Mass arrests of parishioners of mosques associated with the Salafist movement have become routine in Dagestan. For example, on July 15, the police cracked down on the mosque on Vengerskikh Boitsov Street, in Makhachkala, when up to 50 parishioners were detained (Newsru.com, July 15). Exactly a month earlier, on June 17, the police detained up to 80 of the mosque’s parishioners (Newsru.com, June 17). The majority of the detainees showed documents issued by the police indicating they had previously been put on the Interior Ministry’s control and prophylactic list. However, the police nonetheless detained them “for identification purposes,” and if they resisted, the police could put them under arrest for 15 days for disobedience. The authorities use various methods of harassment, including mass arrests of mosque parishioners as they exit mosques. Sometimes, the police enter mosques, install a video camera inside and then ask everyone to state their name, surname and address on camera (YouTube, May 9, 2015).
According to Dagestan’s Interior Minister Abdurashid Magomedov, the police, using such methods, registered 20,000 adherents of Salafism. The figure may be even larger than the one Magomedov cited in his report for the Dagestani parliament (Regnum, June 2). That there are 20,000 active followers of Salafism in Dagestan is quite impressive. It explains why the republic remains one of the hotbeds of insurgency in southern Russia.
Ironically, the authorities themselves allowed the Salafists to operate legally (Gimry.ucoz.com, May 3, 2012). Now, the government cannot either take away the Salafist mosques or shut them down. The authorities also cannot force the Salafists to reject their view of Islam in contemporary society. The police, however, reverted to Soviet methods of total control over the population. Now, the officials say that those on the police’s list cannot leave the republic or change their telephone number without informing the authorities or face repercussions if they do. The new rules came to light after one such registered individual was served notice in a police “warning” issued “to prevent violations of public order and safety” and “counter terrorism and extremism.” Recipients of such warnings are required to inform the authorities “about all facts and information” that concern extremism. Legal experts were particularly indignant about the warnings’ requirement that those who receive them must inform the police of any change of address, telephone number, and travel plans outside Dagestan (Kommersant, July 27).
It later turned out that other Salafist mosque parishioners also received such “warnings.” The police apparently summoned the registered individuals to the police station under the pretext of removing them from the registration list. Instead of removing them, however, they were issued these “warnings.” During the Soviet period, the police and KGB used such restrictive measures against regular criminals and political dissidents. According to Russian experts, the present-day authorities have devised legislation that allows them to jail any civil activist who speaks out against just about anything, for alleged “extremism” (Vedomosti, July 26).
Human Rights Watch has documented multiple cases of individuals who were registered by the police, excessively questioned, photographed, fingerprinted, and forced to submit DNA samples (Hrw.org, June 18, 2015). Maksim Shevchenko, a journalist who is also a member of the Russian president’s Council for Human Rights, discussed the issue with Dagestan’s governor, Ramazan Abdulatipov. Shevchenko accused the Dagestani interior ministry of illegally putting people on the “prophylactic list” based on their personal convictions (Regnum, June 1).
It would be naïve to think that the rights activists opened the eyes of the regional authorities concerning human rights violations in the republic. Regional authorities are themselves ready to violate human rights and cannot correct the rights violations of the police. Rather than acting to correct the rights violations, the regional authorities regarded the visit of the rights activists from Moscow as an attempt to put pressure on them.
The police put not only adults on the “prophylactic list,” but also children as young as two years old. The registration term extends to 2060—that is, for 40–45 years (Memohrc.org, August 6, 2015). The strategy of the police is unlikely to lower interreligious tensions between Dagestan’s Sufis and Salafists. In 2014–2015, many prominent Salafist leaders fled Dagestan. They included Abu Umar Sasitlinsky, who is now in a Turkish prison, Nadir Abu Khalid, who joined the Islamic State, and others who felt that the government’s stance on Salafists was changing. As the authorities increase pressure on the Salafists, they will increasingly join the underground movements, which will escalate Dagestan’s civil conflict.