International Committee for Crimea, Inc.
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Of Interest

A new paper on the indigenous status of Crimean Tatars

The ICC is pleased to publish an important paper by Natalya Belitser, "Crimean Tatar Identity and Related Issues." The paper focuses on the indigenous status of Crimean Tatars, and the efforts by the Russian Federation to ignore the ethnogenesis of the native people of Crimea. Unlike other ethnic minorities living in Crimea (e.g. Greeks, Armenians), who have their own national states, Crimean Tatars have no other state that they can call home. Dr. Belitser also discusses the Ukrainian government's response and legislative initiatives relating to Crimean Tatars since the Russian takeover of the peninsula in 2014. Dr. Belitser is affiliated with Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy in Kyiv, and her paper can be accessed here. (http://www.iccrimea.org/reports/ct-identity-2019.html) .

Children of Crimean political prisoners
Children of Crimean Political Prisoners (Credit: QHA)

Crimea: 5 Years under Russian Occupation

Since the illegal occupation of Crimea in February 2014, Crimean Tatars have been the most visible group to resist the occupying authorities. As a result, they have faced increasing persecution. Today, serious human rights violations are being committed against the indigenous population of the peninsula. In the last 5 years, the lives of Crimean Tatars have been impacted by Soviet-style methods of repression, including limitations on freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, enforced relocations and disappearances, and out-right attack on their political and cultural institutions.

[The Occupied]

Prominent Crimean Tatar leaders and activists have been the targets of harassment, detainment and even criminal prosecution. The Mejlis—the representative body of the Crimean Tatars—was banned as an extremist organization and its leaders, Mustafa Jemilev and Refat Chubarov, were exiled in 2014. Mejlis members Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov were detained and sentenced on fabricated charges, but later released "on humanitarian grounds" by Kremlin in October 2017. Their release was negotiated by the Turkish government.

Occupying authorities closed all Crimean Tatar media, including ATR TV and Crimean News Agency (QHA), and forced them to operate on mainland Ukraine. The Palace of Khans (Hansaray), an important part of the Crimean Tatar cultural heritage, has been partly destroyed under the pretense of "restoration."

35,000 Ukrainian citizens, mostly Crimean Tatars, had to leave Crimea and are now internally displaced people in Ukraine (IDPs). Over 2,000 Ukrainian citizens were deported from Crimea. About 70 political prisoners are still deprived of their liberty, with many being held in prisons and FSB facilities in occupied Crimea and Russia.

Mustafa Dzhemilev's 75th Birthday

On the occasion of his 75th birthday, we would like to extend our best wishes to Mustafa Dzhemilev, the well-known Crimean Tatar leader and former Soviet dissident.

Just a few months after he observed his 70th birthday on 13 November 2013, the Russian Federation occupied Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula which the Crimean Tatars call home. Following the illegal Russian annexation, a move condemned by the international community, the situation of the Crimean Tatar community began to deteriorate. Their political an cultural autonomy became targets of Russian aggression, with Mejlis (elected, self-governing institution) dissolved and Crimean Tatar-language media outlets shut down. Many Crimean Tatar leaders and activists were arrested, detained without trial, and a number of young men went missing. Continued...

Mustafa Dzhemilev

ICC at the Turkish Festival

For the third year, ICC will participate in the Turkish Festival in Washington, DC, on Sunday, September 30. This is an event well attended and considered the "Best of DC" in the Best Festival category. ICC's booth will feature books, DVDs, CDs, and the work of the well-known Crimean ceramicist Rustem Skibin as well as information about Crimean Tatars living in Russian-controlled Crimea. Our involvement in the popular Festival provides us with an opportunity to meet and talk to many individuals about Crimean Tatars and the political repression they experience in their own homeland.

ICC at Turkish Festival

Ceremony at the Victims of Communism Memorial

The ICC participated in the 11th Annual Roll Call of Nations Wreath Laying Ceremony, sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, on 8 June 2018. Held at the site of the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, DC, the Ceremony honored the memory of more than 100 million victims of communist regimes. Individuals, representing 16 embassies and 39 ethnic and human rights organizations, attended the event. The ICC honored more than 100,000 Crimean Tatars, victimized by political repression, famines and deportations.

