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Plight Of Crimean Tatars

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I rise to draw your attention to the perilous

situation of Crimean Tatars.

 

The Tatars are a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who for centuries have been indigenous to the

Crimean Peninsula. In 1944, the Tatars were expelled from Crimea through the mass deportation

policies of Joseph Stalin. Many died in the process.

 

The fall of the Soviet Union allowed the Tatars to re-establish themselves in Crimea. Since 1991,

Crimean Tatars have operated their own executive commission, the Mejlis, which represents and

promotes Crimean Tatar interests. Today, some 260,000 Tatars live in Crimea.

 

Earlier this year, the Ukrainian Parliament officially recognized the Crimean Tatars as indigenous

people of Ukraine and recognized their right to self-determination within Ukraine.

 

Today, that freedom and autonomy is being challenged.

The relationship between the Crimean Tatars and Russia has long been fraught and difficult.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March has exposed Crimean Tatars to renewed reprisals

and persecution. Shortly after Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, Crimean Tatars were told they

would be required to relinquish their land for ‘‘social purposes.’’ Several Tatar leaders were banned

from the peninsula. Tatar activists endured violent attacks and spurious criminal prosecutions. Many

Crimean Tatars have been forced to flee the Crimean Peninsula. Many more are likely to follow.

 

Parliamentary elections held in Crimea last week on September 14 prompted a new wave of

suppression. On September 16, armed Russian agents raided Crimean Tatar schools, religious

institutions and the homes of several Tatar leaders. The Crimean Tartar Mejlis was also raided and

its members then given 12 hours to vacate its headquarters.

 

On September 18, the Crimean Tatar scholar Nadir Bekir was attacked by masked men and robbed

of his passport and cell phone. It is believed that the attack was intended to prevent Bekir from

attending the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples taking place this week in New York.

 

On September 19, the main Crimean Tatar library in Simferopol was shut down. This followed a

Russian government resolution to replace libraries on the peninsula with Russian state entities. Tatar

literature included on a list of materials banned under Russian law has been seized.

 

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic has expressed

concern about the Tatar community. Addressing the United Nations Security Council in April, he

emphasized that ‘‘the obligation of the Crimean authorities to ensure respect for international human

rights norms’’ must be adhered to.

 

I urge all honourable senators to join me in standing in solidarity with the Crimean Tatar community

and their right to exist free of political persecution.