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Mustafa Dzhemilevís 75th Birthday

Mustafa Dzhemilev

Mustafa Dzhemilev

On the occasion of his 75th birthday, we would like to extend our best wishes to Mustafa Dzhemilev, the well-known Crimean Tatar leader and former Soviet dissident.

Just a few months after he observed his 70th birthday on 13 November 2013, the Russian Federation occupied Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula which the Crimean Tatars call home. Following the illegal Russian annexation, a move condemned by the international community, the situation of the Crimean Tatar community began to deteriorate. Their political an cultural autonomy became targets of Russian aggression, with Mejlis (elected, self-governing institution) dissolved and Crimean Tatar-language media outlets shut down. Many Crimean Tatar leaders and activists were arrested, detained without trial, and a number of young men went missing. Over 20,000 Crimean Tatars had to leave their homeland Crimea and have become IDPs in mainland Ukraine. Under these difficult circumstances, Mustafa Dzhemilev faced perhaps the most significant challenges of his political life. He continued to defend the rights of his people, representing them in European centers of power and the United States. He himself was banned from Crimea in May 2014.

A well known human rights activist, Mustafa Dzhemilev spent two decades of his life in Soviet prisons and labor camps. Beginning in 1975, he drew the world's attention by staging the longest hunger strike (303 days) in the history of human rights movement. He has been defending the rights of the Crimean Tatar people for nearly six decades. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 and in 2016, and received awards from Turkish and Polish governments as well as various NGOs. In 1998, when he received the Nansen Refugee Award, given by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he stressed that "when violent means are used innocent people die, and no just cause can justify the taking of innocent lives." Mustafa Dzhemilevís commitment to non-violence has been the principle underlying his political activism. His peaceful approach to handling conflicts deserves our respect and admiration.

As Mustafa Jemilev observes his 75th birthday, we extend our best wishes to him, his family and the Crimean Tatar leadership. We honor him for his unyielding efforts on behalf of the Crimean Tatar people and world peace.

Inci A. Bowman

Posted: 12 November 2018
Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency

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