Wreath honoring Crimean Tatars
Wreath honoring Crimean Tatars

17 April 1938: A Solemn Occasion in Crimean Tatar History

Crimean Tatars remember the tragic day of 17 April 1938, when they lost the most important members of their intelligentsia. Crimean Tatar educators, literary figures and administrators in the Crimean government were first imprisoned and then executed in Simferopol during a 3-day period, beginning on April 17. They were the victims of Stalinist terror and repression, accused of nationalist activities and espionage. They were the enemy of the people. Among them were Hasan Sabri Ayvazov (former editor of the newspaper Tercüman and political figure, writer and publisher); Osman Akçokrakli (educator, scholar and university teacher); Huseyin Bodaninski (ethnographer and director of Kahn's Palace); Cafer Gafarov (journalist, writer and poet); Abdullah Latifzade (philologist and poet); and Ilyas Tarhan (government official and writer). It is not clear today how many Crimean Tatar intellectuals and professionals were shot to death during this 3-day period (April 17-19), and their burial place is unknown. We honor their memory, dedication and contributions. They will not be forgotten.

Victims of 17 April 1938
Victims of 17 April 1938
Illustration: Emine Emirsaliyeva

The so-called restoration of Khan's Palace

The Khan's Palace (Han Saray) in Bakhchisaray, Crimea, has been a topic of controversy since November 2017. The Palace complex, which dates from the 16th century, served as the administrative center of the Crimean Tatar Khanate until 1783, when Russia annexed Crimea. Following the collapse of the Tsarist Russian government in 1917, Crimean Tatars voted to make the Palace complex their national museum. Last November, when the repatriates wanted to observe the 100th anniversary of Khan's Palace as a national landmark, they found the place locked because of the so-called restoration. Then followed the news that the wooden beams dating from the 18th century had been removed and replaced by concrete, and factory-made Spanish tiles were being substituted for the traditional Crimean Tatar tiles on the roof. We also learned that the Moscow-based company and its affiliate in Simferopol are in charge of the restoration project, but with no experience in restoring historic properties.

Palace Mosque in restoration
Mosque at Khan's Palace
Critics have charged that the Russian authorities who control the political life in Crimea since 2014 were intent on eradicating historical and cultural heritage of Crimean Tatars. The secretly taken photos of the destruction of the original features of the Palace then circulated in social media. The Ukrainian government appealed to the United Nations, as the complex had been placed on UNESCO's World Heritage Tentative List back in 2003. As of this writing, there is no indication that Russian authorities are willing to respond to the critics or to stop the so-called restoration of Khan's Palace. Most of the damage has been done to the Mosque at the complex, and Crimean Tatars now hope that they could at least save the rest of the historic buildings.
For additional information, see: "Russia's barbaric destruction of Khan's Palace and Crimean Tatar heritage reaches new critical stage" by Halya Coynash. Illustration credit: QHA

Veteran Crimean Tatar activist dies

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Vedzhie Kashka, a well-known figure in Crimea. The 82-year-old activist, a veteran of the Crimean Tatar National Movement, Mrs. Kaska defended the rights of her people for over 50 years. She died of heart attack in Simferopol on November 23, after Russian security forces raided a cafe where she was meeting with fellow activists. The news of her death was covered internationally, by New York Times and human rights organizations. Here we share an article, "This Crimean Tatar Activist Survived Stalin--But Not Putin," written by Briggs Burton of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Washington, DC. The article is partly based on an interview conducted with ICC President Inci Bowman.

