Russia uses threats & intimidation to drive Crimean Tatar language out of schools in occupied Crimea
Both enforcement bodies and school heads are being used in Russian-occupied Crimea to ‘dissuade’ children and their parents from asserting their full right to insist on education in the Crimean Tatar language. The methods, which range from pressure to downright threats, have already been used to effectively close all Ukrainian language classes in Crimea.
Prominent Crimean Tatar public figure, Nariman Dzhelyal reported on 10 May that the beginning of their information campaign to help parents and children assert their right to education in their native language had had to be postponed indefinitely. The campaign, entitled ‘Bilgi kervanı’, or ‘Caravan of Knowledge’, was supposed to begin in the town of Zuya, with a meeting aimed at showing parents how to fill in applications for their children to study in Crimean Tatar. It was cancelled at the last minute after the owner of the place where the event was to take place received a call from the enforcement bodies, ‘recommending’ that he refuse to provide his venue and threatening him with problems if he did not heed the ‘recommendation’.
Details have been reported of yet another school in Simferopol where the head has put parents who asked for their children to study Crimean Tatar under enormous pressure. Given Russia’s effective silencing of any independent media and arrests of civic activists, it is difficult to verify the information, but the methods are familiar. The Head of School No. 8, Olga Hutyanko reportedly summoned each parent who made such an application into her office. She told them that the children could not study their native language as it is not part of the education level for grades 1-4 and 5-9. In several cases, she said that the children should study Crimean Tatar at home. The point of such methods is clear. Russia has claimed that neither Crimean Tatar nor Ukrainian are at risk in occupied Crimea, but clearly does not want to see them studied. On the one hand, they prevent educational measures which would inform parents of their rights and how to assert them, and on the other, they use school heads to intimidate parents into themselves ‘agreeing’ that their children be only able to study their native language or study in it at home.
It is just over two years since the UN’s International Court of Justice accepted that there was a prima face case against Russia over violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in occupied Crimea. The Court imposed preventative measures, as asked by Ukraine, and ordered that Russia withdraw its ban on the Mejlis (representative assembly) of the Crimean Tatar people, and that it ““ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language” in occupied Crimea.
Russia has flouted both these orders. There is now not even one school in Crimea teaching all subjects in Ukrainian. A monitoring study by the Crimean Human Rights Group recently demonstrated that the statistics provided by the Russian occupiers, do not reflect the true seriousness of the situation.
The statistics issued by the de facto Crimean education ministry were already alarming, with only 3.1% of children studying in the 2018/19 school year in Crimean Tatar and 0.2% in Ukrainian. The same ‘ministry’ claimed there to be 15 schools with children studying in Crimean Tatar and 1 school in Ukrainian. There were also supposed to be 27 schools with 126 classes taught in Crimean Tatar and 5 schools with 8 classes in Ukrainian. The statistics, in fact, indicated an increase in the number of children studying in Crimean Tatar, but a decrease in the number of classes available as compared with the official statistics for the 2017/18 school year. The number of students studying in Ukrainian had decreased from 318 to 249 with a fall in the number of schools allegedly with classes in Ukrainian from 7 to 5, and in the number of classes in Ukrainian from 13 to 8.
The Crimean Human Rights Group’s monitoring for 2018/19 shows a different picture. 24 schools were visited, with the management, teachers and parents asked about the real situation.
Three of these schools were supposed to be taught in Crimean Tatar. In fact, lessons were taught in all of the three schools only partly in Crimean Tatar, with the other lessons taught in Russian. In one of the schools, Crimean Tatar as a separate subject was taught only up to the ninth grade (not the tenth and eleventh).
10 of the 18 schools visited, which were claimed by the ‘ministry’ to have classes in Crimean Tatar, had signs in front of the schools only in Russian.
The situation with Ukrainian is even worse. School No. 20 in Feodosia which was supposed to be a school with teaching in Ukrainian is, according to parents, now taught solely in Russian. Ukrainian Language as a separate subject is only taught in some classes.