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Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey are major risers in Peoples under Threat global ranking of communities facing risk of mass killings

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Peoples under Threat 2014 data is now available for the first time as an online map.

Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey are among the most significant risers in Europe in this year’s internationally acclaimed global ranking Peoples under Threat, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says. Among Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan take a prominent place.

‘Ukraine has leapt into the Peoples under Threat table following recent events in Crimea and the east,” says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. “But countrywide many minorities now feel threatened.”

Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine has prompted particular concern for the Crimean Tatars, an indigenous population of some 300,000, who suffered forced displacement under the Soviet regime and gradually returned to Crimea. In an atmosphere of intimidation, many Tatars did not vote in the March 2014 referendum on joining with Russia organised by the Crimean authorities.

The presence of extreme nationalists in the interim administration that came to power following the fall of President Yanukovych, and the attempted repeal of minority language legislation, were worrying signals for many of Ukraine’s minorities, including ethnic Russians, as well as Hungarians and Romanians. Violent protests by pro-Russian protesters in Eastern Ukraine escalated tension further in April, including, and there were reported attacks against Roma families by armed, masked men in Slavyansk.

A number of parallels exist between the situation in Ukraine and that in Moldova, which also entered the Peoples under Threat table this year. Ethnic Russian protesters in Moldova’s breakaway region of Trans-Dniester have called to join with Russia, which has troops stationed there.

‘The Russian authorities are acutely concerned that Moldova will sign an association agreement with the EU later in 2014 – the same process that sparked the Ukraine crisis,’ says Lattimer.

Recent demonstrations in Turkey, the other significant riser in this year’s Peoples under Threat index, are a sign of the Turkish public’s dwindling patience with declining governance standards. At the same time tension has increased again in the Kurdish south-east as the peace process threatens to stall.

Leading politicians try to tap into anti-migrant sentiment throughout Russia, whipping up hostility against migrants. Mostly coming from former Soviet states in the Caucasus and Central Asia in search of work, migrants live in largely closed communities. Violent riots erupted in southern Moscow in October 2013, when more than a thousand people took to the streets in Biryulyovo district following the killing of a young man, allegedly by a migrant.

In Kyrgyzstan, there are continued cases of arbitrary detention, a lack of judicial redress, torture and extortion. Ethnic Uzbek journalist Azimzhan Askarov was given a life sentence in a politically motivated trial following his reporting of human rights violations during the ethnic conflict that shook southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010. In a case also related to the 2010 unrest, an Uzbek defendant arrested for his alleged connection to the death of an ethnic Kyrgyz, was repeatedly attacked during his courtroom appearances, prompting rights organisations to call on the authorities to prevent the obstruction of the judicial process.

In Tajikistan, state control of Islam is increasing after the 2009 Religion Law was passed. By March 2014 all except one madrassah (Islamic religious school) had been closed down as a result of the authorities’ nationwide campaigns. Ethnic Uzbeks, who at about 15 per cent of the population make up Tajikistan’s largest minority, are politically marginalized and occupy only 2 of 63 seats in parliament. There is an increasing military presence in the isolated Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, inhabited mainly by Pamiris and ethnic Kyrgyz.

The Peoples Under Threat survey seeks to identify those peoples or groups that are most under threat of genocide, mass killing or other systematic violent repression in 2014, and for the first time is being launched today by MRG as an online map.

Notes to Editors

  • Interview opportunities:
    • UK: Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International (English)
    • Ukraine: Irene Fedorovych, No Borders Project Coordinator – fedorovych@noborders.org.ua
    • Russia: Anastasia Denisova, Civic Assistance Committee, Member of the Coordinating Council of Youth Human Rights Movement – stasya.denisova@gmail.com
  • Visit MRG’s new online map which visualizes data from the Peoples under Threat index at www.peoplesunderthreat.org . View the map by year or by country, and find links to reports, press releases and further information on the communities under threat.
  • Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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