International Committee for Crimea


ICC News Digest No. 1 (May 2005)


This is the first issue of the ICC News Digest, which includes summaries of selected news about Crimean Tatars. As you know, May is a special month, as the anniversary of the 1944 brutal deportation of Crimean Tatars is observed both in Crimea and diaspora communities in different countries. May 2005 was even more special because of the recent political changes in Ukraine. President Victor Yushchenko visited Bakhchisaray early in May and issued a statement on May 18, and Anatoliy Matviyenko, the new Crimean Prime Minister, offered an apology for the past crimes committed on the Crimean land. Also, the "Azatliq" campaign launched to secure the release of the six unjustly convicted Crimean Tatars continued in April and May.

The News Digest is an experimental project. We hope to issue these news summaries bimonthly or quarterly, depending on the volume of news and our own resources.

The President Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine Met with the Members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People

By the Press service of Mejlis of Crimean Tatar People
Simferopol, Crimea

On May 5, President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko met with the representatives of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis and its Chairman Mustafa Jemilev in the historical Khans Palace in Bakhchisaray, Crimea. Leading Crimean and Ukrainian officials also participated in the meeting. During the meeting, Jemilev and Mejlis members reviewed a number of important outstanding Crimean Tatar problems, such as the revival of the Presidential Council of Crimean Tatar Representatives, presidential support for the passage of a number of important laws about the national and post-deportation status of the Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine, and the restoration of the Crimean Tatar names of cities and localities in Crimea. Jemilev insisted on proactive government action for ensuring adequate Crimean Tatar participation in the legislative and executive branches of the Crimean government. Yushchenko promised to review personally all the presented issues. In turn, he urged the Crimean Tatar leadership and the Crimean government, with the participation of other Crimean minorities, to sign a comprehensive memorandum for peace and reconciliation in Crimea.

World War II - 60 Years After: For Victims of Stalin's Deportations, War Lives on

By Jean-Christophe Peuch, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Prague, Czech Republic, 4 May 2005

Early in May, as world leaders gathered in Moscow to mark the end of World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany, an RFE/RL reporter remembered millions of Soviet citizens who were forcibly settled in Siberia, Central Asia and the Far East by their own government. The deportations of Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Meskhetian Turks and other peoples of the Caucasus in 1943 and 1944 resulted in large losses of lives and sealed the fate of many small nations. Sixty years after the end of World War II, many of these deportees continue to suffer the consequences: More than 150,000 Crimean Tatars still live in exile and the Meskhetians have not even been allowed to return to their homeland--Georgia.

Crimean Tatars Commemorate Anniversary of Deportation

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
The Hague, The Netherlands
Source: Qurultay, Simferopol, Crimea

On May 16, a monument commemorating the victims of the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars was unveiled in the village of Kolchughino near Simferopol, Crimea. The five-meter, white stone monument was built by the Crimean sculptor Ilmi Ametov and financed by donations from the residents of nearby villages. Officials from the Crimean government, representatives from regional Mejlises, local residents and school children attended the solemn ceremony. The head of the rural council of Kolchughino, Tatyana Nikolaeva, thanked all those who initiated the project and urged the residents (presumably non-Tatar) not to defile the monument.

Ukraine: Power-Sharing Deal in Crimea Bolsters Tatar Minority

By Jeremy Bransten, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Prague, Czech Republic, 17 May 2005

Lawmakers in Ukraine's Crimean Autonomous Republic approved a power-sharing agreement that strengthens the role of the territory's ethnic Tatar minority. The deal was worked out between Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev and Crimean Prime Minister Anatoliy Matviyenko on May 12. Accordingly, the Crimean Tatars will receive two ministry positions as well as the post of deputy prime minister in the local government. The Crimean Tatar community, who for years demanded greater political representation and economic rights on the peninsula, welcomed the power-sharing agreement as a step forward. Following the deal, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called on the peninsula's three major ethnic communities -- Russians, Ukrainians, and Crimean Tatars -- to draft a joint memorandum on reconciliation.

Crimean Tatars Campaign for the Protection of Their Rights

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
The Hague, The Netherlands

On December 29, 2004, the Central District Court of Crimea in Simferopol brought charges against six Crimean Tatars. The accused included the Crimean Tatar National Movement activist and a member of a Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Kurtseit Abdullaev, and five young Crimean Tatars: Simar Khayredinov, Lenur Malaev, Elvis Kurtametov, Fahri Seitkhalilov and Dilyaver Maksudov. The latter five young activists were accused of initiating the infamous Cotton Club incident (March 23, 2004), where skinheads stabbed several young Crimean Tatars and caused consequent chaotic events in this Pushkin street bar. Kurtseit Abdullaev on the other hand, who is the delegate of the Crimean Tatar Qurultay and a member of the working group on the prevention of the inter ethnic conflicts of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC), was accused of allegedly attacking the cameraman of the Russian television company ORT during the Simeiz events that took place in March 2004.

Immediately after the Court's decision, these "falsely" convicted six people were transported to different prisons in different regions of Ukraine. The families of the accused have to date no reliable information on the well being or location of these prisoners. The jail sentences of the accused vary from 1.5 years to 9 years.

