Oct 12, 2018

UNPO Hosts Day-Long Event in European Parliament with Dual Role of Discussing the Crimean Tatar Struggle and Promoting their Culture

On Tuesday 9 October 2018, the European People’s Party (EPP) the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), Promote Ukraine, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Crimea SOS, Business Woman Mag, the International Association of Ukrainian Women (MOZHU), the Mission of Ukraine to the EU, the Ministry for Informational Policy in Ukraine, the European Parliament Intergroup on Child Rights, and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) have co-organized the conference entitled “Beyond Geopolitics: why does the Crimean Tatar case matter?” The conference has been co-hosted by MEP Corazza Buidt, MEP Kelam and MEP Demesmaeker. The day was composed by one event in the morning at the European Parliament in Brussels and one subsequent cultural event that took place at the Press Conference Brussels. While the second part of the event has emphasized the cultural aspects of the Crimean Tatars, having allowed people to have the unique opportunity to experience Tatar music and food cooked by an authentic chef from the best Crimean Tatar restaurant in Ukraine, “Musafir”, in the morning social, cultural, and political aspects of the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia. The morning event has also touched important matters as women’s and children’s rights, as well as the role they are playing in the Crimean context.

After a brief introduction by the moderator of the first panel, Ms. Lucia Parrucci, UNPO Advocacy Officer, the conference was opened with remarks given by MEP Tunne Kelam from the EPP, MEP Mark Demesmaeker from the ECR, Mr. Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, and Ms. Alina Skomorokva, Co-Founder of the International Association of Ukrainian Women. Mr. Kelam MEP has highlighted the importance the event had not only for Crimea itself, but also for Europe and the European Union. Expressing his hope that the conference’s message would be useful for the Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, and for the nations of the European Union, Mr. Kelam has also contextualized the place and role played by the European Parliament, which has for years insisted in the balance between civil, human, and cultural rights, and the realpolitik and economic and political interests.

Mr. Chubarov has then further contextualized the history and current situation in the Crimean Peninsula, stating that the aggression of Russia remains one of its greatest challenges. He has highlighted that when people talk about the geopolitical crises they tend not to notice the people and the concrete nations that are suffering from it, stating that within the huge political crisis there is a deep tragedy of people. Mr. Chubarov has further referred that the occupation of Crimea and its illegal annexation by Russia has initiated a new violation for the Tatar people, who have endured violence and repression throughout history, highlighting that the European Parliament has an important role to play in stopping the situation and in defending those people who are now the object of suffering.

Mr. Chubarov was then followed by Ms. Skomorokhva, who have shared the specific situation and role played by Crimean women, who although targeted by Russian aggressors still actively defend their children and the future of democracy in the region. According to her, what she calls “undeclared war” has changed the situation of women and children in the Crimean Peninsula, who now play a role that should be noticed. She has further highlighted that after having endured 70 years of deportation resulting from the aggressions of the Soviet government, the Crimean Tatars now face a similar threat.

Mr. Demesmaeker MEP has then highlighted the conditions of people who are detained and the concerning human right situation in the region, stating that human rights should be universal and indivisible. He has further stated that the illegal annexation of Crimea should not be accepted, as it represents a further threat to the security architecture of the European Union itself. As such, he has affirmed that the European Union should continue on not accepting the annexation and maintain the sanctions that have been implemented, but if those do not have results, the European Union should go further. Finally, MEP Demesmaeker has highlighted the importance of constantly discussing the issue on the Crimean Peninsula.

Subsequently, the Panel I focused on the political and human rights situation four years after the annection, was opened by Mr. Alim Aliev, Program Director of the Crimean House. Mr. Aliev has shared his concerns regarding the attempts of Russia to assimilate the Crimean Tatars and the risk it represents for the future of their culture and language. Further, in face of the brain drain that has been occurring as students, academics, politicians and journalists are forced to leave Crimea, he has stressed the importance of supporting educational, cultural and human rights programmes in Ukraine and in Crimea.

Mr. Simon Papuashvili, Programme Director of the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), has followed Mr. Aliev by telling the important work his organization has been executing in the Crimean Peninsula, filling the informational gap the absence of international and regional presence in the region, which culminates in the lack of means to collect information of what is happening. In this context, the monitoring of violations the International Partnership for Human Rights has been implementing since 2014 through the collection of testimonies by Crimean partners and volunteers that spend time in the region has been of extreme relevance.  Mr. Papuashvili has further highlighted that in a context where the courts of justice are subjected to Russian authority, people have no means to ensure justice for human rights violations, while activists who dare speak up for it face severe repression. Affirming that the aggressions against the Crimean Tatars constitute crimes against humanity, Mr. Papuashvili has underlined the role the European Union can play in promoting accountability for the violations and justice for the victims by implementing criminal mechanisms to investigate perpetrators, implementing sanctions on the basis of human rights abuses, and by promoting funding opportunities for human rights organizations.

