we can move on with our more important “European” lives, which here in the former capital of All the Russias are entirely built, swept and cleaned, and stocked and supplied with all the essentials for a pittance by expendable, utterly disempowered insectoid others like Zarina’s husband and Umarali’s father Rustam.

I don’t have the foggiest why anyone who lives in such a backward cesspool can imagine they have anything meaningful or helpful to say about the actual Europe and its alleged “Muslim,” “refugee,” “terrorist,” etc., problem, but as many of us know, nattering on endlessly and furiously about the “fate of Europe” is almost a national sport among the Tajik-loathing Russian jabberwockies.

Why Such Hatred? (The Death of Umarali Nazarov)

Откуда такая ненависть?
Why Such Hatred?
Nina Petlyanova
October 22, 2015
Novaya Gazeta Saint Petersburg

The parents of a dead five-month-old child from Tajikistan do not understand

When a Tajik family was in the process of being expelled from Petersburg, their baby son was taken from its mother. Umarali Nazarov (born May 20, 2015) spent almost five hours at a police station [on October 13, 2015]. He was in the hands of strangers, and deprived of food and warm clothes. No one was allowed to dress or feed the baby. He screamed and cried. The baby was then taken to hospital, where he died the same night. The causes of death are still unknown. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case only a week later.

Federal Migration Service (FMS) employees, police officers, and doctors are suspected of “negligent homicide owing to the improper discharge by a person of his professional duties.” However, neither the boy’s parents nor members of the Petersburg Tajik diaspora believe the guilty parties will be found and punished. Moreover, Umar’s father and mother, Rustam Nazarov and Zarina Yunusova, are themselves currently under suspicion. Police have carried out searches at the flat where they live. The authorities are now attempting to prosecute the couple for allegedly failing to discharge the duties of bringing up a minor.”

Federal Children’s Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko, and the Tajikistan Embassy in Russia have promised to monitor the investigation.

FMS officers raided the flat rented by the Nazarovs at Lermontov Prospect, 5, at around ten in the morning on October 13. The head of the family, Mehriniso Nazarova, the mother of five children (ranging in age from seven to twenty-seven), had already accompanied her youngest son, a first former, to school and had gone to work: she washes dishes at a café near the house. Nazarova’s 17-year-old son Daler and 21-year-old daughter-in-law Zarina were at the flat with Umar. Zarina’s husband, 25-year-old Rustam Nazarov, works at a construction site and was also not nearby when the FMS paid its visit.

Zarina Yunusova

Zarina does not speak Russian at all. Her account of what happened is translated by her mother-in-law.

“Three unknown men burst into the flat. They grabbed Daler, Zarina, and the baby. Although Daler is a minor,” Mehriniso adds, “and they had no right to touch him. They were all taken to a police station. They were not even allowed to dress Umar: he was taken as he was, in a blue woolen unitard. They didn’t even let them put a hat on him.”

“Around 10:30 a.m., I got a call from Daler,” continues Nazarova. “He said they were at Police Precinct No. 1. I hurried there, grabbing a bottle of milk formula for the baby at home on the way there. I was at the police station around twelve. I went up to the on-duty window, and they kicked me out into the hall. I could hear Umar screaming. The child was screaming and crying the whole time at the precinct. I begged and pleaded to feed him. The formula was still warm. An on-duty officer took the bottle from me and put it in the window. I was crying and saying, “He is tiny and hungry.’ ‘I could care less,’ the policeman replied. There was a young woman there, a senior lieutenant: I begged her. No one fed the child.  They mocked and laughed at me: ‘We don’t understand you; we need a translator.’ They called me a wog [chernozhopaya] and said, ‘Wogs have no rights.'”

Around 2:30 p.m., according to Nazarova, an ambulance arrived at the police station, and the police handed the baby over to medics.

“I was scared,” says Nazarova. “I asked the doctors what was a happening with my baby. Had he fallen ill? He had never been ill. Just the day before, he had been healthy. I begged them to hand over my boy or take me along! But two women in white jackets pushed me away, got into the vehicle, and drove away.”

“Come tomorrow”
Zarina and Daler were delivered to court around 3 p.m. They were tried by 9 p.m. Each was fined 5,000 rubles and ordered to leave Russia in fifteen days.

As soon as they left the court, the Nazarovs rushed to the police station to find out where the child was. They were told he was at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital and to pick him up the next day. The parents did not accept this and said they were coming right away.

“It’s already late, they won’t let you in,” the police objected.

The Nazarovs called the hospital and were told the same thing: “Come tomorrow.”

Rustam Nazarova and Zarina Yunusova

“Around 8 a.m., Mom took my youngest brother, a first former, to school,” says Rustam Nazarov. “We called a taxi to go to the hospital and pick up Umar. But right then we got a telephone call: ‘You need not come: your son has died.'”

The family was at the hospital within half an hour. But they were too late: the baby had already been transported to the morgue. Nazarov went there. At the morgue, however, he was not shown the child. Nazarov began going to the morgue every day.  It was only on the fourth day, after the autopsy, that he was able to take a look at his son.

“I didn’t even recognize him,” admits Nazarov.

Routine and lawful
As the FMS Petersburg and Leningrad Region Office explained to Novaya Gazeta, the raid had been routine. At the request of the district administration, several addresses were checked that day.  District officials had informed the FMS about the Nazarovs. The illegal immigrants were living, allegedly, in a resettled house with no water or electricity.

