Born after arrest
Mumine Saliyeva’s photo project dedicated to Crimean kids who have only seen their fathers through prison bars
We have arranged the gallery by children’s age - from the youngest, 8-month-old Akhmad, to 5-year-old Safiya who was fortunate enough to have had her father returned to her. So far this is the only story with a happy ending here.
11 months old
February 2, 2021, Bakhchysarai
Seyt-Osman was born on April 3, 2020, three weeks after the arrest of his father, citizen journalist and Crimean Solidarity activist Amet Suleymanov, who is looking at up to 20 years in prison. Amet is currently under house arrest, but only because his lawyers managed to make it happen – after bringing up his health issues and the fact that he requires urgent heart surgery. He used to be able to visit his doctor in Kyiv regularly, but now he is denied this option.
1 year 3 months old
January 25, 2021, Staryi Krym
When Mavile Ayvazova was still pregnant with Amaliya, her husband, Crimean Solidarity activist Rayim Ayvazov, was abducted and tortured by FSB officers and then arrested on April 17, 2019. Before his arrest he was attending “trials” in the occupied Crimea as well as taking active part in preparing and sending packages to political prisoners. His daughter Amaliya barely speaks yet, but she can already pronounce the word “dad” quite clearly. She may never get to see her father released because of the life sentence that the prosecutor's office is insisting on for Rayim Ayvazov.
1 and a half years old
January 25, 2021, village of Azovske, Dzhankoi Rayon
Isa is the son of Riza Omerov, who was arrested on June 10, 2019. People call them a “family of the oppressed” as the occupying authorities have already convicted little Isa's father, uncle and grandfather. The boy knew strife even while in his mother’s womb: during searches that accompanied Riza's arrest, his 8 months pregnant wife Sevil Omerova’s water suddenly broke. Doctors managed to stop the premature birth and Isa was born one month after Riza’s arrest. Riza Omerov was sentenced to 13 years in a maximum security prison.
1 and a half years old
January 18, 2021, village of Strohanivka, Simferopol Rayon
When Sayfullah was born, he and his mother Sabriye Bekirova, fresh out of the hospital, were greeted by a crowd of Crimean Tatars from all over Crimea. People came to support the family and show them that they are not alone, as the man of the family, Akim Bekirov, activist of the Crimean Solidarity, was arrested on March 27, 2019 - five months before the birth of his son. Prior to that Akim was involved in sending packages to political prisoners as well as handled IT security for activists. Now he is facing life in prison. So far, court hearings have been the only opportunity for Sayfullah to see his father.
1 years 9 months old
January 15, 2021, Simferopol
According to his mother, Zeyneb Yazydzhiyeva, little Muhammad got a “legally-oriented” mind from his father, Riza Izetov, Crimean human rights defender and member of the Crimean Solidarity. He was arrested on March 27, 2019 - two months before his son was born. Before that Riza was pursuing human rights activities, providing legal advice and attending “court” hearings in political trials. Riza Izetov, along with other defendants in yet another “terrorism” case, is currently awaiting trial. Muhammad likes to kiss a photo of his father. They might never see each other outside of prison, since Riza Izetov is facing a life sentence.
1 year 11 months old
January 20, 2021, village of Strohanivka, Simferopol Rayon
The family was looking forward to Sulbiye’s birth, as they already have two adult sons and long dreamed of having a girl. She is a very creative, artistic and intelligent child. Sadly, her father, Medzhit Abdurakhmanov, activist of the Crimean Solidarity, has never met his long-awaited daughter. “Bad men took away my dad,” says Sulbiye, even though she’s far too young to understand the difficult issue of her father's imprisonment. He was arrested on March 27, 2019. Medzhit Abdurakhmanov could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The project Born after Arrest was conceived and realized by Mumine Saliyeva. The Media Initiative for Human Rights, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, USAID Human Rights in Action Program and the Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea provided some organizational support to help her implement this idea.
8 months old
January 28, 2021, Simferopol
On July 7, 2020, while Lemara, Akhmad’s mother, was still pregnant, their home was searched and her husband arrested - Vadym Bektemirov, Islamic doctrine major, who since 2014 was helping people send packages to their imprisoned relatives as well as attended “trials” of Crimean Muslims. His arrest proved too much for Akhmad's grandfather, who died two weeks later. Vadym Bektemirov is facing a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Crimean Tatar families whose men have fallen victim to the oppression machine can be found all over Crimea. Many of these families have more than one child. Some of those children were still in their mother’s womb when their parents were going through the terror of searches, arrests and initial trials; they were brought into the world after their fathers’ arrests. They have never seen their fathers outside of prison, or at all. Some might never see their fathers go free due to the risk of a life sentence.
