Dec 08, 2014

Crimean Tatars: Demonstrations for Human Rights Day Banned by Russia

Russian authorities have banned Human Rights Day demonstrations that were to be organized by the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. The ban further highlights the suppression of Crimean Tatar cultural rights, as other events such as Flag Day have also been banned.

Below is a report published by Human Rights in Ukraine

Until Russia annexed the Crimea, it was traditional for Crimean Tatars to hold a big gathering on the central square in Simferopol and other events to mark Human Rights Day on [10 December].  Under Russian rule, the Mejlis or representative body of the Crimean Tatars has been told they cannot hope to hold these gatherings.  The move is sadly not unexpected given that the same occupation regime has already banned events to mark the seventieth anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars and other remembrance gatherings. 

Nariman Dzelyal, deputy head of the Mejlis explained to the QHA news agency that the Mejlis has for many years held events on Dec 10 with the meeting in Simferopol traditionally addressing issues confronting the Crimean Tatars and agreeing a resolution to the authorities regarding resolution of these problems. 

Under Russian occupation, the Mejlis has been given to understand that no such meetings will be allowed, neither on the central square, nor anywhere else. 

Dzhelyal notes that a meeting on the same central square in Simferopol by something called the ‘Kyrym’ movement in support of the Russian President Vladimir Putin was immediately authorized by the occupation authorities despite notification having been given only a day before.  The meeting was provided with a stage and security as well, and was undoubtedly widely shown on Russian television.  

The Mejlis which represents the vast majority of Crimean Tatars is in an entirely different situation and, as reported here, has been facing efforts to crush it over recent months.  This is clearly due to its opposition to Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea.  

After attempting – in vain - to gain the support of Crimean Tatars for the pseudo-referendum on ‘joining Russia’ in March 2014, the occupation regime and Russia have become increasingly repressive with respect to the Crimean Tatars.  They have also demonstrated gratuitous cruelty and insensitivity.  

This was evidenced first in the banning of veteran Crimean Tatar leader and member of Ukraine’s parliament, Mustafa Dzhemiliev from his homeland ‘for 5 years’.  Later an identical ban was issued against Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis.  

Four men are now in custody facing highly dubious charges which emerged only six months later over the 3 May peaceful protest against the ban on Mustafa Dzhemiliev at the Armyansk crossing between mainland Ukraine and the Crimea.

In May just two days before the seventieth anniversary of the 1944 Deportation, the puppet regime’s ‘prime minister’ Sergei Aksyonov issued a decree effectively banning all remembrance ceremonies.   

Many Crimean Tatars refused to be cowered and did take part in remembrance ceremonies and prayers in Simferopol, Bakhchysarai and other regions of the Crimea. They were, however, prevented from even trying to gather in the central square as they have always done by huge numbers of Russian OMON riot police and military.   Two military helicopters circled over throughout the remembrance prayers held in Bakhchysarai and on the outskirts of Simferopol. 

Just over a month later, the Simferopol City Council refused to allow events to mark Crimean Tatar Flag Day to be held in the centre of the city.  A new ban was required since the occupation regime had lifted the blanket ban on gatherings in time for lavish ‘official’ celebrations for ‘Russian language day’ on 6 June. 

The Simferopol authorities then refused to allow Crimean Tatars to hold their traditional remembrance gathering to mark European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism on [23 August].  On that occasion they claimed concern for participants’ health saying that they could face sunstroke because of the hot weather.

After many more months of largely unconcealed repression, the occupation regime has stopped pretending to have a reason, and simply bans the events.