Russian officials unearthed a Muslim religious sect that had taken its community underground for over 10 years. Over two dozen children have been raised in the strict sect and were taken from the leaders’ custody by officials after the premises were searched on August 1, Reuters reports.
Prosecutors told the press on Wednesday that the children have been taken from the parents and those parents have been charged with child abuse. The children were raised without access to sunlight and no available heating or noticeable ventilation. The youngest of the children was about 18 months old and many of them had been born underground. Officials told the press that all the children needed medical attention to assess their condition.
The sect had only been discovered after police searched the grounds as part of a separate investigation into the attack on a Tatarstan Muslim cleric, Ildus Faizov, a moderate Muslim religious leader who was probably targeted for his anti-extremist stance. The Moscow Times describes the evolution of the Muslim group and how it came to house so many people. It was started by a Muslim official, Faizrakhman Satarov and quickly developed into an extremist sect:
Satarov, a former top imam in the neighboring province of Bashkortostan, declared his house outside Kazan an independent Islamic state. He ordered some 70 followers to live in cells they dug under the three-story building topped by a small minaret with a tin crescent moon. Only a few sect members were allowed to leave the premises to work as traders at a local market.
Their living space was created under an old three-story house on a 700-square-meter plot of land. The construction was illegal and authorities plan to demolish the house. Around 60 members followed Satarov, who declared himself a prophet in 1964 after falling out with major Muslim authorities.
Investigators plan to charge Satarov with “arbitrariness” in running the compound and he could serve up to six months in prison for the offense. The parents of the children will be charged separately for failing to complete their duties as parents, Discovery News points out.
The city of Kazan sits a few hundred miles to the east of Moscow and is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The region is normally a relatively peaceful area but recent political and religious disagreements between officials and extremist Muslim sects have caused friction and violence.
AP Photo/ Nikolay Alexandrov