International Committee for Crimea, Inc
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The Origins of the International Committee for Crimea
The International Committee for Crimea (ICC), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, evolved as an Internet group in August 1997. The idea originated from discussions on SOTA’s Turkistan-L, a discussion group interested in the Turkic World.
The ICC was first formed as a Task Force, an initiative of SOTA (Turkistan.org).* The group’s original name was International Committee for C.R.I.M.E.A (Crimean-Tatar Repatriation Initiative & Movement for Equality Alliance) and it was listed
as one of the four special projects of SOTA.
SOTA's Web site,1998
The first Web site in English relating to Crimean Tatars was also founded as a special project of SOTA, probably in 1996. Called „Home of the Crimean Tatars„ or „Qirim Tatarlarnin Evi„ (in Crimean Tatar), the Web site covered general information about Crimean Tatars; history and literature, including deportation and return to homeland; publications and book reviews on Crimean Tatars; and decorative arts and Tatar foods. Inci Bowman who joined the ICC in late 1997 subsequently got involved in managing SOTA’s Web site on Crimean Tatars. By 15 November 1999, the site housed 55 text files, 25 images and 6 links. Unfortunately, this Web site (http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/krimtatar.html) is no longer in existence.
The ICC functioned as an Internet group of activists for over a year, with Idil Izmirli and Mubeyyin Altan serving as Co-Chairs. Discussion lists, firstname.lastname@example.org and later email@example.com, were established for the use of the group in 1998, and by October, the ICC had 25 members, but no formal structure and vaguely defined goals. Nevertheless, the Crimean Tatar Web site at SOTA grew slowly. The establishment of Crimea-L: A Discussion List for Crimea and Crimean Tatars in November 1998 was an important step in the growth of the organization. Crimea-L enabled the ICC to reach different groups with interests in Crimea, not only the repatriate Crimean Tatars living in their homeland but also descendants of Crimean Tatars in Turkey, Europe and the US. Researchers and interested individuals also joined Crimea-L. By September 1999, Crimea-L had 180 members from 22 countries.In February 1999, International Committee for Crimea became an unincorporated organization by adopting a set of Bylaws, drafted by Inci Bowman. Article II of the Bylaws defined the overall goals of the Committee: „to maintain a network of Crimean Tatars and friends of Tatars in different parts of the world; to assist in the peaceful resettlement of Crimean Tatars in their native land; and to promote appreciation of the history and culture of Crimean Tatars.„ Charter Members who approved the proposed Bylaws also elected the first officers: Mubeyyin Altan, President, (Boston, MA); Ayder Seitosman, Vice-President (Crimea); Inci Bowman, Executive Secretary (Washington, DC); Idil Noyan-Izmirli, Director for Research (Springfield, VA); and Yanki Pursun, Director for Membership and Outreach (Germany). In April 1999, the ICC „grounded„ itself by obtaining a P.O. Box in Washington, DC. Because the ICC evolved as an Internet group and carried out its functions mainly through communications in cyberspace, there were no regular meetings of its members. ICC remained an unincorporated, voluntary organization until 2012, when it was registered in Washington, DC as a non-profit and charitable entity.
The current Web site of the ICC (iccrimea.org) dates from September 2000. In the last 20 years, we have accumulated a collection of reports, reviews, commentaries, scholarly articles and photographs relating not only to ICC activities but also issues involving the Crimean Tatar repatriation as well as their history and culture. As a major online resource, the Web site documents the activism of the Crimean Tatar diaspora in the last two decades. While it does not include any administrative records of the ICC, it reveals how a group of dedicated individuals got together and tried to make a difference. The ICC members sent out appeals, created Web projects, wrote reviews and summarized the news. Here are some early examples of their collaborative work:
The oldest document on the ICC Web site is a Petition, titled Crimean Tatars have the right to return to their ancestral homeland (Crimea) and join the world community of nations, dated August 1997. The petition appealed to the US. Government, European Commission at Brussels, the U. N. Commission on Human Rights, President Leonid D. Kuchma of Ukraine, and President Islam Kerimov of Uzbekistan. Basically, the ICC Petition asked that the Crimean Tatar National Mejlis be recognized as the sole representative of the Crimean Tatars, who are the indigenous people of Crimea. The names of the undersigned are not included in the copy of the Petition that has survived, but we can assume that at least Mehmet Tutuncu and Idil Izmirli were involved.
In 2001, the Crimean Tatars communities worldwide observed the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ismail Bey Gaspirali (or Gasprinskii), a Crimean Tatar leader, publisher and educator. Celebrating the Life of Ismail Bey Gaspirali (1851-1914, included on the ICC’s site, was a part of a Web project planned in English and Turkish. ICC members from Ankara, Istanbul, Boston, Washington, DC, and Bahçesaray (Crimea) contributed to the project. Another example, illustrating the collaborative work of Crimean Tatar activists, also dates from this period. It is a paper written by five ICC members who detailed how Crimean Tatars utilized the Internet to accomplish their mission. e-Tatars: Virtual Community of the Crimean Tatar Diaspora was presented at the Internet Global Summit in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 2001. The authors concluded that „the existence of the Internet has finally provided the means for Crimean Tatars, scattered and exiled, to form a virtual community and to draw international attention to their cause.„
In sum, the International Committee for Crimea came into being due to the efforts of dedicated individuals who used the online media to get organized and to establish a network of Crimean Tatars and friends of Tatars. Through Crimea-L and this Web site, ICC members provided a platform where participants shared information and ideas about Crimean Tatars. As an important online resource, the ICC Web site reflects the activities of its members and includes many examples from the scholarly literature relating to Crimean Tatars.
Posted: 5 September 2020
*SOTA is the acronym for an organization, Research Center for Turkistan and Azerbaijan, located in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Established in 1991 by Mehmet Tutuncu, the Center was dedicated to research on the Peoples of the former Soviet Union and the promotion of human rights, democratic governments and peace in the Turkic World. See also: "Special Projects of SOTA."