Rustam Nazarov looks out the window of the ostensibly resettled house at Lermontov Prospect, 5

Novaya Gazeta‘s correspondents spent half a day in the two-room flat the Nazarovs rent for 25,000 rubles [approx. 360 euros] a month. The place has water and electricity, and is so warm that all the vent panes in the windows are opened. We saw offices on the first floor of the building, and quite habitable flats on the upper floors.

“The citizen of Tajikistan discovered at Lermonotov, 5, could not explain her relationship to the child, so he was also taken to the police station,” Darya Kazankova, press secretary for the FMS Petersburg and Leningrad Region Office told Novaya Gazeta. “However, FMS staff do not work with minors and children, so we handed both [Daler and Umar] over to juvenile affairs inspectors and subsequently dealt only with Yunusova.”

Kazankova insists the FMS officers had an interpreter with them. Zarina did not notice any interpreter.

Zarina Yunusova’s papers are really not in order. The young woman arrived in Petersburg from Tajikistan little over a year ago to be treated for infertility. The treatments were successful. The long-awaited Umar was born on May 20, Rustam’s birthday. It was a gift for both the mom and the dad.

Rustam Nazarov shows a picture of his son on his mobile phone

“According to the law on immigrants [Federal Law No. 115, July 25, 2002], foreign citizens can stay temporarily in Russia without a visa for no longer than ninety days [if they are from countries whose citizens do not require a visa to enter the Russia — RR],” explained Tajik diaspora lawyer Uktam Akhmedov in an interview with Novaya Gazeta. Akhmedov is now defending the Nazarov family in all legal proceedings. “But when the ninety days ran out and legally she should have gone back to Tajikistan, Zarina was pregnant. The doctors did not recommend traveling. Besides, pregnancy is a reasonable excuse for staying. We are going to challenge the court’s decision to expel her,” said Akhmedov.

Rustam and Zarina looking at pictures of their son

The case will not be solved soon
The five-month-old child’s death has shocked the Petersburg Tajik diaspora.

“Every day since October 14, between fifty and eighty people have gathered outside Police Precinct No. 1,” Uktam Akhmedov told Novaya Gazeta. “The most massive grassroots gathering happened on October 17 at the Tajikistan Consulate in Petersburg. Around a hundred people came. They demanded justice and punishment for the perpetrators. People were very agitated. We could hardly contain their emotions.”

Assistant Consul Manouchehr Hamzayev came out to address the protesters. He asked them not to engage in provocations and promised to keep them updated.

Umar’s grandmother Mehriniso Nazarova meets workers from the Tajikistan Embassy in Russia

On October 18, the Tajik diaspora sent official appeals to Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Ella Pamfilova and Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko.

On October 19, Pavel Astakhov reacted to the incident in the Northern Capital. Besides a surprised entry on Twitter (“A five-month-old baby has died suddenly”), he asked the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office to “conduct a thorough investigation of the actions of the FMS and police.”

On October 20, the Petersburg Office of the Investigative Committe’s Central Investigation Department opened a criminal case under Article 109.2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Negligent homicide owing to the improper discharge by a person of his professional duties”).

“According to the preliminary investigaton, the boy died in the early hours of October 14 from an acute respiratory viral infection,” the Central Investigation Department informed Novaya Gazeta. “But the forensic examination will ultimately establish the cause of death.”

Doctors at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital, where the city prosecutor’s city has been carrying out an inspection since October 20, declined to comment. According to Novaya Gazeta‘s sources, doctors have explained to investigators that the child had many diagnoses [sic], and in addition, he had been born prematurely.

The parents do not deny this. Umar had been born in the thirty-fourth week with a weight of 2,2000 grams. But he had been steadily growing and gaining weight. By five months he had weighed about eight kilos. The Nazarovs likewise claim the child had regular visits from the district nurse, and had been examined by doctors at a clinic. They had not referred Umar to any specialists: no serious ailments had been detected.

Looking for a bomb in a cradle
On October 21, the day after the criminal case was opened, the Interior Ministry’s Petersburg and Leningrad Region Office took countermeasures.

“Police officers are conducting a preliminary investigation concerning the deceased boy’s parents, in whose actions there is evidence of a crime as stipulated by Article 156 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Failure to discharge the duties of bringing up a minor”),” the regional office of the Investigative Committee’s Central Investigation Department informed Novaya Gazeta.

“Now they come here and do searches nearly every day,” the Nazarov brothers tell us. “Two times they came with dogs. Why? Are they looking for a bomb in the cradle?”

“Why such hatred? Why such hatred?” Rustam repeats like a mantra and waits for a response.

Zarina says nothing and cries.

Mehriniso Nazarova next to her grandson Umar’s cradle

Mehriniso is not crying. She is sobbing over the cradle, which Rustam built for his son and which she just cannot bear to remove from the room.

“This city has now taken a second boy from me.”

The Nazarovs have lived in Petersburg for fifteen years. In 2004, persons unknown armed with knives attacked Mehriniso’s 12-year-old-son near their house. He died from stab wounds to the chest and neck. The child’s murder remains unsolved to this day.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photos by Elena Lukyanova

See also: “Tajikistanis Hold Gathering Outside Consulate in Petersburg over Death of Detained Immigrants’ Son,” Rosbalt, October 17, 2015 (in Russian)