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Don't Cry for Us Ukraina! (Ukraine)
Mubeyyin B. Altan
Crimean Tatars are going through an extraordinary period in their decades-long national struggle as people and a nation. Since their deportation en masse by the Soviet government under Stalin on May 18, 1944, they had launched one of the most effective human rights movement in Russian history, which enabled 270,000 Crimean Tatars to return to their ancestral homeland. Then came the disintegration of the Soviet Empire in 1991, which gave birth to 15 independent republics. Ukraine was one of these newly declared democratic states.
When Ukraine officially declared its independence on August 24, 1991, Crimean Tatars had already convened their historic Second National Kurultay (the first Crimean Tatar National Kurultay was held in 1917) and elected the 33-member National Mejlis with Mustafa Cemilev as the Chairman. They became newly independent Ukraine's strongest supporters, and at every national election overwhelmingly voted for the democratic candidates against the pro Russian ones. They had trusted the Kiev Government and did not anticipate any problems in having Kiev granting them the following demands:
We in the Crimean Tatar-American diaspora actively campaigned for the aforementioned demands among others. For many years we appealed to our ally Ukraine to grant those legitimate demands of our people. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian government never responded and left Crimean Tatars to continue to struggle for the restoration of their basic human and national rights. Oliver Loode, of Minority Rights Group and a member of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, points out Ukraine's attitude towards Crimean Tatars and states:
However, convincing their [Crimean Tatars'] home government of Ukraine of their indigenous status has proved more challenging, all the way until Crimea's illegal annexation by Russia in March 2014. For a number of reasons, post-Soviet Ukraine did not acknowledge Crimean Tatars as Indigenous people, even during the relatively liberal and pro-European years.... Nor did Ukraine endorse UNDRIP, most likely in order to avoid imaginary trouble with Crimean Tatars. What exactly the Ukrainian establishment was afraid of remains unclear, but it is widely known that for the most part of its existence, post Soviet Ukraine viewed Crimean Tatars with suspicion and mistrust, as if they were a real public enemy. (Facebook / QHA - "A window to Europe for Crimean Tatars," February 14, 2016)
The illegal second annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation on February 27, 2014, forced Ukraine to reconsider the importance of Crimean Tatars, and develop a "Crimean Tatar Policy" that she did not previously have. Here are some examples of this extraordinary transformation in Ukraine's new Crimean Tatar Policy:
As a long-time Crimean Tatar Human Rights advocate fighting to draw attention to the Crimean Tatars national struggle for decades, I welcome these sudden changes in Ukraine's policy towards Crimean Tatars, and the extraordinary actions Ukraine has taken to lift the Crimean Tatars' decades-long grievances to a higher international platform. My only regret is that the Ukrainian establishment is a quarter of century too late in recognizing the importance of the Crimean Tatars. A full and early, as early as 1991, Ukrainian support of the courageous Crimean Tatar National Movement could have possibly prevented the illegal second annexation of our ancestral homeland Crimea by Russian Federation. Now, Ukraine and Crimean Tatars have extremely difficult and costly political and other obstacles to overcome!
During these tumultuous times of their new national movement to permanently return to their ancestral homeland, Crimean Tatars need and expect more than words from Ukraine. So, DON'T CRY FOR US UKRAINA (Ukraine), FIGHT FOR US! FIGHT HARDER NOW, AND FIGHT WITH CONVICTION TO REGAIN CRIMEA AND CRIMEAN TATARS' FULL TRUST!
Mubeyyin Batu Altan
Posted: February 25, 2016
Note: The title of Mr. Altan's statement was inspired by the famous song "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," based on the life of Eva Peron (1919-1952), actress and first lady of Argentina. -- Ed.