Dnipro, Ukraine – Muslims in Ukraine face a difficult Ramadan this year as Russia’s war on the country continues to rage, yet many plan to use the charitable season to raise money to support those in need.
“We have to readjust everything,” said Niyara Nimatova, a Crimean Tatar and head of the Muslim League of Ukraine.
On the first day of the fasting month, likely to be on Saturday, she plans to prepare an Iftar evening meal with a group of displaced families who are staying with her in the Islamic centre in Chernivtsi.
“A lot of Muslims went abroad and those who are still in Ukraine need support,” Nimatova said on the phone from the western Ukrainian city where she has been displaced to from the southeastern province of Zaporizhzhia, parts of which are under Russian control.
Five weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, more than 10 million people have been forced from their homes, including some four million people who fled abroad, according to the United Nations.
Muslims make up about one percent of the population of Ukraine, a predominantly Ukrainian Orthodox Christian country by religion. Before the war, Ukraine was home to more than 20,000 Turkish nationals, as well as a number of Turkic people, most notably the Crimean Tatars.
Crimean Tatars pray at mosque in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on August 13 [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]
Preparations for Ramadan have been both difficult and emotional this year as bombs fall on the country and curfews are in place, restricting movement in the evening when families gather to break the daylight fast. Displaced by war, many are also far from their homes, community support networks and friends – yet, they are determined to make the most of the festive period.
“We have to be ready to do our best to get God’s forgiveness, to pray for our families, our souls, our country, Ukraine,” said Nimatova, whose husband, Muhammet Mamutov, is an imam.
‘We will share our bread’
As a Crimean Tatar, Nimatova has been displaced before – when Russia annexed the southern peninsula of Crimea in 2014, she and her family were forced to flee to Zaporizhzhia.
“When we lived in Crimea, we never thought that we would have to leave. My people were deported previously by [Soviet leader Joseph] Stalin and my grandparents and parents always had dreams to go back,” she said.
“When I was two, in 1988, we returned. But then Russia occupied Crimea in 2014 and we understood that we could not continue our religious activities so we left. Now I have fled my home again.”
In 1944, more than 191,000 Crimean Tatars were deported on Stalin’s orders, mostly …….