On March 15, 2005, the Court of Appeals of the (ARC) turned down the appeals and left the verdict unaltered for the six prisoners, regardless of Crimean Tatar Mejlis' negotiations with the prosecutors about this unjust imprisonment. Thereafter, the "Azatliq" action campaign was launched as a reaction to the Court's decision. Consequently, the "Azatliq" movement started to prepare an action plan that included the distribution of information materials to the public and the Diaspora members. On march 22, 2005, the "Azatliq" action campaign put up tent cities in Simferopol Central Square. In a few weeks, the petitions were drawn, multiple signatures were collected, and the first issue of the the "Azatliq" action newsletter was printed and distributed.

Between April 9, 2005 &150; May 18, 2005, the "Azatliq" action campaign carried out various protest marches in places of Crimean Tatar compact settlements. On April 2, 2005, the protest march that was initiated in the Simeiz settlement (Yalta region), started to move towards Simferopol. At each stop in Crimean Tatar settlements, more protesters voluntarily came and joined the march. Soon after, other protest marchers from other places, including Yalta-Alushta region, Sevastopol zone, Bakhchisaray, Simferopol, Kerch, Lenin, Feodosia, Sovet, Belogorsk, Karasu-Bazar, and Kirov regions also joined to the "Azatliq" action protests. On their way to Simferopol, these marchers stopped in different Crimean Tatar compact settlement areas and distributed information leaflets to the Crimean Tatar residents.

In the mean time, the families of the accused went to Kiev and met with the members of the Office of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine, the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On May 4, 2005, the "Azatliq" presented a petition with 11,000 signature to A. Zinchenko, head of the Secretariat of the president of the Ukraine. On May 5, 2005, when the members of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis met with the president of Ukraine, V. Yushchenko, they also handed him two copies of this petition. Until then, the "Azatliq" action campaign was able to collect over 15,000 signatures for the petition to the President of Ukraine. Written information and photos of the unjustly jailed individuals as well as other anti-Crimean Tatar events were also sent to UNO and CoE executive councils, and the Crimean Tatar Diaspora (USA, Romania, and Turkey).

Currently, the "Azatliq" campaign is working toward reversing the jail sentences of the falsely accused Crimean Tatars and has asked for investigation of those corrupt judges who did not have any valid evidence for the guilty verdicts.

PS: If you want to read more on the topic, you can check the following web site for Nadir Bekir's article: Crimean Tatars Organization Appeals to UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders.

Ukraine's 20,000 Crimean Tatars Gather to Commemorate Deportation Victims of 61 Years Ago

Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Kiev, in Russian, 18 May 05
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Wed, May 18, 2005
E. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor
Washington, D.C. and Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, 19 May 2005

On May 18, the 61st anniversary of the deportation from Crimea of Crimean Tatars was observed in an all-Crimean meeting in Simferopol's central Lenin Square. The flags of Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea were lowered to half-mast at all government buildings of the autonomous republic. An estimated number of 20,000 people gathered in the Square. Many were holding Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar flags and carrying placards with the slogans, "We demand that the Crimean Tatar people's rights be respected in land sharing," "Supreme Council, pass a law on the Crimean Tatar people's status," and "Supreme Council, it's time to restore Crimea's historical place names," written in Ukrainian. Among the officials attending the ceremony were Boris Deych, Chairman of Crimean Parliament; Anatoliy Matviyenko, Chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers; and Ukrainian deputies and Crimean Tatar representatives.

Crimean Aspects Website

Translated from Russian and compiled by Alim Memetov
Bakhchisaray, Crimea, 23 May 2005

Excerpts from Jemilev's Address on May 18
In an address delivered on the 61st anniversary of the deportation, the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Chairman Mustafa Jemilev touched upon the unsolved problems of his people in Crimea: lack of legislation restoring the rights of Crimean Tatars as indigenous people; illegal sentencing of compatriots and biased treatment at the courts, the return of Crimean Tatars who still remain in exile; the status of the Crimean Tatar language; low representation of Crimean Tatars at different levels of government.

Matviyenko Apologized
The Crimean Premier Anatoliy Matviyenko did something that no official in Ukraine, and even in the whole post-Soviet territory ever did - he publicly apologized for the 1944 deportation and other crimes conducted by the authorities on the Crimean land.

President Yushchenko's Statement
In his address to the Ukrainian nation on May 18, Yushchenko stressed that the problems of Crimean Tatars are urgent for the Ukrainian state and the government of Crimea. "Crimea needs understanding and consent. It belongs to all who live there. As President, I will protect the interests of all our citizens living on the peninsula. No political force in Ukraine and outside will play an inter ethnic card in the autonomy," he said.

Crimean Tatars Dissatisfied with Yushchenko Statement

By Gulnara Khasanova, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Tatar-Bashkir Daily Report, 23 May 2005

Crimean Tatars are expressed disappointment with a recent statement by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko that their national Mejlis should reject its stand on sovereignty. Yushchenko, meeting with the Mejlis leaders on May 5 in Bakhchisaray asked them to reject the 1991 declaration on the national sovereignty of Crimean Tatars, which he regards as a document that "contradicts the Ukrainian Constitution and causes anxiety among Crimean communities." Many Crimean Tatars believe that they, like Ukrainians, have a right to self-determination. A Crimean Tatar youth organization rejected Yushchenko's statement, saying that Crimean Tatars will never give up their right to statehood. The 1991 declaration states that "Crimea is a national territory of the Crimean Tatar people on which they alone have the right of self-determination."

Posted: 10 June 2005

The following individuals assisted in the preparation of this issue of News Digest: Kemal Seitveliev (Bakhchisaray), Idil Izmirli (Springfield, VA), Alim Memetov (Bakhchisaray), Levent Elpen (Istanbul), and Inci Bowman (Washington, DC).

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