May 18, 1999 commemorates the fifty fifth anniversary of the SURGUN
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Government later rescinded by a decree.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
- 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
- Return of all Crimean Tatars [living in exile] to their ancestral homeland
under government sponsorship, and help them resettle in Crimea, their
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.