Resilience against counterterrorism?

The repression and response of Crimean Muslim activism against Russian counterterrorism and counter-extremism


  • Richard McNeil-Willson Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute

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counter-extremism, counterterrorism, resilience, repression, Crimea, Islamic activism, Russia


This article examines how repression is being wielded by the Russian Federation in Crimea against Muslim Tatar communities under the guise of countering terrorism and violent extremism, and how non-violent resistance and grassroots resilience is being fostered as a means of countering securitisation. The case demonstrates how language developed within a Western security context are co-opted by authoritarian actors, how Islamic activist groups engage in activities that can be framed as ‘resilience-building’ through the language of human rights, freedom of press and democracy, and the issues raised by applying the term ‘resilience’ within a counterterrorism context—both in illiberal and liberal settings. The article finds that techniques comparable to concepts of resilience-building are being conducted in an illiberal setting by communities in response to, and as a counter against highly repressive articulations of counterterrorism. It also suggests that the term ‘resilience’ is problematic in this context, failing to adequately account for—and often actively obscuring—organisational activism of communities and their interaction with the political context. This offers an understanding of community-led responses against counterterrorism and counter-extremism as a tool of repression as well as examining the credibility of terms such as ‘resilience’ within CVE in Crimea and elsewhere.






Resilience and resistance in illiberal regimes