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The 69th anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people:
A report from their historic homeland in Crimea

By Greta L. Uehling, Ph.D.*
Reporting from Simferopol

Activities to honor the memory of those who perished as a result of the 1944 deportation ordered by Stalin were held throughout Crimea on May 17 and 18, 2013.

Leading up to the events this year, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people placed a dozen billboards around Crimea to commemorate the victims of the genocide.

On May 17, Crimean Tatars and members of the international community gathered at the Shevchenko theatre for the premiere of "Khaitarma," the first feature-length historical film about deportation. The producer, many of the actors, and the granddaughter of Amet Khan Sultan, on whose life the film is centered, were present. That evening, youth lit candles, holding the traditional "Light a fire in your heart" demonstration in the central square of Simferopol.

Rally in Simferopol, 2013

Commemorative event in Simferopol, 2013

On the morning of May 18, 2013 Crimean Tatars in many of the populated areas of Crimea held local meetings to honor those who perished during the 1944 deportation, and to remember those who were forced to remain in places of exile. In Simferopol, musical ensembles performed traditional compositions as Crimean Tatars and their supporters gathered in the central square.

At noon, regardless of their location, Crimean Tatars and their supporters observed a moment of silence and unity to pray for those who perished, and give thanks for those who were able to return to the historic homeland. Five columns marched through the streets of Simferopol carrying banners and flags. They converged at the central square carrying banners with slogans including "We are in our Homeland," "Prolong the Bishkek Agreement," "The Deportation of the Crimean Tatars was Genocide," and others.

The All-Crimean mourning meeting commemorating the genocide was officially opened by Refat Chubarov, Vice President of the Mejlis and of the Crimean Tatar people. After the national anthems of Ukraine and the Crimean Tatar people were sung, the Mufti of the Crimean Tatar people recited a prayer for the people who perished during the deportation and exile.

Presentations were made by the Head of the Committee on Human Rights of the Supreme Council of Ukraine, the Deputies of several Ukrainian Parties, and the Vice President of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Present at the meeting were also representatives of UNHCR, and European dignitaries. Speakers called for the resolution of political, legal, and socio-economic issues on the peninsula.

In his annual address at the All-Crimean meeting, the President of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Mustafa Djemilev gave a short summary of the events of 2012 and described important events concerning the future of the Crimean Tatar people. He underscored that, the traditional means of weakening the Crimean Tatars, creating factions among the people, continues today. Djemilev called for the resignation of the Head of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as a step toward restoring harmony and stability in Crimea. The meeting was closed with a call for national unity.


* Dr. Greta L. Uehling, a member of the ICC Board of Directors, teaches at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

See also: "Growing Sense of Polarization and Escalating Tensions in Crimea Ahead of 69th Anniversary of Crimean Tatar Deportation," by Idil P. Izmirli, Ph.D., another member of the ICC Board of Directors, published in: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume: 10 Issue: 94, May 17, 2013.

Posted: 21 May 2013


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