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Of Interest

17 April 1938: A Tragic Day in Crimean Tatar History

Crimean Tatars remember the tragic day of 17 April 1938, when Crimean Tatar leaders and members of the intelligentcia were executed in Simferopol by Soviet authorities. Among them were Hasan Sabri Ayvazov (editor of the newspaper Terjuman, writer and administrator); Osman Akcokrakli (educator, scholar and university teacher); Huseyin Badaninski (ethnographer and museum director); Cafer Gaforov (journalist, writer and poet); Abdulla Latifzade (philologist and poet); and Ilyas Tarhan (writer and government official). It is not clear today how many Crimean Tatar intellectuals and professionals were shot to death during a 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

Nowruz Celebration in Washington, DC

International Committee for Crimea, Inc. was invited to the Nowruz Commission's Gala by the Embassy of Ukraine. We helped the Embassy staff organize a cultural exhibit of Crimean Tatar arts and crafts. The festive event was held on 18 March 2017 in the Andrew Mellon Auditorium, Washington, DC. The Ukrainian Embassy participates in Nowruz Commission's events because of Crimean Tatars, the largest minority group in Ukraine who observe Nowruz. The Nowruz Commission consists mostly of ambassadors from countries where Nowruz is traditionally observed, and and aims to keep this cultural tradition alive and to educate the communities in the United States about the significance of Nowruz and the arrival of Spring.

Nowruz Celebration 2017
Ayla Bakkalli with Ukrainian Ambassador Valeriy Chaly

Day of Crimean Resistance to Russian Occupation

February 26, 2017, marked the 3rd anniversary of the controversial Russian annexation of Crimea. In support of Ukraine's integrity, Crimean Tatars living in Kyiv, Istanbul, Ankara and Constanta (Romania) held rallies and protested the ongoing human rights violations in Crimea. The Day of Crimean Resistance was also observed by Ukrainian groups in Paris, Tel Aviv and Amman (Jordan). On that day 3 years ago, Crimean Tatars and pro-Russian residents of Simferopol clashed at the Crimean Parliament. The next day, men wearing military uniforms with no insignia took control of the government buildings and the airport in Simferopol. It is estimated that 20,000 Tatars left their homeland Crimea since the Russian occupation and are now living in various cities of Ukraine.

Rally in Kyiv, Ukraine
Day of Crimean Resistance rally in Kyiv (Photo Credit: QHA)

The film "Crimea: The Resistance" depicts vividly the steps involved in the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The 23-minute video, narrated US historian James Austin (with Ukrainian subtitles), was published on You Tube in July 2016. It can be viewed at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo_lc3lBOXY&t=147s

Arrests and interrogations continue in Crimea

Since the occupation of Crimea, Russian authorities have detained, imprisoned, intimidated and banned many Crimean Tatars who opposed and peacefully demonstrated against the rule. Recently, two human rights lawyers who represent Crimean Tatar leaders and activists have have been detained. Nikolai Polozov, who defends Akhtem Chiygoz (imprisoned without a trial) and Ilmi Umerov (detained and subjected tp psychiatric examination) was interrogated on January 25. Emil Kurbedinov, a Simferopol-based lawyer who represents Crimean Tatar activists, have been arrested on January 26 and remains in prison for 12 days. In addition, 6 Crimean Tatars have been found dead and 11 have been missing, as of December 2016. For more detail on the intimidation of lawyers, see the Human Rights Watch report: "Crimea: Defense Lawyers Harassed"

Emil Kurbedinov
Emil Kurbedinov, defense lawyer (Photo Credit: RFE/RL)

New Additions to the ICC Web site

What did the US Department of State know about Crimean Tatars in Turkey just as the Soviet Union came to an end? An excerpt from a 1992 report, "Soviet Muslim Emigres in the Republic of Turkey," summarizes the status of community, organizations and publications of the Crimean Tatar diaspora in Turkey. See the report, "The Crimean Tatars in the Republic of Turkey: Summary" by Lowell Bezanis.
A second addition is a favorite poem, Clouds, Clouds" by Bekir Sitki Çobanzade (1893-1937), a Crimean Tatar scholar and poet. Translated into English by Mubeyyin B. Altan, the poem express the nostalgia for Crimea that Çobanzade felt while living far away from his homeland.

ICC participates in Turkish Festival

The ICC participated in the annual Turkish Festival, held in downtown Washington, DC on September 25. Joining forces with United Help Ukraine, we had a booth featuring books, DVDs, Audio CDs and Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar crafts. Organized by the American Turkish Association of DC, the Festival is considered the best ethnic event or "Best of DC" in the Best Festival category. An additional feature this year was the KIRIM Efsanesi (Legend of Crimea), a group of young dancers from New York who performed traditional Crimean Tatar dancers at the Festival.

Crimean Tatar Dancers at Turkish Festival
For additional information, see our illustrated report, "Crimean Tatars at the Turkish Festival, 2016."
More pictures are available at ICC's Facebook page.

The case of Ilmi Umerov

Ilmi Umerov, a Crimean Tatar leader, has been involuntarily confined to a psychiatric hospital in Simferopol since 18 August 2016. Former governor of the Bakhchisaray district and former deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Umerov has been charged with "separatism" by Russia's Federal Security Services (FSB). The occupying authorities would like him to admit that Crimea is part of Russia, but he refuses. Despite his impaired health condition, which makes him dependent on regular use of medications, people who know him well say that he is not mentally ill. The limited access to his own prescriptions in confinement has jeopardized his health, and critics have charaged that Russia has resorted to the Soviet method of "punitive psychiatry." Ukrainian, British and US governments as well as numerous human rights organizations have called on Russia to release Ilmi Umerov and provide proper medical care. The international protest over Umerov's psychiatric confinement has not gone unnoticed by Moscow, but as of this writing (September 3), he still remains imprisoned in Crimea.

Update: Mr. Umerov was released from the pschiatric hospital on September 7, but he still faces charges of "separatism" at the Russian court.

Umerov with grandchild
Umerov greets his grandchild from behind hospital fence

We are pleased to publish a statement issued by Mubeyyin Altan, "We all should be Ilmi Umerov, I am!" A member of the ICC Board of Directors, Mr. Altan was the first person to point out the similarity of Umerov's case to that of the Soviet general Petro Grigorenko (1907-1987), who was confiened to a psychiatric facility for five years because of his defense of the rights of Crimean Tatars. Grigorenko is an important figure in the history of Crimean Tatar national movement.

Award-winning documentary at Wilson Center, Washington DC

"A Struggle for Home: The Crimean Tatars" was screened successfully at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC on 26 May 2016. Program also included commentaries by Christine Paschyn, Film Director; Inci Bowman, ICC President; and Catherine Cosman, Senior Policy Analyst, US Commission on International Religious Freedom. The film was later shown at the U.S.- Ukraine Foundation in DC late in the afternoon.

The new documentary about Crimean Tatars won the Best International Film Award at the DC Independent Film Festival (DCIFF) in Washington, DC, in March 2016. In making the documentary, Director and Producer Christina Paschyn interviewed Crimean Tatar residents and activists, survivors of the Deportation, Russian nationalists, and scholars. The film tells the tragic history of Tatars and the new challenges they face under the Russian occupation of Crimea. It has already been screened at film festivals in Amsterdam, Doha (Qatar) and elsewhere, and were shown in various US cities (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis) and European Parliament in Brussels. We offer our heart-felt congratulations to Christina Paschyn and hope that it will go on winning more awards and spreading the word about Crimean Tatars.

A Struggle for Home poster
A Struggle for Home , Washington DC premier, 10 March 2016
For information on DCIFF screening: http://dciff-indie.org/2016-documentaries/a-struggle-for-home/
The film trailer is available at: https://vimeo.com/astruggleforhome/trailer
For further information on film: http://astruggleforhome.com/

Crimean Tatar singer Jamala wins the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Susana Jamaladinova, who performs under the stage name Jamala, won the Eurovision contest, held in Stockholm on 14 May 2016. Her performance was watched worldwide by over 200,000 million people. She represented Ukraine, after winning the final competition in Kyiv in February. Her song "1944" that Jamala wrote in English, with stanzas from a well-known Crimean Tatar song "Ey Güzel Kırım" [Hey Beautiful Crimea] relates to the deportation of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet government. Jamala was influenced by her great-grandmother's experience and the loss of her child during the ordeal of being uprooted. She noted that "This song really is about my family." Yet, the song "1944" sparked immediate protests in Moscow. The Russian authorities did not receive the news kindly and asked that it be eliminated from the contest because of its political implications. Eurovision organizers permitted her to enter the final contest, and as a result of her victory in Stockholm the tragic story of Crimean Tatars was heard by a wider international community than we could ever imagine. We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Jamala, who is now an international celebrity. (Photo: Eurovision Song Contest; Photo credit: AP)

Jamala at Eurovision contest
Jamala wins 2016 Eurovision contest in Stockholm

A Timeline: Crimean Tatars under Russian Occupation

It has been more than two 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."

"Crimea and the Crimean Tatars"

"Crimea and the Crimean Tatars" is a 4-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 and certain images. The program may be viewed on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cQAqBvvKJro

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: 24 April 2017

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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"

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