Pledged Victim, Numan Celebicihan:
On the 95th Anniversary of His Martyrdom
When Numan Celebicihan was executed by Bolshevik Black Sea Fleet sailors on February 23, 1918, he was only thirty three years old, at the prime of his life. He had the future of his people all planned, which he had outlined during the historic First Crimean Tatar Kurultay on December 26, 1917. He wished to establish a democratic Crimea where a diverse population would peacefully coexist. He wanted to establish another Switzerland. His dream, unfortunately, was short lived. Celebicihan, as he is called by his people, had plenty of opportunities to escape the war torn Crimea, but he chose to remain in his beloved homeland and fight for his cause. Among his young comrades in arm, Cafer Seydamet Kirimer, the Foreign Minister Celebicihan's historic first cabinet, knew him better than anyone else. They have been aspiring to free Crimea and restore Crimean Tatars' human and national rights denied to them since the annexation of Crimea by the Tsarist Russia on April 8, 1783.
In his collection of short stories, Nurlu Kabirler [Radiant Tombs], Cafer Seydamet Kirimer described Celebicihan's martyrdom and his ascension to paradise. "Antli Kurban" or "Pledged Victim" is the story of Kurt Veli (Cafer Seydamet himself), who visions the ascent of Celebicihan to heaven. Let's read from "Antli Kurban":
Kurt Veli was in the mountains on February 23, 1918 as he has been many times since the Bolsheviks turned Crimea into a bloody hell, a ball of fire. Our mountains, plateaus and caves have always been the places where the Crimean Tatars felt and shared their national tragedies and painful sorrows in the past. With the Bolshevik invasion lately, the Crimean Tatar who were able to escape from their enemies, once again hit the plateaus, the mountains and caves where they could breath freely and express their thoughts freely. Those who are in the mountains now were mostly from the villages where they left their families, and some had to move their families to inner part of Crimea for safety. Unable to communicate with their families and not knowing what was going on in Crimea were the serious problems facing these fighters.
Kurt Veli was playing a role of courier bringing food and news to these people....
It was again such a night when Kurt Veli hastily was trying to pass through certain narrow passages of the plateau. He was fighting the heavy wind, and the snow piles, but moving forward despite all these problems.... When he reached the middle of the plateau suddenly he saw a brightest light ascending from Akyar (Sevastopol). He began crying out loud calling 'Antli Kurban!, Antli Kurban!' He was blacking out, his voice was becoming hoarse and he began to cry violently. He remained in this position for half an hour. Afterwards he began to gain his senses and tried to move forward. He was running and screaming 'Antli Kurban! Antli Kurban!' The mountains were responding by repeating 'Antli Kurban! Antli Kurban!' as if they wanted to ease Veli's pain....
Three young men rushed to the area where the sound of crying was coming from. They found Kurt Veli in a ditch and rushed him to the cave where they had taken refuge. They cleaned him and placed him in a dry corner. He was in a shock, delirium. When he opened his eyes he began to cry again, and his entire body was shaking. They prepared hot tea for him hoping that this would help. Kurt Veli, his eyes closed and his face chalk white began to talk to himself:
"Antli Kurban!" The angels have surrounded him... look he is mounted on a white horse... look he is just above us, passing over Catir Dag (the legendary Crimean Mountain)...what a crowd! Look there is Ismail Gaspirali, Abduresit Mehdi. There is the glorious Crimean Tatar Cavalry on their white horses... the Khans, Kalgays, the scholars, they are all there in single line, all drawn their swords saluting him....The conqueror of Moscow Devlet Giray Khan is in command of them all....The white bearded Haci Giray, the founder of the Giray dynasty is approaching with his white horse. He stopped in front of Antli Kurban, embraced him and began to talk:
We, your ancestors, awaited one hundred and thirty four years for the young brave man who would take our revenge from those who destroyed the khanate I established for the happiness and well being of our people, from those who brutally destroyed our ever suffering people, and from those who deported our people from their paradise like homeland in despicable and miserable conditions...finally the enemy weakened, and we understood what your pledge meant. After hundred and thirty four years of slavery, to raise the level of our people to protect their (national) cause with their blood was a great accomplishment.(Yes) maybe you were defeated and could not save our homeland. But by becoming a martyr, you built the strongest foundation to rejuvenate our (glorious) history. From now on Crimea may face thousands of tragedies, and the Crimeans may be crushed.
But they (The Crimean Tatars) will always remain faithful to our sacred cause. Your pledge (to die for your people), and your martyrdom will make them follow this path. Your ancestors as well as the future generation will salute you with love, respect and much admiration....
Suddenly the Pledged Victim (Antli Kurban) took Haci Giray's hand and kissed it. As usual with his head straight up and bushy eyebrows, he began to talk:
Our glorious ancestor! What blessing it is for us to earn your admiration and love! It is such honor that it was us who attained the opportunity to save the honor of our history, and take the first step to end our people's tragedy
I am, in away, glad to be martyred for our people's cause. Because the new generation's revenge will be much intensified. My honorable Ancestor! I entered in your presence with full of faith, and a single conviction encouraged me to utter the following words. They (the enemy) may suffocate Crimea in blood, set the entire country on fire, and destroy all our belongings. But they will not be able to destroy the faith of the Crimean (Tatars)....The history sooner or later will record an independent and felicitous Crimea! *
Yes, Numan Celebicihan by sacrificing his own life, and becoming a martyr did lay a strong foundation for his people to build "an independent and felicitous" Crimea for Crimean Tatars. But the new oppressors, the Soviet regime, were determined to destroy this dream. They succeeded in destroying first, the most talented and brightest sons and daughters of Crimean Tatars on April 17, 1938 by executing the Crimean Tatar writers, poet, and artists in one night. Then the Stalin regime deported the entire Crimean Tatar population from their ancestral homeland on May 18, 1944 and forced them to live in exile thousands of miles away from Crimea. The expectation was to assimilate Crimean Tatars, and have them forget their national identity and their ancestral homeland, Crimea. The Soviet regime, however, miscalculated the strong conviction of the Crimean Tatar people in their cause,
which was to return to their ancestral homeland, the Crimea at all cost. The Soviet regime failed to understand the strong foundation Numan Celebicihan established for his people when he said "
they may set the entire country on fire and destroy all our belongings. But they will not be able to destroy the faith of the Crimean (Tatars.)
As we commemorate the 95th anniversary of Celebicihan's brutal murder, which had delayed the diligent work of the "Young Crimean Tatars" under the leadership of Celebicihan, towards independence, we wonder whether it will take another hundred and thirty four years to have another opportunity to have our human and national rights fully restored in our own homeland.
On this sad day, we bow our heads in honor of the Pledged Victim, Numan Celebichan. May he rest in peace! May Allah's blessings be with him.
Mubeyyin Batu Altan
CTRIC, New York
February 22, 2013
*The story narrated above is based on the first part of "Antli Kurban," one of the stories published in Nurlu Kabirler [Radiant Tombs], by Cafer Seydamet Kirimer. The original is in Turkish, and it first appeared as a journal article in Emel, no. 1, November 1960, 31-35, on which this translation is based. A free translation of the story was provided by the author, Mubeyyin Batu Altan.
ICC Web site includes the following additional documents and articles on Numan Çelebicihan: