Crimean Tatars defy ban on remembrance
As Mustafa Dzhemilev, Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian MP predicted, Crimean Tatars have refused to be cowered by the ban on all meetings imposed by the occupation regime in the Crimea. Forced from the traditional square in the centre of Simferopol by an offensive crowd of OMON riot police and military, Crimean Tatars have been taking part in remembrance ceremonies and prayers in Simferopol, Bakhchysarai and other regions of the Crimea.
Despite the ban on all meetings imposed by the occupying regime in the Crimea, around 500 people took part in the traditional ‘Light a flame in your heart’ action on Saturday evening. The entirely peaceful remembrance gathering should have been held on Lenin Square in the centre of Simferopol but thiis had already been cordoned off by OMON, military personnel and armed personnel carriers. It took place instead in Ak-Mechet, a Crimean Tatar district on the outskirts of Simferopol.
Those gathered took part in a remembrance prayer after which each could light a candle in memory of those who died during the 1944 Deportation. Eskender Bariev, one of the organizers stresses that as in previous years this was a totally peaceful meeting of remembrance without any slogans or calls to action. “Our action has always been peaceful and beautiful. Everybody loved it, people of different nationalities”.
Many of the participants were carrying Crimean flags, and one came with a Ukrainian flag with a black ribbon. This, Radio Svoboda’s Crimea site reports, annoyed the police present who began demanding that he remove it. He refused, saying that he was a citizen of Ukraine, and pointing out that Russia legislation does not ban having a Ukrainian flag.
“I am a citizen of Ukraine, here is my Ukrainian passport. I have come, on behalf of my country, to express my sympathy to the Crimean Tatar People.”
The argument over the flag lasted around 10 minutes. The police officer finally moved off, having decided not to draw up a protocol of an administrative offence, however the incident was videoed.
Similar actions (without any bans) were held in Kyiv, Lviv and probably many other places.
Bakhchysarai: Military helicopters deployed against remembrance gathering
At 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, during a remembrance gathering on Lenin Square in Bakhchysarai, two military helicopters began circling overhead. They flew low during the entire remembrance ceremony trying to drown out the people speaking.
Radio Svoboda reports that the meeting was attended by many elderly people, including those who remember the Deportation, as well as children.
When the helicopters appeared, those present chanted “Mustafa” [after Mustafa Jemiliev, veteran leader of the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian MP banned by the occupation regime / Russia from returning to his homeland], as well as the Crimean Tatar words for People! Homeland! Crimea!
In a grotesquely inappropriate show of force, not only has the centre been blocked off by large numbers of OMON, military and armed personnel carriers, but helicopters are flying over Simferopol and areas with large Crimean Tatar populations. Radio Svoboda reports witnesses as saying that all the gatherings are being filmed by unidentified individuals. The technology may be more modern, however the methods are depressingly Soviet.
Prayers were held in two places agreed earlier – Salgirka Park and near the memorial stone in the square outside the railway station. A meeting took place after prayers in the park.
An all-Crimean prayer for the dead [duya] was held near the mosque in Ak-Mechet on the outskirts of Simferopol. It was attended by over 10 thousand Crimean Tatars from different regions of the Crimea.
Mustafa Jemiliev was forced to take part in remembrance ceremonies in Kyiv since the occupation regime has banned him from being in his native Crimea.
See Russian Clamp on Crimean Tatar Remembrance for more information about the ban and other repressive measures seen since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.
All photos are from Radio Svoboda