Russia Bans Remembrance Events on Anniversary of Crimean Tatar Deportation
Regional mejlis or Crimean Tatar self-governing bodies are being prevented from holding any remembrance gatherings to mark the 72nd anniversary of the 1944 Deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar people from their homeland. The escalation in repression over the last week or so has also raised fears that Russia may try to provoke trouble in order to orchestrate a bloody crackdown
The refusals to allow the gatherings were anticipated, and not specifically because of Russia’s internationally condemned ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly.
This is now the third anniversary of the 1944 Deportation since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. It is equally the third time that Crimean Tatars are facing bans and harassment for remembering the victims of Stalin’s crime which has been recognized by Ukraine as an act of genocide.
There will undoubtedly be official ceremonies. Refat Chubarov, the banished Head of the Mejlis writes that the occupation regime will be making all efforts to get Crimean Tatars to take part in these..
The Mejlis is therefore recommending that its compatriots gather at 11.45 at the memorial plaques or stones, to the victims of the Deportation in the area where they live, or other places linked with the Deportation. Prayers will be held there for those who died during the Deportation and in exile.
At exactly 12.00 all of Ukraine will be observing a minute’s silence. All Ukrainian television channels and radio stations will broadcast a special signal in memory of the victims of the genocide of the Crimean Tatar people.
All car owners will, after the minute’s silence, toot their horns.
There are many other remembrance gatherings, requiems and other events planned in mainland Ukraine. It is only Russia’s occupation regime that has consistently barred remembrance.
Since Russia and its puppet prosecutor in Crimea have come up with various claims about ‘extremism’ for its recent ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, it is worth stressing that repressive measures began as soon as Russia understood that Crimean Tatars and the Mejlis were overwhelmingly opposed to Russian occupation and adamant that their homeland is part of Ukraine. Within two months of Russia’s invasion, veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev had been banned from his homeland. Soon after this, the occupation authorities banned any remembrance gatherings marking the 70th anniversary of the Deportation. Around 50 thousand Crimean Tatars had traditionally gathered on the central square in Simferopol, and there were remembrance gatherings in other parts of the peninsula. All of this was banned. Chubarov then explained:
Can you imagine – there are 22 regions and in each region there are places where people come to honour the dead, places with memorial stones, and Crimean Tatars on May 17-18 don’t have the right to go there together to pay their respects, to honour those people! I don’t know what kind of person you have to be to not think of the consequences! I don’t know how to stop people so that they don’t go there. It’s like telling everybody “Don’t go to your holy places, don’t visit your dead” If they prohibited you, how would you act? Force can stop everything, or not everything – it won’t stop the human spirit.”
People did, nonetheless, gather together to pray, and the occupation regime used military helicopters flown over the gatherings to drown out the prayers and as an act of intimidation.
The same bans were imposed on the eve of last year’s anniversary, as well as visitations to Mejlis leaders and other prominent figures from the so-called Centre for Countering Extremism or prosecutor, effectively threatening repercussions for any attempt to organize remembrance events. On May 18, some Crimean Tatars were detained, and others were later prosecuted on trumped-up charges.
There were also moving acts of solidarity. Ukrainian activist, Leonid Kuzmin, who had received one of the prosecutor’s warnings, and other members of the then newly formed Ukrainian Cultural Centre produced a video in which they recited the Crimean Tatar anthem. They also lay flowers entwined in barbed wire near a new plaque to bloody Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to honour the memory of victims of the Deportation.
Please join all Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians in a moment’s silence for the Victims of the Deportation on May 18, at 12.00 Crimean / Kyiv time.
Crimean Tatars desperately need our solidarity now and our voice against the repression they are facing under Russian occupation.