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Russian Human Rights Warrior: Rustem Valiullin

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A Lifelong Battle for Russian Muslims’ Rights
By Abdullah Rinat Muhametov
PhD — Russia
Rustem Valiullin - 1
After his death media stated that the lawyer died while “resting in Altay,” but it is wrong. He did not have time for rest.
Russian Human Rights Warrior: Rustem Valiullin

Rustem Valiullin, the well-known Muslim lawyer who acted as a public advocate on behalf of the Russian Muslim community in a number of cases, was declared missing on June 23, 2012. The father of four young kids stands in the memory of the Russian Muslims not only as a hero but as the first human rights warrior.

The last case that the lawyer was appealing against was the judgment of district’s court in Orenburg city banning 65 Islamic books, including Seerah and Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This ban has drawn a wide response from Muslim community in Russia.

The dead body of Rustem was later found on June 4 in the deep of mountainous river Katun in Altay, Siberian region of Russia. He had gone from this life to the futurity, being in a hurry to help his brothers in faith.

That day, Rustem was trying to get to a small village called Kosh-Agach in Altay region. The imams of that village, charged of being adherents to Tablighi Jamaat, banned in Russia, had waited for Rustem’s professional support. On his way to help them, daring the hurdles of the long journey, around 500 kilometers, as well as the impending evening, Rusten met with his dreadful fate.

According to the Russian official version, the lawyer drowned in the river. Yet, the Muslim forums and groups on the social networks at first were full of angry comments and statements, arguing that this death cannot be an accidental occurrence and calling late lawyer a shaheed (martyr in the cause of Allah).

Protecting rights and freedoms of Muslims, Rustem really gained a lot of enemies, and was regularly perceived as troublesome by anti-Muslim elements in Russia, and also by those who make money on fighting imaginary “Islamic extremism.”

Striving for Human Rights

When he knew about banning Islamic books by Orenburg district court his friend asked him: What are you going to do? He answered: I’m leaving to Orenburg. His friend asked again: Do you have enough money? For petrol is enough, answered Rustem and left.

Advocate Rustem Valiullin graduated from the Law Faculty of Udmurt State University in year 2000. In Izhevsk, Udmurtiya he worked in Prikamsky human rights organization. Recently he got engaged in free practice. He was known for taking celebrated cases involving extremism and violation of the rights to freedom of speech and religion.

But his focus was not only on Muslims. Actually, it was Rusten who led a high-profile case of pupil from boarding school in Izhevsk, Russia who persuaded the twelve inmates to cut their veins in response to the cruelty of educators.

Among Muslims, he was known for his attempts to challenge in court the ban on Tabligh Jamaat in Russia. He conducted dozens of cases related to the recognition of a number of books on Islam as extremist all around the country. He was also an advocate of young Islamic activists who were accused of various crimes in different regions (Moscow, Kazan, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, Samara, and Chita). If it was not possible to defend the rights of people in Russia, he would bring the process to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Rustem had high-profile trial victories. For example, in 2011 in Naberezhnye Chelny (Tatarstan) he obtained a publication of apology from the newspaper, accusing the parishioners of the local mosque of terrorism. And in 2012 Rustem helped the Muslim community in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District to defend their official status. Thanks to Rustem, prosecutors failed to eliminate the community.

Rustem also wrote analytical articles on Islamophobia in Russia. On his website, called Lawful State, are posts on  how to protect oneself. Moreover, he even led the rubric of "Humor" on his website, where he laid the curious and funny cases that arose in the course of his contacts with the security forces regarding protection of Muslims.
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Rustem was active throughout the country. In this regard, many believed that his death could not be accidental

Periodically, Rustem was involved in conflicts with the police and intelligence services. In addition to persuading his clients to refuse him, using a method to discredit him,law enforcement agencies undertook four attempts of illegal impact on Rustem. The detailed description of these stories is disclosed on his website.

1. In August 2006 the police illegally searched the office of Rustem, after being the defense council involved in criminal proceedings regarding violations of environmental regulations. The police withdrew the cases of almost all clients from his office and took away the office equipment.

