KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 19 July 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

UKRAINE: MUSLIMS PROTEST AGAINST `SECRET' PROPERTY
DECISION. Crimea's Muslims have objected to the decision of the Crimean
authorities to renege on an eighteen month-old agreement over how to divide
the site formerly occupied by a madrassah and an Orthodox monastery in
Bakhchisarai (see KNS 3 March 2000), describing it as `a serious political
act of provocation'. Muslim representatives told Keston News Service that
they had only learnt of the decision, taken last March, in early July,
complaining that it had been adopted in secrecy and calling for it to be
revoked.

UKRAINE: MUSLIMS PROTEST AGAINST `SECRET' PROPERTY
DECISION

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

Crimea's Muslims have objected to the decision of the Crimean authorities to
renege on an eighteen month-old agreement over how to divide the site of
the former Zyndzhyrly madrassah in Bakhchisarai and the neighbouring
monastery of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate
(see KNS 3 March 2000), describing it as `a serious political act of
provocation'. Muslim representatives told Keston News Service that they had
only learnt of the decision, taken last March, in early July, complaining that
it had been adopted in secrecy and calling for it to be revoked. Despite
numerous attempts, Keston has been unable to speak to any of the officials
involved in the March decision to ask them why the original agreement -
drawn up by the then deputy chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers,
Lentun Bezaziyev, and approved by the Muslims and the Orthodox � has
been changed without apparent consultation.

According to resolution 108 of the Crimean Council of Ministers on 27
March, which modifies resolution 131 of 25 April 2000 `On the return of the
former buildings of the Bakhchisarai Monastery of the Assumption to their
owners', it was resolved `to give [the monastery] for use, free of charge,
block 9 within the historic boundaries of the Monastery of the Assumption,
with the adjacent building, summer pavilion and medical centre, passage,
public toilet, morgue, chlorinator, garage building and equipment that is not
included in the dismantling process'. The resolution was signed by the acting
chairman of the Council of Ministers Vasili Kiselev and a minister, Oleg
Gavrin. Bezaziyev was given responsibility for carrying out the resolution.

`This document happened to reach us - completely by chance - at the
beginning of July,' the chairman of the Crimean Tatars' representative body,
the Majlis, in Bakhchisarai, Ilmi Umerov, told Keston from Bakhchisarai on
11 July. He said Bezaziev agreed the division of territory between the
madrassah and the monastery a year and a half ago, but the new decision
ignored that agreement. He claimed that Gavrin had not actually seen the
resolution itself, although his signature appears on it. Umerov could not say
precisely whether the list of buildings that had been transferred included
those to which the Muslims laid claim.

`No-one consulted us during the drafting of this decision and no-one took
account of our interests,' Arsen Alchikov, a representative of the mufti in the
Majlis, told Keston on 9 July in Simferopol. He says that confrontation in
Bakhchisarai is `deliberately' being provoked, although the Muslims do not
blame the Orthodox for the dispute.

Alchikov also claims the agreement over how to divide the site between the
Muslims and the Orthodox has been violated, adding that although the
psycho-neurological hospital that occupied the madrassah site and monastery
has vacated all the buildings, the Ministry of Culture is now also laying
claim to them, and in the view of the former owner the ministry will in
future bear in mind `the interests of all parties'.

The madrassah, which celebrated its 500th anniversary last year, is the
cultural and historical centre of the Crimean khanate and borders the
Monastery of the Assumption and Karaite holy sites in the Marya-Derya
valley, in the suburbs of Bakhchisarai (see KNS 17 May 2000). The site, a
place of pilgrimage for people of different faiths and for tourists, is located
on the site of a historical and architectural monument, which also includes
the Khan's palace.

The main obstacle to the return to believers of the madrassah complex and
some of the buildings belonging to the monastery had been the presence on
the site of the psycho-neurological institution.

When Keston tried to reach Kiselev by telephone on 10 July to find out more
about the adoption of the resolution, his office said he was not currently
available. Later, when they realised that it was Keston telephoning Kiselev's
office, they said he was very busy and could not come to the telephone,
claims repeated on subsequent occasions when Keston called.

On 10 July, Keston was told at Gavrin's office that he would be there the
following day, while on 11 July his assistant said that he simply had sight of
documents and did the preparatory work for the commission `and so he
signed all of the resolutions'.

Umerov said that on 4 July a letter signed by the chairman of the
Bakhchisarai city council was sent to the then chairman of the Crimean
Council of Ministers Sergei Kunitsyn, asking for all previous resolutions on
the division of the territory and buildings associated with the site to be
revoked. `We will wait until 23 July, and then on 25 July we will attend a
meeting,' he told Keston. `If the meeting takes place, it will be a protest
against the policy of the authorities, which are trying to provoke religious
and ethnic conflict.' (END)