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A Report on the First World Congress of Crimean Tatars
Crimea, Ukraine, May 19-22, 2009

By Ayla Bakkalli*

The First World Congress of the Crimean Tatars (hereafter, Congress) was successfully concluded at its first conference since their deportation in Simferopol. The conference started a day after the May 18 commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Soviet communist regime. The event started on May 19, 2009, with an opening in the old capital of the Crimean city of Bakhchisaray. Approximately 800 Crimean Tatar delegates and delegate guests arrived at the Khan's Palace (Bakhchisaray) to attend the ceremony and also to make their respective opening statements. Chairman Mustafa Jemilev opened the ceremony with greetings to all, thus, opened the World Congress session in Bakhchisaray. In addition, greetings were read on behalf of the President of Ukraine as well as Commissioners of international organizations, Parliament members and heads of state of governments.

Ayla Bakkalli at World Congress of Crimean Tatars

Mustafa Jemilev and Ayla Bakkalli
at World Congress of Crimean Tatars, Crimea

The Congress's plenary meetings were held in Simferopol, and panel discussions according to presentation topics took place throughout Crimean cities of Kara-Su Pazar, Keslev, Sudak, Eski-Kirim and Simferopol. Topics included discussions on the restoration of the rights of the indigenous Crimean Tatars, with a keen focus on unifying the Crimean Tatar diaspora. Equally of concern within the discussions were the preservation of the Crimean Tatar identity, its indigenous language and culture as well as identifying access to land and housing as a human right.

The delegates voted unanimously to adopt the Declaration and Proclamation Charter of the Congress and elected Mr. Refat Chubarov as its President in the interim of finalization of the Board elections. It is also worthy to note that the Kurultay and the Mejlis are the supreme authorized representative bodies of the Crimean Tatar people, as noted within the Declaration of the Congress.

This first Congress meeting was indeed a historical event for the Crimean Tatars worldwide. Whereby, it is the first time for the indigenous Crimean Tatars to freely associate among themselves since their Surgun from Crimea. The response to this tragic experience by the Crimean Tatars is to leave a noble legacy for future generations that our ancestral grandfathers, grandmothers and our parents, who were the direct recipients of Stalin's mass genocidal deportation policy, did not suffer nor die in vain. It is with these sentiments that I am also consoling my own dying aunt.

The conclusion of the Congress reflected the unification of Crimean Tatar organizations worldwide to form a constructive engagement on Crimean Tatar issues. They are to collaborate within these frameworks to build consensus on issues facing the Crimean Tatar people and their communities in Crimea. The conference was productive, professional, balanced and organized. As in the true democratic tradition, everyone without exception was given a platform to speak and convey his or her thoughts, and all decisions were implemented via consensus building decision process.

*As the newly elected President of the American Association of Crimean Turks, Ayla Bakkalli attended the Congress and made an opening statement. Ms. Bakkalli was elected as a member of the World Congress Coordination Committee. She also serves as the Moderator of Crimea-L.

Posted: 18 June 2009
Updated: 17 July 2009

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