war crimes in Ukraine

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Provocation over Crimean Tatar Deportation anniversary

Halya Coynash
Present actions by the Simferopol and Crimean authorities appear aimed at using traditional remembrance events marking the Deportation on 17 - 18 May to provoke discord and disturbances

18 May - Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Deportation from the Crimea

Those who executed, imprisoned, deported our ancestors were able to kill millions.  They could not destroy memory.  The remembrance events on 17 and 18 May held in Simferopol in the Crimea each year are held in memory of the victims of a terrible crime – the Deportation of the Crimean Tatar People. 

The present actions by the Simferopol and Crimean authorities appear aimed at using this anniversary to provoke discord and disturbances. 

At very best, the actions by the Simferopol city authorities in refusing to agree the remembrance measures with the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People are arrogant and foolhardy.  Whether those in power like it or not, the Mejlis is the single body which represents the vast majority of Crimean Tatars.  Putting Crimean Tatars who, for one reason or another, are antagonistic to the Mejlis and more malleable on, for example, the Council under President Yanukovych, will not change the status of the Mejlis.

It can only cause conflict. 

This is so abundantly clear that the fear seems warranted that those in power are trying to ferment trouble and unrest. 

The calculation is cynical and immenselydangerous, and it is vital that the media are aware of this.  Mustafa Dzhemiliev, the Head of the Mejlis and MP has told Radio Svoboda that the authorities are forcing them to bring thousands of Crimean Tatars on to the streets.  This has been reported on many Internet sites, and it is good that it should be, but enormous care is needed to avoid achieving what the authorities are probably aiming at. There is nothing at all confrontational about the Mejlis’ statements, and claims by the authorities that they are open to dialogue with the Mejlis are disingenuous. The authorities have created this situation and it is not surprising that the Mejlis see the refusal to agree events which have taken place in the Simferopol city centre for 23 years now as deliberate provocation.  According to their information, the authorities are planning to involve those members of the Presidential Council known to be in opposition to the Mejlis, and bring public sector workers in for “their” remembrance event. 

We have seen such a set up applied on numerous occasions over the last three years, with the forced involvement of public sector workers in demonstrations counter to those, for example, opposing the Kharkiv Accords or the contentious language law, or protesting against politically motivated trials of opposition leaders.  All too often the traffic police, tax authorities, etc have also been used to intimidate or physically keep real protesters from their destination.

The situation presently unfolding in the Crimea is, and must be, different.  Tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars will come to Simferopol from all over the Crimea and beyond to honour the memory of their relatives, their people.  This they must do, as must we all.

Solidarity is needed now to make the authorities back off, to show them that memory is off limits.  They must not try to play political power games and/or ferment discord and trouble by manipulating remembrance of the victims of the Deportation

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