International Committee for Crimea

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ON THE FIFTY FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF
THE MASS DEPORTATION OF CRIMEAN TATARS FROM THEIR HOMELAND

May 18, 1999 commemorates the fifty fifth anniversary of the SURGUN, the deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar population from their ancestral homeland by the Soviet Government. Fifty five years ago, on May 18, 1944, in the early morning hours, every Crimean Tatar was rudely awakened and ordered by Soviet soldiers to evacuate his/her house immediately. Mostly screaming women, children and the elderly, whose loved ones were in the Soviet armed forces defending their Soviet motherland, were brutally uprooted from their homes, loaded on trucks and taken to the nearest train station. They were then loaded on cattle wagons and under the most barbaric conditions, without enough food and water, shipped off to Siberia, the Urals and mainly to Uzbekistan. 46.2% of the total Crimean Tatar population perished during the SURGUN. The reason given by the Soviet authorities for their brutal action was Crimean Tatars' alleged collaboration with the Nazi Occupation Forces, an accusation the Soviet Government later rescinded by a decree.

As if being brutally uprooted from their homeland was not enough of a punishment, these innocent people were forced to live in extremely strict "Special Settlement" camps. Unable to leave the camp grounds without the permission of the camp commander even in direst situations, the Crimean Tatar people patiently waited for an opportunity to launch a campaign to return to their homeland. The de-Stalinization period introduced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956 gave Crimean Tatars this opportunity.

Thanks to the peaceful campaign of dedicated and courageous sons and daughters of Crimea such as Mustafa Jemilev, Hamza Umerov, Ceppar Akimov, Bekir Osmanov, Roland Kadiev, Ayse Seitmuratova, Reshat Cemilev and many others, the Soviet government was finally forced to promulgate a decree on September 5, 1967 totally exonerating the Crimean Tatar people from any wrong doing during World War II. On paper, at least, the Crimean Tatars were free to return to their homeland. Hundreds of Crimean Tatar families who returned to Crimea by taking advantage of this new decree, however, were brutally beaten up, and deported from their homeland once again. Musa Mamut who protested this brutal treatment by the local militia by fatally self immolating himself, became a martyr. Many of the aforementioned political activists were forced to spend the most productive years of their lives in Soviet prisons for simply demanding the right to return to Crimea, and live there as people and a nation.

The Gorbachev era, the era of Glasnost and Perestroika gave Crimean Tatars the opportunity to return to their ancestral homeland in massive numbers. Most Crimean Tatars paid their own way to Crimea, instead of waiting for a government sponsored return. Today, there are approximately 275,000 Crimean Tatars in Crimea facing a strong discrimination perpetuated by the local Crimean authorities. At least as many Crimean Tatars remain in exile, mostly in Uzbekistan, anxiously waiting to return to their homeland.

Despite the recent socio-political and economic changes which brought us the "New World Order," the Crimean Tatars remain a divided nation, majority of whom still remain in Central Asia, yet to be politically rehabilitated. Fifty five years after the mass deportation, the national and human rights of the Crimean Tatars are yet to be restored. The Crimean Tatars continue to be severely discriminated against just as they were during the Soviet era. The significant political gains they made over the years through their courageous and peaceful fight against the Soviet, Ukrainian and Crimean authorities, are simply disappearing. The Crimean Tatar people, once again, are on the verge of becoming a "non-people."

The increasing political repression and official discrimination perpetuated by the Ukrainian and Crimean Governments, forced the Crimean Tatar people to organize one of the largest demonstrations in Akmescit (Simferopol) to commemorate the fifty fifth anniversary of the SURGUN. The Crimean Tatars will start marching from seven separate locations in Crimea and gather in Akmescit (Simferopol) on May 18, 1999, to stage their protest against the Crimean and Ukrainian authorities.

The International Committee for Crimea hopes that the Crimean Tatars in Uzbekistan would join their compatriots in protest, in a symbolic way, by marching in Tashkent to demonstrate that "The Crimean Tatars have no other homeland, but Crimea."

The International Committee for Crimea declares its solidarity with the long suffering Crimean Tatars and strongly supports their demands:

 

  • Immediate recognition of the Crimean Tatar people as indigenous people of the Crimea!
  • Immediate recognition of the Crimean Tatar National Mejlis as the legal representative of the Crimean Tatar people!
  • Immediate recognition of the Crimean Tatar language as one of the official languages of the Crimean Autonomous Republic!
  • Immediate recognition of the right of the Crimean Tatar people to be represented at all levels (local, regional and national) of government!
  • A total compensation for all their losses, including home, land and property!
  • Return of all Crimean Tatars [living in exile] to their ancestral homeland under government sponsorship, and help them resettle in Crimea, their ancestral homeland!

    CRIMEAN TATARS; ONE NATION, ONE HOMELAND!

    Mubeyyin Batu Altan, President
    International Committee for Crimea

    Please join us in observing a minute of silence on May 18, 1999, at 10 AM (wherever you are) in honor of those Crimean Tatars who lost their lives during and after the SURGUN.

     


ICC, P.O.Box 15078, Washington, DC 20003