International Committee for Crimea

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When will this ever end?

The Crimean Tatars throughout the world are ready to commemorate another anniversary of a tragedy, the 57th anniversary of the mass deportation or SÜRGÜN. On May 18, 1944, the entire Crimean Tatar population, mostly women, children and elderly, was brutally and systematically uprooted from their homes by the Soviet authorities and forcibly resettled in various parts of the (then) Soviet Union, primarily in Uzbekistan. 46.2% of the deportees perished during this tragic event. Crimean Tatars will always remember what took place on that day, as told by Tenzile Ibraimova, a survivor of SÜRGÜN:

We were expelled from the village of Adzhiatmak in Fraidorf district on May 18,1944. The expulsion took place very cruelly; at three o'clock in the morning, when children were still asleep, several soldiers came in said that we should get ready to and be out of the house in five minutes. We were not allowed to take with us either possession or food. They treated us so roughly that we thought they were taking us to be shot...My husband was fighting at the front; I was alone with three children. Eventually they loaded us into cars and took us to Evpatoria (Gözlev). From there they loaded us like cattle into goods wagons, which crammed to overflowing. After twenty- four days we arrived in Samarkand region, station of Zerabulak, and from there to the "Pravda" Collective Farm. They forced us to repair individual tent type structures. We worked and starved. Many collapsed from hunger. From our village they had taken thirty families, of which five families remained alive, though not all their members. There remained one or two persons in each of those families; the rest had perished of hunger and illnesses. (Chronicle of Current Events, Numbers 28-3, pp. 141-142.)

The survivors of SÜRGÜN have been struggling to return to their homeland for the past fifty-seven years. Only about half of the Crimean Tatar population was able to return to Crimea, the other half still remain in their place of exile, awaiting a government-sponsored return. What will happen to those who are unable to return to their ancestral homeland remains to be seen. Those who were able to return to Crimea are struggling to resettle and regain their national and human rights harder than ever. They gained some ground in their attempt to be accepted as the indigenous people of Crimea, but not much. The Crimean Tatars still have long ways to go to become a nation and regain their human and national rights. Just to mention a few problems:

  • The Crimean Tatar National Mejlis, elected by the Crimean Tatar people, is yet to be recognized as the de jure representative of the Crimean Tatars.

  • The Crimean Tatars are yet to be recognized as the indigenous people of the Crimea.

  • The Crimean Tatar language is yet to be recognized as one of the official languages of the Crimea.

  • The Crimean Tatars yet to have equal rights under the Crimean and Ukrainian laws.

    Most of the returning Crimean Tatars are yet to qualify for land in their own ancestral homeland.

  • Most importantly, the governments of Ukraine and Russia as well as the local Crimean authorities still lack the "political will" to help resolve the Crimean Tatar problem. The deep-rooted "anti-Crimean Tatar" sentiment remains strong in the Crimea.

As long as these problems exist, the Crimean Tatars will remain "Strangers" in their own homeland. The Crimea will remain as one of the "political hot spots" waiting to explode. As we commemorate the fifty-seventh anniversary of the tragic mass deportation of the indigenous people of the Crimea, it is our sincere hope that the Crimean Tatar problem is taken seriously by the governments involved. We sincerely hope also that the Crimean Tatar problem is resolved peacefully and resolved soon.

Mubeyyin B. Altan
International Committee for Crimea

May 18, 2001