Crimean Tatar Mejlis initiates protest march to Kyiv
“We are on our land!”
The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is considering the possibility of a protest march to Kyiv. Nariman Dzhelyal, deputy head of the Mejlis has announced that this is one of the possible activities planned to mark the seventieth anniversary of the Deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar people from their homeland in May 1944.
A final decision on the march, as well as when it would take place, has yet to be taken, however a similar many thousand-strong march in 1999 spurred the Ukrainian authorities then to engage in dialogue with the Crimean Tatars and their representative bodies.
The seventieth anniversary of the Deportation on May 18 this year should serve as an important reminder to the authorities of the many problems still unresolved. Dzelyal says that many fellow Crimean Tatars support the idea of a march and believe it is needed, given the fact that the authorities continue to ignore the difficult situation that the Crimean Tatars are in. They want to make their demands heard directly outside the Verkhovna Rada and Cabinet of Ministers buildings.
Dzhelyal says that the Crimean authorities are not prepared to heed them, and they believe that the authorities’ attention can only be gained by large-scale protests and demonstrations of activity from civil society, hence the idea of a march.
Natalia Belitser from the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy points out that a large-scale march on Kyiv organized by the Mejlis in 1999 did lead to greater attention being paid by the government to Crimean Tatar issues; to a renewal of dialogue between the authorities and Crimean Tatars; and to a number of steps fulfilling the latter’s demands. The then president, Leonid Kuchma created a Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People and included members of the Mejlis elected at the general congress of Crimean Tatar Kurultai.
The current demands from the Crimean Tatar’s include reinstating this practice or another form of legal recognition of representative self-governing bodies of the Crimean Tatar people. Adequate funding also needs to be reinstated for the State program on the return and resettlement of peoples formerly deported.
Laws also need to be passed on the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatar people and on their status in Ukraine.
Another key demand is permission to hold an international forum on the security and development of the Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine which could gather funds needed to resolve the problems of formerly detained national groups.
Ali Khamzin, head of the International Department of the Mejlis is certain that the Diaspora will join in the protest actions, and that a march need not be the only way of influencing the authorities. The Diaspora, he stresses, has “shown itself to be capable of holding protests in support of our people and against the discrimination of the Crimean Tatars by the current leadership of the country. He says that there need be no doubt that such protests would take place throughout Europe.
Khamzin believes that the Crimean Tatar will also support EuroMaidan and democracy in Ukraine.
According to Ihor Semyvolos from the Middle East Research Centre and conflict resolution specialist, Crimean Tatar protests in the context of what is presently taking place will have a multiplying effect, with EuroMaidan in Kyiv strengthening the demands of the Crimean Tatars and vice versa.