ago, the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean Peninsula after unmarked troops
marched into the Ukrainian territory and took control of the local parliament.
first six months of this year, Crimean Tatars who have lived on the peninsula
since at least the 15th century, accounted for a disproportionately large
majority of the number of arrests — 138 out of 200 — made by Russian Federation
figures, released by the Crimean Tatar Resource Centre (CTRC), a
non-governmental organization, tell only a tiny part of the full story of
injustice and harassment to which the community has been subjected since the
Out of the
73 recorded house searches, 55 were conducted in the homes of the Tatar
minority, and out of 69 detentions, 57 were of Crimean Tatars, according to the
CTRC. Today, Crimean Tatars cannot enjoy safety and comfort even in their
ancestral land. However, they are no strangers to oppression and abuse.
the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin accused the Muslim Tatars of collaborating
with Nazi Germany and betraying the country, and ordered their deportation from
In one of
the 20th century’s major incidents of collective punishment, Moscow forcibly
moved the entire population of about 230,000 to other Soviet states, mostly
Uzbekistan. At the time, Crimean Tatars comprised nearly one-fifth of the
to surveys by political activists in the 1960s, more than 46 percent of Crimean
Tatars perished due to disease and starvation during the first three years of
Most of the
population was able to return to Crimea after the collapse of USSR in 1991. Crimean
Tatars began to hold ceremonies each May 18 in remembrance of the forced
population transfer. However, those gatherings have been banned by the Russian
authorities since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
takeover of the peninsula followed a military intervention in Crimea that the
Russian Federation staged in the wake of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and
unfolded amid widespread unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine.
referendum organized by Moscow in 2014 ostensibly to determine the status of Crimea
was considered illegal by Western powers and boycotted by the Crimean Tatars.
According to the CTRC, the annexation forced more than 20,000 Crimean Tatars
from their homes as the Russian Federation sent 200,000 nationals to live on
groups say the persecution of the Crimean Tatars, who number about 300,000
today, has continued since the 2014 status referendum. It takes the form not
only of arrests, searches and imprisonment, but also of attempts to tamper with
their culture and history, according to the groups.
activists accuse the Russia Federation of falsifying the history of the Crimean
Tatars to justify the persecution of the population. “During this academic
year, it was discovered that a tenth grade textbook said the Crimean Tatars
collaborated with Nazi Germany,” said Eskender Bariiev, CTRC’s chairman, told
an outcry over the textbook, with Crimean Tatars filing multiple complaints
that compelled the Russian authorities to remove it from the educational
system, according to Bariiev.
activists also say Russian Federation authorities are seeking to change the
Crimean Tatars’ ethnonym that is the name given to a specific ethnic group.
Among the controversial replacements for “Crimean Tatars” being floated are
Tatars, Tatar diaspora, Tatar minority or Tatars of Crimea, Bariiev said.
He said the
Russian Federation authorities are trying to avoid acknowledging the fact that
Crimean Tatars are an indigenous people of Crimea by using of all kinds of
artifices. For instance, the Supreme Court of Russia banned the Mejlis — the
representative body of the Crimean Tatars — on charges of extremism in 2016.
a session of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
Bariiev said the Russian Federation’s actions violated the right of indigenous
peoples to manage representative institutions guaranteed by UN declarations.
the Mejlis, Crimea’s new administrators have banned a number of Crimean Tatar
Muslim associations and groups and prosecuted their members.
report said 42 out of the 60 Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held on
Russian territory are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international political
organization that seeks to “unite Muslims under one Islamic caliphate.”
At the same
time, a number of Crimean Tatar activists have been banned from entering the
peninsula, some for up to 30-50 years. One of them is the CTRC’s Bariiev, who
has not been allowed to return to his homeland since 2015.
One of the
reasons the court cited in his case was the threat allegedly posed to the
public by a body he helped set up. In 2014, along with others Bariiev formed a
committee whose stated objective is to protect the rights of Crimean Tatars.
prominent Tatar Muslim who is banned from entering Crimea is Mustafa Dzhemilov,
a former chairman of the Mejlis and a member of Ukraine’s parliament. He is one
of those who experienced first-hand the community’s forced exile in Uzbekistan.
said he was prevented from majoring in Arabic language in Tashkent, in
Uzbekistan, due to his ethnicity.
“One of the
admissions committee members told me they do not accept Crimean Tatars and
recommended that I don’t waste my time and just join a different department,”
Dzhemilov told Arab News.
the authorities branded the Mejlis an extremist outfit because the Crimean
Tatars’ representative body has refused to recognize Russian sovereignty over
the Crimean Peninsula.
intelligence reports in 2019 showed that the Russia Federation has deployed
troops, aircraft and weapons in the disputed region. Satellite images enabled
Defense One, a US publication, to identify five S-400 batteries, five S-300
air-defense systems and fighter jets at four different locations.
intelligence official was quoted by Defense One as saying that the Russian
Federation is engineering “a deliberate and systematic build-up” of its forces
on the peninsula. Russian border control also denied access to UN observers to
Crimean territory, according to a recent Facebook post of the UN Human Rights
Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
Federation intends to heavily militarize the peninsula, hence it needs to fill
the area with loyalists, Dzhemilov told Arab News.
Source: Arab News