Here's How Russia Is Strong-Arming Crimea's Tatars Into Supporting Annexation

Just days before the 70th anniversary of Stalin's decision to exile Crimea's Tatars, Russian authorities on the recently annexed peninsula are threatening to once more crack down  on the ethnic minority. In a videotaped screaming match posted to YouTube, Crimea's chief prosecutor accused a local Tatar leader of extremist activity and threatened to disband the Tatar Mejli, or self-governing council.

The flare-up came after days of tensions between the Tatars and Crimea's new Russian rulers. On Saturday, Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev was denied entry at the Crimean border, where a phalanx of Russian riot police prevented him from crossing into the territory from which he was exiled by Stalin as a child. The following day, Natalya Poklonskaya, the Crimean prosecutor general, met with Refat Chubarov, the chairman of the Mejli, to present him with an ultimatum: Halt "extremist" activities or the Mejli will be "liquidated."

The confrontation between Poklonskaya and Chubarov is a sad affair. She speeds through the allegations against Crimea's Tatars while Chubarov pleads with her to speak with him in a language he can understand. "Please continue in my native language, Crimean Tatar," he tells her. "According to the constitution of the Republic of Crimea, it is one of the state languages.

But Poklonskaya pays him no heed. "I notify you that if you fail to comply with the aforementioned warning against violations of federal legislation, then ... the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people will be liquidated."

Here's the full video, which includes a translation courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The shouting match comes right before a grim anniversary. On May 18, Crimean Tatars will mark the 70 years that have passed since Stalin exiled them to Siberia, killing half the population en route. And while Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to make nice with the embattled ethnic group -- by, for example, signing a decree "rehabilitating" the Tatar people -- they remain deeply suspicious of Russia's annexation of Crimea, a move they broadly opposed amid fears of another round of repression at the hands of Moscow.

Putin's decree, signed April 21, promised  to "restore historical justice and remove the consequences of the illegal deportation" and "foster the creation and development of national-cultural autonomies," but Crimean Tatars remain unconvinced. According to the Wall Street Journal, Putin tried to personally secure Dzhemilev's support and convince him to endorse the annexation. Dzhemilev (the haggard-looking man at the top of this post) rejected those entreaties and went on to criticize Putin's seizure of Crimea, a move that appears to have landed him and his people in Moscow's crosshairs.

As Poklonskaya made clear, Moscow has a simple message for those who refuse to bow to Putin's directives: fall in line, or else.     



Egyptian TV Claims ‘The Simpsons’ Predicted the Syrian Civil War

In 2001, Bart Simpson teamed up with his friends Milhouse, Nelson, and Ralph to form the boy band Party Posse and record a music video in which these boys of Springfield bomb a group of armed, hostile-looking Arabs. The song -- "Drop Da Bomb" -- is a weird pre-9/11 satire of American militarism. "There's trouble in a far-off nation/Time to get in love formation/Your love's more deadly than Saddam/That's why I gotta drop da bomb!" the boys sing.

Thirteen years later, the fake song -- nominally a recruitment video for the Navy -- is stirring up some real, albeit bizarre, controversy in Egypt. Egypt's al-Tahrir satellite TV channel aired a segment earlier this week claiming that the quartet predicted the current Syrian civil war. In the music video, the bearded, keffiyeh-wearing fighters targeted by the Party Posse stand next to a jeep emblazoned with what at the time was a fictitious Arabic-looking flag. That flag happens to be identical to the one adopted by the Syrian opposition. A female anchor on al-Tahrir, a privately owned channel, then made the only logical conclusion: The Simpsons segment raised real questions whether "what is happening in Syria today is premeditated."

If that sounds a little unreal, have a look at the video, courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute:

So because Bart and his gang bombed a group of Arabs standing next to a jeep bearing the flag of the Syrian opposition, the civil war in Syria was somehow manufactured by the West. "This is from 2001 -- before there was such a thing called the 'Syrian opposition,'" the anchor observes. "That's why people are saying on Facebook that this is a conspiracy."

But that's not the end of it: "This raises many question marks about what happened in the Arab Spring revolutions and about when this global conspiracy began."

Here's the same Simpsons clip, this time in English:

And in case you missed it, the chorus, sung by scantily clad, vaguely Arab-looking women, is just "join the Navy" spelled backward: "Yvan eht nioj."

The Middle East, of course, is famous for its conspiratorial thinking and a tendency to see the all-mighty hand of Uncle Sam in most political developments. Egypt is a particularly paranoid country, and many people genuinely believe that America's disastrous military adventures of the last decade represent nothing more than a grand plot to divide the Arab world and sow discontent between countries and ethnic groups.

By that logic, it may just be a matter of time before the United States is bombing the Syrian opposition into submission as well.