Mumine Saliyeva, activist of the Crimean Solidarity initiative and coordinator of the Crimean Childhood project, is herself a mother of four, whom she is raising without her husband, citizen journalist Seyran Saliyev, who was arrested four years ago in January 2017 and sentenced in September last year to 16 years in prison. Mumine recently finished her journalism major on the mainland and became a member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine. These past years she has been forced to work as a reporter and photojournalist due to her life situation, but it seems that she has found her calling in this. In 2020 Mumine received the André Loersch Journalism Award for a documentary about the children of political prisoners.
The online photo project Born after Arrest combines Mumine's two civic passions - her work on helping children of prisoners and her photojournalism. In late 2020 - early 2021 the activist visited all these families and collected a photo gallery of babies born after their fathers' arrests. Mumine shared her thoughts, feelings and motivation in a short video, which can be found at the bottom of this page.
Almost all of their fathers were prosecuted by the occupying authorities in Crimea as “terrorists”, regardless of the fact that they never had any intention to commit acts of violence; instead they were taking active part in Crimean Solidarity's initiatives, providing humanitarian assistance and documenting cases of political persecution in Crimea. It's a scary thought that some of these kids might never see their dads in person - as free men, without handcuffs and prison bars.
1 year 11 months old
January 27, 2021, village of Volodymyrivka, Bilohirskyi Rayon
Sofiya is a real fighter. She may not be able to speak yet, but she won’t let anyone bully her older sister. Their father, Izzet Abdullayev, was arrested on March 27, 2019 - six days before his daughter was born. Izzet, Crimean Solidarity activist who used to attend every hearing in politically motivated cases in Crimea, was arrested in March 2019 and is currently on trial in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. He is facing 20 years in prison.
2 years 11 months old
January 20, 2021, Bakhchysarai
Aisha is the 13th child in the Zekiryayev household and the only one who has never seen their father, Server, because she was born after his arrest. Server Zekiryayev is an activist in Crimea. He used to grow flowers for sale, and before starting his own business Server had been a PE teacher for 18 years at the Bakhchysarai School No. 5. After mass searches that took place in Bakhchysarai on October 11, 2017, he was arrested and imprisoned by the occupying authorities as part of one of the “cases of Crimean Muslims”. It’s unclear when he will be able to see his daughter, as Aisha's father was sentenced to 13 years in a maximum security prison.
4 years 4 months old
December 2, 2020, village of Strohanivka, Simferopol Rayon
Asiya is going to be five soon. When asked about her father, she says he’s “in prison because bad people took him away”. Her father, political scientist Emil Dzhemadenov, was arrested on October 12, 2016 on “standard” charges of terrorism. Like the rest of the defendants in the case, he never had any criminal intentions. During the trial, Asiya's mother, Liana Bielialova, would take her several-months-old daughter with her to the windows of the courtrooms where closed hearings were held. The child will be 12 by the time her father serves his sentence.
4 and a half years old
January 5, 2021, village of Semenne, Nyzhniohirskyi Rayon
Khanifa’s father sends her drawings made on fabric with colored pens from prison in Bashkortostan. However, the five-year-old does not really understand who this “dad” is and what he does, as she has never seen him in person. The girl's father, Vadym Siruk, Ukrainian Muslim and Crimean Tatar activist, was arrested on February 11, 2016 and later sentenced to 12 years in a maximum security prison in one of the first “cases of Crimean Muslims”.
5 years 4 months old
January 27, 2021, Sevastopol
On January 23, 2015, during a search at the home of the newlywed Vaitov family, one of the officers cocked the trigger on his weapon and pressed its barrel into Aliye Vaitova's stomach, then raised the gun, aiming between her eyes. The woman's husband, Rustem Vaitov, who had been an assistant imam at the Sevastopol mosque, was arrested and groundlessly charged with terrorism. A few weeks later his wife found out that she was pregnant. The stress she had gone through during the searches and trial affected her pregnancy: the doctors had warned her that the child would be born disabled. Now Safiya is 5 years old; she can’t walk and moves around in a special chair, she can’t remain sitting and lying down for long and is in constant pain. The girl has been diagnosed with over 10 medical conditions. Safiya's father has already served his five years in a maximum security prison and has returned home.