Human rights defender Abubakar Yangulbaev has proposed to be exchanged for his mother Zarema Musaeva to Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov. He has posted a corresponding video recording.
Yangulbaev says that it has been a year since his mother’s arrest. According to the human rights defender, Kadyrov has “proven that he’s a terrorist and uses terror methods”. He also accuses the Chechnya leader of kidnapping relatives of political opponents, critics, and social activists.
“My mother’s health has gotten worse during this year. It’s hard for her to be imprisoned, and she shouldn’t be in there under any circumstances. She should not be held responsible for her sons' actions. And if you’re a man, Kadyrov, if you consider yourself to be the personification of the utmost masculinity in this country, you have to let her go.
“Seeing as the situation is that we are abiding by the rules of war, seeing as laws don’t work in Chechnya and Russia, let’s exchange me for her. You shouldn’t mess with women. Take me instead of her,” he continues.
“Just like nothing influences terrorists, until they have gotten what they want, so does nothing influence Kadyrov,” Abubakar Yangulbaev says in a conversation with Novaya Gazeta Europe.
The human rights defender recalls that the last time he has talked to his mother was a year ago, on the day of her kidnapping. He was on the phone with her at the moment law enforcement agents broke into her flat. In the last year, Abubakar was able to only exchange five letters with his mother, seeing as most of his letters were not delivered to her.
He adds that he tried to exchange himself for his mother last spring, but nothing came of it. It could be that the local government decided to ignore his offer because it had not been made publicly. Another possible reason is that the investigator just did not let the higher officials know about Abubakar’s proposal.
“My main goal is to save my mother, seeing as she is not guilty of anything at all: she hadn’t been doing any political or human rights work, she’s not guilty of what she’s been accused of. She should not be in a pre-trial detention centre at all, her health keeps getting worse. This is information confirmed by lawyers and a conclusion made by doctors. And now, I’ve just decided to speak publicly,” Yangulbaev says.
He notes that since the start of the war some “people who had seemed to be Kadyrov’s critics started siding with him”. It was after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that the idea came to him to exchange himself for his mother.
“This entire year, we tried to use media, public outcry, human rights defenders, politicians from different countries, journalists from different countries, but just like nothing influences terrorists, until they have gotten what they want, so does nothing influence Kadyrov,” the human rights defender states.
He explains how the exchange will be organised if Kadyrov and his associates agree to it.
“First of all, there has to be a guarantor country, an independent and neutral one. Usually, this role is played by a state or some influential association or community. For example, Turkey could be a good place for [the exchange]. Or Ukraine where POW swaps have already been taking place,” he concludes.
Photo: Telegram channel of Abubakar Yangulbaev
Yangulbaev notes that he used to believe that public support of the case could have saved his mother, but with the start of the war “there is no more place for laws, rights, and human freedoms in Russia”.
“My mother is not guilty of anything. Let her go and take me instead! Me, you can torture, abuse, kill, resurrect, and all over again every day,” Yangulbaev says.
On 20 January 2022, law enforcement agents broke into the Nizhny Novgorod flat of retired judge Saidi Yangulbaev and his wife Zarema Musaeva and took the woman in an unknown direction. Musaeva suffers from diabetes, she was taken away without any clothes or necessary medication. She was detained as a witness, then arrested for 15 days over an administrative violation — allegedly, she “attacked a police officer and almost left him without an eye”.
Human rights defenders connect Musaeva’s kidnapping with her son’s human rights work. Another son of Musaeva — Ibrahim Yangulbaev — is a person of interest in a criminal case on public calls for terrorism.
Chechnya’s head Ramzan Kadyrov stated the Yangulbaev family allegedly supports extremism and terrorism, which is why they need to be detained. According to him, in case of resistance they should be eliminated. Currently, Musaeva is under arrest over charges of using serious violence towards a law enforcement agent.
Russia’s Financial Monitoring Agency previously added Baysangur and Ibrahim Yangulbaev — Zarema’s sons — to the list of terrorists and extremists.