The situation of the media and freedom of speech has been subsequently contextualized by Ms. Emine Dzhaparova, First Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine. Throughout her speech, Ms. Dzhaparova has underlined the manipulation of the media by Russian authorities and the risk of having a democratic tools used against democracy itself. Noticing that Russian authorities are trying to convince the international media that violations during the annexation were not committed by Russian army, she has further condemned the image of normality shared in the international media and experienced by visitors in contrast to the true reality of people in Crimea, who are imprisoned, terrorized, and forced to leave the region. Ms. Dzhaparova has finalized her speech by stating that when freedom of speech turns into the freedom of lies, trust in information is at risk, and people might believe in things that are not real. As such, the European Parliament’s urgent resolutions can help saving lives by sharing the issue and making necessary pressure for changes.

Ms. Amanda Paul, Foreign and Security Policy Analyst at the European Policy Center (EPC), has further enforced the importance of keeping the issue of Crimea in the international agenda and to draw awareness on the situation of people who are suffering daily. In the context of the campaign of repression, persecution and harassment implemented by Russia that oppresses whose who try to speak up and leaves people afraid of speaking their minds, Ms. Paul has stated that human rights violations continue happening on a daily basis. As such, she has underlined that the European Union need to continue to call for the release of the activists and the end of the harassment of the population, that monitoring missions of the United Nations should be instituted in the region, and that human rights violations should be included to the sanctions implemented by the European Union.

Focusing on the situation of children and women in Crimea and moderated by Marta Barandiy, Executive Director at Promote Ukraine, Panel II was opened by MEP Julie Ward, representative of the Intergroup on Children Rights of the European Parliament. Ms. Ward has highlighted that although Member of the European Parliament might differ in ideological matters, it is agreed upon the tragedy the illegal annexation of Crimea has constituted. She has then underlined that cultural heritage is continually destroyed on the ground and has expressed her concern about the situation of the young people, especially in the Tatar minority, who face emotional despair by seeing their elders suffering for their culture and ethnicity. In face of this, Ms. Ward has stressed the importance of giving those people the tools to participate in decision-making processes, in particular through the promotion of education. Further, she has mentioned the importance of intercultural dialogue for the future of the region, to allow young people from different groups to connect and avoid conflicts among them. 

Ms. Julie Duval, Programme Officer at the UNPO, has focused on the situation of unrepresented women, stressing that women from minority groups face multi-faced violations, not only for their ethnicity, but also for their gender. She has highlighted that, similar to many women from other minority groups, Crimean Tatar women lack basic services as housing and access to education while baring great burdens. But also similar to unrepresented women worldwide, Crimean Tatar women are also struggling not to be victims, but to be activists of change. Finally, by underlining that women represent an essential component of human rights advocacy work, their issues should be central elements of any human rights organization, as no human right effort can be complete without acknowledging their role.

Ms. Anastasiia Moiseieva, lawyer on international law at Crimea SOS, has made important inputs on the situation of people who dare speak against the illegal annexation, who face severe persecution and intimidation as human right abuses, detention, and torture. Having shared the stories of many women activists, she has further stressed the injustice, repression, and the dismantling of families, as more than 100 children have been left without parents due to arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances that have been occurring due to Crimea’s illegal annexation by Russia.

The panel was closed by Ms. Hanna Krysiuk, founder of Business Woman Mag, who have briefly shared the work of Business Woman Mag and of Ukrainian women who have sought to provide the necessary infrastructure and means to support women and children who have fled from Crimea to be integrated into Ukrainian society. While expressing the need for support, as they lack the means to help everybody, she has highlighting the solidarity and the work of those Ukrainian women as well as their capacity to help the Crimean Tatars.

Finally, closing remarks were given by H.E. Mr Mykola Mykola Tochytskyi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Belgium and Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Representative of Ukraine to the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, and Representative of Ukrainian Mission to the EU, as well as by Mr. Chubarov. Mr. Tochytskyi has stressed the importance of the policy of non-recognition and of the maintenance of sanctions, while highlighting the power of Russia and how it has been using manipulation of speech to shape a picture of normality in Crimea. In face of this, he has further enforced that pressure against Russia must increase, as the country has a history of not having implemented several resolutions.

Finally, Mr. Chubarov was given the word once again to finalize the conference. Highlighting the level of threat and danger the Crimean Tatars endure, he has defended the insistence on using economic pressure against Russia in order to avoid war, which should be added to the deployment of political and diplomatic work, aimed at pressuring Russia to engage in constructive dialogue.

The event was briefly finalized by both moderators, who have invited all the participants to attend to the cultural event that took place at the Press Centre in Brussels. At the subsequent part of the event, those who were present had the chance to see an exhibition of the photos of the children of political prisoners, by Anton Naumlyuk, as well as to watch a performance by the famous ethnic singer Elvira Saryhalil and to try authentic Tatar food prepared by a chef of the restaurant “Musafir”, known as one of the best Crimean Tatar restaurant in Ukraine. Having constituted a unique opportunity to experience Tatar culture at its best, the event has shared and illustrated what Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its constant aggressions, repressions and human rights violations continue to put at risk of disappearance.