Vedzhie Kashka
Vedzhie Kashka (1935-2017)

Political Prisoners Released

In a surprizing move, Crimean Tatar political prisoners Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov were driven to Simferopol Airport and flown to Turkey on October 25, 2017. The release and pardon of the two Crimean Tatar leaders were negotiated by the Turkish President R. Tayyip Erdogan, and the Russian government dropped all charges against them. Upon arrival in Kyiv on October 27, both Chiygoz and Umerov expressed their intention to return to Crimea, where their families live. It became clear afterwards, however, that their release amounts to exile, and not complete freedom to live in their homeland. We are nevetheless pleased that the imprisonment of Chiygoz and Umerov came to an end, following their highly publicized detention and trial lasting for months.
See also: Released Crimean Tatar leader: No "liberation" while my people, my land are not free.

Persecution of Crimean Tatar leaders

The US Department of State, United Nations, European Union and a number of human rights organizations have protested the ongoing human rights violations in Crimea and the recent convictions of Crimean Tatar leaders who oppose the Russian rule over their homeland. On October 5, the European Parliament adopted a resolution, criticizing the verdicts against the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena, and demanding their release. After spending over two years in detention, Mr. Akhtem Chiygoz was convicted of organizing mass-disturbance on February 26, 2014, a date when Russia had no jurisdiction over Crimea. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on September 11. Mr. Ilmi Umerov was convicted for opposing Russian occupation and given a two-year sentence on September 27. Last year, in August 2016, Umerov was involuntarily confined to a psychiatric hospital in Simferopol while suffering from poor health. Critics charged that Russia had resorted to the Soviet method of "punitive psychiatry." Western governments do not recognize the Russian annexation and imposed sanctions against Crimea and Russia in response.

Free Akhtem Chiygoz

"Crimean Tatars and the Russian Occupation"

"Crimean Tatars and the Russian Occupation" is a 5-minute slide program created by Barbara Wieser, a member of the ICC Board of Directors. It aims to familiarize the viewer with the homeland of Crimean Tatars and their recent experiences under Russian occupation. We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Lillia Muslimova in selecting the music. This is the revised version of an earlier program, also produced by Barbara Wieser. The program may be viewed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7IRjDyMLDM&feature=youtu.be

A Timeline: Crimean Tatars under Russian Occupation

It has been more than three years since Russian forces seized control of government facilities in Crimea and quickly moved to organize a questionable referendum that resulted in Russia's annexation of the peninsula in March 2014. Crimean Tatars have been under tremendous pressure ever since. Here we offer a brief chronology of events that lists human rights violations, including harassment and deportation of activists, exiling of Crimean Tatar leaders, intimidating members of the media, and illegal searches, confiscation of property, missing individuals and murder. Such abuses did not go unnoticed, and various governmental bodies and human rights organizations in the West responded by issuing statements and reports, documenting undue pressures exerted on the Crimean Tatar population. See: "A Timeline: Crimean Tatars under Russian Occupation."

Crimean Tatar Flag Day, June 26

Crimean Tatar Flag Day was observed in Washington, DC, as well in Kyiv and Ankara on 26 June 2017. On that day, the blue flag of Crimean Tatars (Gök Bayrak) flew along with the Ukrainian Flag on the roof of the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington. Inci Bowman, ICC President, was invited to attend the Ceremony and spoke briefly about the significance of the flag. The Gök Bayrak has been the national symbol of Crimean Tatars since 1917, when the first Kurultay (elected assembly) met in Bakchisaray, Crimea. Following the return of exiled Crimean Tatars to their homeland, the second Kurultay met in Simferopol in June 26-30, 1991 and reaffirmed the Gök Bayrak as their national flag. Hence, June 26.

Crimean Tatar Flag at Embassy of Ukraine
Crimean Tatar Flag at the Embassy of Ukraine

Photographs relating to Crimean Tatars and Related Activities

Photographs relating to Crimean Tatars and related activities are now available at the FLICKR or PICASA Web sites:

Last Update: 5 March 2019



Petro Grigorenko
Petro Grigorenko (1907-87)

Mustafa Jemilev
Mustafa Jemilev, 2011
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Women's Journal Nenkecan
Women's journal NenkeCan

Wreath-laying ceremony in Washington, DC
Wreath-laying Ceremony,
Washington, DC

Dance of Arzy Kiz
Ethnic Dance,"Arzy Kiz"