Mustafa Dzhemiliev: Pogroms against the Crimean Tatars likely in the near future
Vitaly Chervonenko from the Internet publication Glavkom writes that after his victory in February last year, President Yanukovych made promises on all fronts, including that he would established constructive dialogue with the Crimean Tatars. In May 2010 he met with the Head of the Mejlis, Mustafa Dzhemiliev and promised a new stage of cooperation.
By summer things were already going less smoothly with the Crimean Tatars first being squeezed out of power, then a real rift emerging in August. Yanukovych destroyed the monopoly of the Mejlis on the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People and brought in a large number of organizations, some of whom the Mejlis calls extremist.
Against this background, the Crimean authorities are widely initiating criminal proceedings over the squatting of land by Crimean Tatars, and, as reported, the Prime Minister of the Crimea, Vasyl Dzharty has called on Mustafa Dzhemiliev to voluntarily “hand over” all squatted land.
In short, conflict is brewing yet officials in Kyiv are clearly not interested. The author writes that it is indicative that on Monday, when Glavkom wanted Dzemiliev to read through the text of the interview, he was not in Ukraine, but meeting with Turkey’s leaders. “It would seem they are more aware who the Crimean Tatars are and how to communicate with them. We would hope that Viktor Yanukovych will also understand, as long as it’s not too late.”
The first question to Mustafa Dzhemiliev was about the report to the Verkhovna Rada on his first year in office by the Minister of the Interior, Anatoly Mohylyov, who once spoke out in favour of a new deportation of the Crimean Tatars. (Mohylyov’s claim to fame or notoriety in the Crimea includes his involvement in the violent events on Ai Petri in 2006 and anin early 2008 - translator).
Mustafa Dzhemiliev says the speech was predictable, and reminiscent of the old Soviet style, with only breathtaking successes and move towards the building of communism.
He does not, however, see a return to the Soviet Union in developments over the last year. “Unfortunately, we are confidently moving in the direction of the Putin and Lukashenko regime. Power is being concentrated in the hands of a particular circle of people and the President. And Mohylyov and the police are simply implementers of the President’s will.”
Mustafa Dzhemiliev expresses regret that people are being appointed to high positions who would have no chance of such posts in European countries. For his xenophobic remarks alone, he says, Mohylyov could expect no future, and stresses that this is not his view alone, but expressed also by a group of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] Deputies.
Asked about problems over the last year, Mustafa Dzhemiliev turns to what he says is a difficult problem for the Crimean Tatars – land. “The land issue in the Crimea is an outrageous injustice to those returning to their Homeland. They are not only not returned what was illegally taken away during the Deportation, but they are deprived of the opportunity of taking part in the privatization of agricultural land. The land, in accordance with the Land Code, was given only to those who had worked in kolkhozes. This obviously did not apply to the Crimean Tatars. A particularly problematic area is the distribution of land plots for housing, especially in the areas considered prestigious. There the authorities prefer for a certain amount of money to bypass the law and hand the land over to commercial structures.
Therefore the Crimean Tatars are forced to squat land plots. They now say that overall Crimean Tatars have been allocated around 49 thousand land sites. Of these around 46 thousand have been as the result of squatting land which is later legalized. If they strictly followed what was allowed, the Crimean Tatars would be without land altogether.
At the present time all seems peaceful, but in the near future pogroms of the Crimean Tatars are expected.
What are your grounds for such statements?
They’ve recently initiated many criminal cases against dozens of people who have already received summonses. They are accused of seizing land and it’s therefore not difficult to guess that they will soon start taking the land away.
Under Tymoshenko a commission was created which prepared recommendations for legalizing these land plots. However the results of the work of that commission have been annulled, they’ve created a new one. And it’s all begun again.
