They put me in a car, put a black bag on my head – Leila Ibrahimova about her detention

May 6, 2022

Deputy of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council, director of the Melitopol Museum of Local Lore Leila Ibrahimova, during her speech at the side event at the 21st session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, spoke about the repression of representatives of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people in the new temporarily occupied territories.

She shared the story of the search in her own house, about the detention and interrogation, as well as about the capture of the Melitopol Museum of Local Lore and the theft of Scythian gold.

Full text of the speech

Greetings dear community!

My name is Leila Ibrahimova, since 1974 I have been living in the city of Melitopol, I am a Crimean Tatar, a representative of the indigenous people of Ukraine. I work as the director of the Melitopol Town Museum of Local Lore, was elected as a deputy of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council.

I have never thought that in the 21st century I would witness the occupation!

After the start of a full-scale invasion of Russia, the city of Melitopol was occupied on February 25th.

Now my people are suffering from the military and collaborators in my city!

On March 10, I was abducted from my home. I was the first person whom the Russian military detained in Melitopol.

At 6 o'clock in the morning, armed Russian soldiers broke into my house. There were many of them, and all were with assault rifles in their hands. They searched all the rooms of my private house, as well as the attic and basement. There were eight of us at the time. My husband and seven women. We were all very scared.

At first I was very confused, but when I came to my senses, I began to ask, on the basis of what they came. Received the answer: "On the basis of martial law." The invasion was illegal, they did not provide any documents.

They immediately took the phones and searched the house. After the search, they asked which of the 7 women is Leila Ibrahimova, they all knew about me.

They put me in a car, put a black bag over my head, and drove me very quickly in an unknown direction.

I ended up in a cell where an interrogation began, which was conducted by individuals in balaclavas, constantly replacing each other.

They were interested in information about the connections with the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and about the museum.

They asked what topics are covered in our museum, what sections. I told them: “Do you understand what a local history museum is? You have local history museums in Russia. We have pictures about everything – nature, history, outstanding people.”

Then they asked about Islam, history, why I went to pro-Ukrainian rallies.

They focused on rallies. One of the occupiers tried to put pressure on them, saying that there are already people who have handed them all over, told everything they wanted to know.

They threatened me, warned me that they were now in power in the city. I replied that my plans were not to cooperate with them.

After three hours of interrogation, they again put a black bag on me, put me in a car and drove somewhere very quickly so that I did not understand where they were taking me. I was very lucky that they let me go.

In the evening of the same day, employees called and said that the museum was being searched. The occupants broke the locks. They were part of the fund where the Scythian gold was kept. Equipment and documents were stolen.

On March 11 we came to the museum. We're lucky the military didn't find the DVR. Therefore, we copied the video and handed it over to the Department of Culture.

The video shows how they took things out of the museum. The search lasted about 50 minutes, according to the video.

There was already a lot of Russian military equipment and soldiers in the city. As the director of the museum, I understood that we should hide the exhibits. We buried a collection of Scythian gold and other valuable items in a basement that was not listed in the documents.

I realized that there is a great danger for the team, we decided that we would come on short-term duty. On March 26, when the workers arrived at the museum, they were followed by the Russian military and collaborators. They changed the locks and said that now it is their responsibility, there is no need to come to the museum anymore.

On April 20, the occupants appointed collaborator Yevhen Horlachov as director.

After that, searches began at the employees and even abductions.

Horlachov and the Russian military spent a whole week carefully searching the museum, interrogating employees one by one, but no one provided them with information.

In the end, they reached the basement and stole everything they found.

While I do not know about the whereabouts of the collection, I really hope that the cultural heritage of the people will return back to Ukraine, namely to the liberated Melitopol!

Watch video of the side event.