Sep 22, 2004

Crimean Tatars: Tatar Congress condemns radicals and pledges support for opposition Leader Viktor Yu

The Congress of the Crimean Tatar People has decided to support Ukrainian opposition Leader Viktor Yushchenko in the coming presidential Election
Untitled Document

ANALYSIS: By Mykyta Kasyanenko Den, Kiev, Ukraine, in Ukrainian 15 Sep 04

BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Sun, Sep 19, 2004

The Congress of the Crimean Tatar people has decided to support Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko in the coming presidential election, a Ukrainian daily has said. The recent congress opposed the rotation of the Majlis, condemned the Beslan tragedy and criticized the radical Hizb al-Tahrir organization, the paper said. The congress also called for land plots to be given to Crimean Tatars, the paper said. The following is the text of the article by Mykyta Kasyanenko entitled "The Kurultay has decreed. 'The Crimean Tatars link the solution to all their problems with the Ukrainian state'", published in the Ukrainian newspaper Den on 15 September; subheadings have been inserted editorially:

CONGRESS DELIBERATIONS The delegates of the Kurultay [National Congress] of the Crimean Tatar people, who gathered in Simferopol, showed calm and restraint. Its decisions were aimed at showing, as [head of the assembly] Mustafa Dzhemilyev said, that "the Crimean Tatars link a solution to all their problems precisely with the Ukrainian state", and sooner or later it will have to come to terms with that. Having dismissed two representatives of the more radical wing of the national movement (Sinaver Kadyrov and Ayder Mustafayev) from their posts in the Majlis [assembly] the day before the Kurultay, the main nucleus of the Majlis, which is at the same time the Council of Representatives under the Ukrainian president, demonstrated that, in the first place, this was no accident, but a measured political policy, and secondly, that it also has the support of the Kurultay delegates, and that means the people. The congress did not support the radical proposals about the rotation of the Majlis and listened patiently to the opinion of radicals who accused Ukraine of all the deadly sins of which the bloodiest African regimes used to be accused of in the past - genocide, apartheid, segregation and racism - and took these definitions from the texts of the documents. Naturally, the Kurultay could not fail to express its point of view on the terrorist act in Beslan. The delegates adopted a statement condemning this crime, and fully in the spirit of its policy up to now and its current position, they pointed out that "states can only become supporters of non-violence and consistent supporters of a peaceful solution to any differences and injustices which arise in relations between the state and society when they rule out methods of coercion and repression against their own peoples and citizens".

CONGRESS CONDEMNS RADICAL PARTY In this respect, it was logical that the Kurultay weighed up the dangers of a split in the Muslim community, and they adopted an Address to the Muslims of Crimea, in which they condemned the activities on the peninsula of followers of the Hizb al-Tahrir political organization, which is banned in many countries, which calls for radicalism and a tough attitude towards the state, circulating leaflets calling for a jihad and permitting threats of the "elimination and annihilation of the rulers" who are cooperating with a non-Muslim state. The Kurultay supported the Spiritual Board of the Muslims of Crimea, "acting on the basis of the true values of Islam, tolerance and good-neighbourliness in relation to all people". At the same time, one could not fail to note real danger in the fact that, according to Mustafa Dzhemilyev, there are already on the peninsula over a thousand Hizb al-Tahrir members and "Wahhabists", who have set up over 30 religious communities, who are not subordinate to the muftiat, and who are consistently striving to exacerbate the situation in Crimea. In his opinion, they are being directed from outside Crimea, and in certain instances are being supported by some state bodies with the objective of destabilizing the situation in Crimea. Everything points to the fact that the situation requires the immediate intervention and proper reaction of the state, if it wants to prevent a conflict on Crimean soil getting out of control. Whereas Mustafa Dzhemilyev and his supporters still maintain that the "Majlis will never permit radical actions which violate the rights of other citizens", the representatives of the new currents who clearly draw their inspiration from abroad do not have such restraint. And if there for the moment seems to be no sense of opposition to these radical Islamic currents on the peninsula, then one has to ask - does anyone need this? Several attempts to destabilize the situation in Crimea on inter-ethnic grounds have already failed. Now attempts are expected to base this on religious differences, and for the moment there is no proper resistance to them.

KURULTAY'S "IMPORTANT" ROLE IN ELECTIONS The Crimean Tatars, who make up approximately 0.5 per cent of the number of voters in Ukraine, cannot really influence the outcome of the Ukrainian presidential election, but the Kurultay still has an important part to play in the election. In a special decision the delegates virtually supported a formula "for [leading opposition candidate Viktor] Yushchenko, but not against the authorities", which Mustafa Dzhemilyev explained to a correspondent as follows: "We have no strained relations with the present government, and we are working constructively with the country's president. Yes, our government is a conventional one, but we prefer Yushchenko. Like all citizens, we, too, have the right to our own point of view and our own choice." As far as specific problems are concerned, then, as Mustafa Dzhemilyev says, "if we continue to regard the Crimean Tatars as an ethnic minority, then we will get nowhere. There is no way we can resolve our problems on the basis of the law on ethnic minorities in Ukraine, and the collective rights of the people must be taken into account. It goes without saying that it is a disgrace for Ukraine, which is striving to get into Europe, that the language of an indigenous people on the peninsula is not mentioned even among the official languages of the autonomy, and proper representation of the people in bodies of power has not been guaranteed. This is not because the Crimean Tatars possess fewer rights, but that Ukraine has not provided them with equal conditions".

LAND The second grievance of the Crimean Tatars is the land issue. The radicals succeeded in tabling the question of land on the agenda of the Kurultay, and criticized in the strongest manner the actions of state bodies. The delegates of the Kurultay, however, by a majority vote, on the one hand did not support the feelings of the radicals, and on the other demanded that a realistic solution to the problem be found. Mustafa Dzhemilyev told Den: "One can understand that the returning Crimean Tatars, who were deported from their lands in 1944, and yet officially remained members of their own collective farms, now have not been able to join those remains of those collective farms which they were still able to find. Therefore, mechanisms had to be found which would provide them with land at least in the same degree as the other citizens living alongside them. This question cannot be solved on the basis of common land legislation, since it does not take into account the presence of the people in Crimea and the special nature of the Crimean Tatars position in respect of their deportation." The Kurultay showed that the Crimean Tatars have not given up hope of the adoption of a law "On restoring the rights of persons deported for ethnic reasons", which could resolve a number of problems. The adoption of this law, the Kurultay's decision points out, would be "a real contribution by the Ukrainian parliament towards giving legal backing to the restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people". However, the draft bill was vetoed by the president and was sent for further review. The consensus was that today "mutual understanding has been found", but because of the efforts of a number of factions this draft bill was not included in the current session. Naturally, the people are not happy about this which means that the problem of the Crimean Tatars, which has attracted some attention in European and other international organizations, by a decision of the Kurultay will again be submitted for discussion in the hope of resolving Ukraine's domestic problems. All this is dragging out the process of the "maturity" of the state in the eyes of international structures, although Ukraine should be able to deal with this problem without outside help.