2. In 2008 the Russian secret services in Tatarstan were not prepared for Rusten’s complaints against their illegal activities. In response, they tried to question him and isolate him from participating in the case related to the Islamic activist Rustam Safin. To be on the safe side, they fabricated a document about the Rustem’s involvement with "terrorist organization."

3. In 2008, in Naberezhnye Chelny (Tatarstan), in the course of trial against brothers Kashapovs (leaders of Tatar Public Center) not only Rustem was challenged but also some materials were presented in order to bring a criminal case and to impose a disciplinary liability against him.

4. In 2010 in Almetevsk, Tatarstan, Rustem was detained in the presence of a lot of people on a framed charge for two days and beaten. He was accused of protecting Muslims. There was no effective investigation despite numerous proofs of false evidence and fabricated accusations, in addition to beating Rustem by the members of the counter-extremism center.

Rustem was active throughout the country. In this regard, many believed that his death could not be accidental.

The Death of the Human Rights Warrior

This December, Rustem should reach 37 years old. After his death, Adilya, Mansur, Salim, and Maryam, four kids of 2, 5, 8, and 10 years, became orphans.

But a lot of people really became witnesses of  Rustem’s tragic death in the deep of mountainous river. When his two friends were busy performing ritual ablution, he decided to swim a little in the river. On the moment of his death Rustem was in the ritual purity. Muslims see in this fact a sign of Allah’s Mercy to him. The death of the professional lawyer who acted as a public advocate on behalf of the Russian Muslim community became a huge loss to the Russian Muslim community.

He talked little but made a lot; orderly, very professionally, and effectively. He was a real devotee of his job. Rustem could rarely be found at mosque in his native Izhevsk city because he constantly was on travel, touring all over the country with aim of providing a legal assistance to Muslim in each city and village.

When he knew about banning Islamic books by Orenburg district court his friend asked him: What are you going to do? He answered: I’m leaving to Orenburg. His friend asked again: Do you have enough money? For petrol is enough, answered Rustem and left.

After his death, media stated that the lawyer died while “resting in Altay,” but it is wrong. He did not have time for rest, and he died in the path of Allah.

The death of the professional lawyer who acted as a public advocate on behalf of the Russian Muslim community became a huge loss to the Russian Muslim community.

He talked little but made a lot; orderly, very professionally, and effectively. He was a real devotee of his job.

ustem could rarely be found at mosque in his native Izhevsk city because he constantly was on travel, touring all over the country with aim of providing a legal assistance to Muslim in each city and village.

When he knew about banning Islamic books by Orenburg district court his friend asked him: What are you going to do? He answered: I’m leaving to Orenburg. His friend asked again: Do you have enough money? For petrol is enough, answered Rustem and left.

After his death, media stated that the lawyer died while “resting in Altay,” but it is wrong. He did not have time for rest, and he died in the path of Allah.

This December, Rustem should reach 37 years old. After his death, Adilya, Mansur, Salim, and Maryam, four kids of 2, 5, 8, and 10 years, became orphans.

The funeral of lost Muslim’s rights activist took place at Muslim cemetery of Izhevsk city in the center of Russia on July 5, 2012. A convoy of Rustem’s body was brought to Izhevsk from Altay region where he died. More than hundreds of people from different regions in Russia gathered to attend Rustems’s funeral. But more than this number of Rustem’s friends did not make it to the Central Mosque of Izhevsk where Salyat al-Janaza (Funeral Prayer) took place.

“The best memory about the first Islamic defender of rights in our country has to be establishing Russian Muslim Human Rights Center by the name of Rustem Valiullin”, said Muslim journalist Kalil Kabdulvahitov.

The death of Rustem became a reproach to all Muslim community of Russia because he alone fought in the legal field of Russia for rights and freedoms of Muslims. Russian Muslims today try to continue his job but an equivalent professional in this field is rare to find.
Related Links:
Islam in the Volga Region
Muslims in Tajikistan
Young Russian Muslims Discover Religion

Abdullah Rinat Muhametov, PhD, is an Russian expert at Wasatiay — Moderation Center, Russia.

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