We are talking about approximately 1300 hectares around all of the Crimea. In effect, one kolkhoz. At the same time high-ranking officials have seized for themselves tens or hundreds of times more. For example, there is a seized area near Simferopol, in the region of Levadki – 38 hectares, occupied by Crimean Tatars. But they belong to one man – the former head of the Simferopol District Executive Committee, Zakoretsky. Obviously via front men. He also has a State act and other documents saying that the land belongs to him. The Crimean Tatars who squatted the land have no acts. Now this man will legally vacate the land. Presumably they’ll bring in spetsnaz [Special Forces] to enforce the court rulings and throw all the Crimean Tatars outs.”
Mustafa Dzhemiliev does not know when this is planned, but stresses that it can only end badly, perhaps in bloodshed. This is particularly realistic where people have already built on the land spending all that they had on the construction, since the buildings will all be taken down.
There has also been a criminal investigation initiated against the Secretary of the Mejlis. “Many years ago, during the trial of our compatriots, we organized a protest. This is not about legality, there are clear repressive actions against the Crimean Tatars. They are clearly attempting to intimidate us.”
“There is virtually no dialogue with the President. In 1999, following demands by the Mejlis to be recognized the representative body of the Crimean Tatars, a compromise decision was receached with the creation of a Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People under the President. The entire Mejlis joined it. This gave a legal possibility for official meetings between the President and representatives of the people. Under Kuchma this Council worked fairly efficiently, under Yushchenko worse, but under Yanukovych there is no cooperation at all. He’s reformed this body, bringing in people who call themselves “opposition to the Mejlis”. In fact these are people very far from our movement, known for statements about how the Crimean Tatars must be saved from Ukraine’s genocide. They’ve even turned to Putin with this. These are effectively members of groups like vakkhabites, not tradition for Islam. “
He says that they cannot understand why these people were chosen, and stresses that if you’re looking for representatives of the people, then don’t appoint, but have representatives elected. Without this, they were certain that with such members, the Council could not work, and indeed, since summer there has been no serious contact. The Head of the President’s Administration is adamant that no meetings can be organized with the President unless with the Council which, with its present contingent, the Mejlis is not prepared to work.
Mustafa Dzhemiliev believes the Yanukovych has simply instructed people to deal with the issue who are not in command of the situation.
He sees a particular role as having been set for Vasyl Dzharty. The latter told him that dialogue was needed specifically with the Mejlis, but that was before the elections. The Party of the Regions and various businessmen, he says, actively supported those groups of Crimean Tatars alternative to the Mejlis, counting on them “beating” the Mejlis. He notes that this did not happen, that the Mejlis gained even more votes, and one might have expected them to draw conclusions. They clearly have not considered that the Crimean Tatars have already fought, with varying success, with the most power totalitarian regime – the Soviet regime. Trying to “create order” in a fell swoop among the Crimean Tatars did not work.
He thinks that Dzharty was told by Kyiv to have meetings of the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People in the makeup approved by Yanukovych. The Mejlis is not participating and the others have all quarrelled among themselves as to who will be leader. Yet even if they do gather, he believes, it won’t result in anything.
He mentions the reports that Dzharty addressed him on television, calling on him to get his compatriots to vacate the land. He suggests that Dzharty turn to the members of the Council whom they appointed. Then they’ll see how the Crimean Tatars listen to them.
With regard to the squatting, Mustafa Dzhemiliev stresses that the problem is pretty complex. It was not organized by the Mejlis, but done against their decisions. They tried to resolve the issue by negotiating with the authorities. However they promised, didn’t deliver and he says that the squatters, with justification, want deeds not empty words – then they’ll give up squatting land.
The actions were motivated, and the land seized vacant. In cases where the authorities were handing the land to commercial structures and taking bribes for it, the Mejlis supported the squatting. However sometimes people at local level did not agree their actions with the bodies of local self-government of the Crimean Tatars. For this reason there are strained relations with some of the leaders of the communities at local level, “field commanders”. .
Asked what will happen if some of these “field commanders” organize self-defence units, whether the situation could get out of control, Dzhemiliev said that then they would not be able to do anything.
With regard to the supposed fight against corruption, Dzhemiliev says that it’s clear to everybody that the arrests and criminal cases are selective, even where there may well be grounds for the accusations.
The full interview is available in Russian at