Jan 14, 2014

Crimean Tatar Speech At PanEuropean Working Group

Mr. Abduraman Egiz, Member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, will deliver a speech at the Paneuropean Working Group in Strasbourg today. On this occasion, Mr. Egiz will address the problems faced by the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine, in the light of the upcoming 70th anniversary of their deportation by Staline’s regime.

Mr. Abduraman Egiz is a Member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, the representative and executive body of the Indigenous Peoples of Crimea - the Crimean Tatars.

Today, he will deliver a speech, entitled "70 years of Neglect: The Crimean Tatars in Ukraine", at the Paneuropean Working Group of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Strasbourg. He will present the problems encountered by the Crimean Tatars and will explain what should be done to help them restore the rights they were deprived of 70 years ago.

In 1944, the Crimean Tatars were deported under Stalin’s rule from their homeland Crimea. Although it has been more than two decades since the Crimean Tatars began repatriation, the measures employed by the Ukrainian Government in facilitating their integration have proved insufficient. In fact, the budget of Ukraine's repatriation programme has been drastically reduced and a solution to the political, economic and cultural problems from which they suffer has yet to be found.

Willing to foster meaningful dialogue with all actors involved, the Crimean Tatars have appealed for the creation of an International Forum for the Restoration of the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People and other formerly deported peoples, an initiative supported by the OSCE, the EU and many national governments worldwide. Unfortunately, the proposal has fallen on deaf ears by the Ukrainian government.

(Please find below the speech of Mr. Abduraman Egiz, as well as a PDF version here)


Dear Members of the European Parliament!

I am honored to welcome you on behalf of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and its Chairman, Mr Refat Chubarov.

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is the only legitimate representative and executive body of the Crimean Tatar people. It is the driving force behind the Crimean Tatar National Movement and its main purpose is to overcome the consequences of the mass Deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Joseph Stalin’s government in 1944. 

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People has always followed the principle of non-violence in preserving the rights of the Crimean Tatars. International human rights instruments, and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, have always been reference points for us while pursuing the goals of our National Movement.

The long-time Leader of the Crimean Tatar National Movement, Mr Mustafa Dzhemilev, is the former Chairman of the Mejlis. He is known worldwide as a dissident and human rights activist, who was imprisoned in Soviet Camps for more than 15 years. Today our leader is a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, who has served the Ukrainian Nation for more than ten years.

The Crimean Tatars are indigenous to the Crimean peninsula. As a Nation born in Crimea we had our own state, the Crimean Khanate, from 1441 to 1783. It was one of the most powerful states in Western Europe until the beginning of the 18th century. The period of the Crimean Khanate was the apogee of our culture, art and literature.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story of the Crimean Tatars is mainly characterized by Russian domination and oppressive policies. Persecution reached its culmination in 1944, when the Crimean Tatars were deported from their homeland and forcibly kept in exile in Central Asia by the Soviet Communist regime until 1989. During the exile period, we were deprived of any opportunity to keep our native language, history, religion and culture, and were subjected to brutal assimilation processes.

Today, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rising up of nations for their rights, humanity is facing a new, rights based discourse that emphasizes, amongst others, the rights of indigenous peoples.  

However, the Crimean Tatar People have been left aside of this discourse. While the Soviet Regime committed crimes against the Crimean Tatars 70 years ago, we are still affected by their consequences and, despite many efforts of the Crimean Tatar Movement, our issues remain unsolved.

To date, there is no formalization of the status of the Crimean Tatars within the Ukrainian State, and there has not been any bill adopted to address the issue of the restoration of political, cultural, social and economic rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Crimea - the Crimean Tatars.

This absence of regulation of our status in Ukraine sets many barriers, particularly in relation to the return of thousands of the Crimean Tatars who are still living in places of exile.

Today, the discrimination against the Crimean Tatar people has also taken new forms, such as:

- The restriction of political representation of the Crimean Tatars in the executive power of Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea;

- A sharp reduction of state funding for the improvement programs of formerly deported peoples;

- The denial of the Crimean Tatar language as the official language in Crimea;

- The catastrophic situation of education, including pre-school education, in the Crimean Tatar language.

With regard to the current situation, we think that the resolution of our problems should include the following measures:

- The Ukrainian government should cooperate with the representative bodies of the Crimean Tatars – the Qurultay of the Crimean Tatar People and the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People – towards building mutual dialogue and understanding to regulate the status of the Crimean Tatars and restore their rights;

- The international community should assist the Ukrainian government and the Crimean Tatars in addressing the unfortunate consequences of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars on May 18, 1944.

Numerous meetings with international partners have given us hope that mutual efforts of the Ukrainian state and the international community would lead to the fair and just resolution of the numerous problems of the Crimean Tatars relating to their return, their resettlement and the restoration of their rights.

The Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on the rights of National Minorities has provided two reports with recommendations to the Ukrainian Government. The first document is an outline of “The International Forum on the Crimean Tatars and other deported peoples” (2012), and the second one is a special report entitled “Integration of formerly deported people in Crimea, Ukraine” (August 2013).

The first report recommended to restore the rights of the Crimean Tatars by addressing issues relating to the following fields:

- Legal aspects of return;

- Land, housing and property;

- Political participation and governance;

- Social and economic aspects of return and integration;

- Language, culture and religion;

- Education.

Willing to foster meaningful dialogue with all actors involved, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People has appealed for the creation of an International Forum for the Restoration of the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People and other formerly deported peoples. This initiative is already supported by EU Member States’ governments, the USA, Canada and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. In our opinion, the special reports elaborated by the Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, could and should be the basis for further work on the preparation of this International Forum.

However, regardless several requests made by the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, the Ukrainian government has not yet demonstrated its willingness to host the International Forum, although it is a clear step towards resolving the issue of the Indigenous People of Ukraine.

Dear Participants of this Meeting,

We call upon the international community to express its support for the recommendations of the OSCE High Commissioner and to help the Ukrainian Government with the organization of the International Forum.

Regarding Ukraine-EU relations, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People has repeatedly requested the President and the Parliament of Ukraine to take all possible measures to sign the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, as the Agreement would be a turning point for their relations. The Agreement is furthermore fundamental for democratic reforms in Ukraine, giving Kyiv an opportunity to adhere to rules, regulations and standards of the EU.

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People appeals to all parties involved to continue the search for mechanisms of further European integration of Ukraine, despite the current political crisis caused by the Ukrainian government‘s inconsistent policy towards the EU.

Distinguished Members of the Parliament, Distinguished Guests of this meeting,

May 18th 2014 will mark 70 years since the Soviet Union committed genocide against the Crimean Tatar People.

Day by day direct witnesses and victims of the unlawful deportations carried out in 1944, leave us. They are our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who never received any apology nor witnessed any laws that could have given them hope in the future of their children and grandchildren.

The Crimean Tatars are patriots, which they have proven over decades of struggle for the return to their homeland. There is no doubt that they will continue to exert all their strength for harmony, peace and tranquility on the Crimean peninsula. Having said that, the Crimean Tatars do need the assistance of Ukraine and the international community to overcome the consequences of the crimes of 1944.

We therefore call upon the European Parliament to help us restore justice on the European Continent.

Thank you for your attention.