- Children aged one to 17 allegedly kept in cells. Some of them may have never seen the sun
- Inclusive city of Kazan in the eastern region of Tartarstan shocked by allegations
PUBLISHED: 07:11 EST, 8 August 2012 | UPDATED: 23:55 EST, 9 August 2012
A cruel religious sect kept 27 children locked away in dark and unheated underground cells – some for a decade.
The youngsters, aged from one to 17, have never seen daylight and have now been rescued from their living hell in Russia.
They were kept in an eight-level warren of cramped rooms underneath a three-storey house, without ventilation or electricity in a suburb of the city of Kazan, in the eastern region of Tartarstan.
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The children’s parents have been charged with child abuse and the elderly leader of the Muslim sect, 83-year-old Faizrakhman Satarov, faces charges of negligence.
Members of the sect call themselves ‘muammin’ after the Arabic term that means ‘believers’.
Self-declared prophet Satarov, a former top imam in a neighbouring province, had declared the derelict house an independent Islamic state.
He ordered 70 followers to live in the underground cells and only a few sect members were allowed to leave the premises to work as traders at a local market.
The children are now in hospital and will go on to be placed temporarily in an orphanage.
Tartarstan police have said that the house will be demolished – but Satarov’s deputy Gumer Ganiyev declared on local television that it would be destroyed ‘over our dead bodies’. None of those charged have been arrested.
‘They will come with bulldozers and guns, but they can demolish this house over our dead bodies!’ he said.
Satarov has followers in several other cities in largely-Muslim Tatarstan and other Volga River provinces.
He has said that he founded the sect after falling out with other clerics and authorities in the Communist era, when the KGB sent him to Muslim nations to spread stories about religious freedom in the officially atheist Soviet Union.
Government-approved Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Jewish clerics routinely travelled abroad on Soviet publicity trips.
‘That’s how I became Satan’s servant, a traitor,’ he was quoted as saying. “When I understood that, I repented and started preaching.’
Muslim leaders in Tatarstan said Satarov’s views were contrary to their own.
Kazan-based theologian Rais Suleimanov said: ‘The teachings of Satarov, who declared himself a prophet, have been rejected by traditional Muslims.’
He added that the sect, which had stopped accepting new members, were ‘only dangerous to themselves and their children’.
The underground cells were discovered by police on Friday as part of an ongoing investigation into the killing of a local Muslim leader who had been critical of radical Islamist groups.
Religious harmony: The Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan, left, and a catholic church nearby is an example of how Muslims and Christians co-exist in the city