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Crimean Tatar Deportation Memorial Day: Seventy-fifth Anniversary

Honourable senators, May 18 marks Crimean Tatar Deportation Memorial Day. The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic-speaking Muslim people indigenous to the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine.

Seventy-five years ago, the Tatars were forcibly removed from their ancestral homeland and relocated to Central Asia under the mass deportation policies of Joseph Stalin.

Thousands did not survive the long and perilous journey.

Those who survived lived in exile until the collapse of the Soviet Union, at which time they returned to their homeland in Ukraine.

We are honoured today to welcome prominent Crimean Tatar activist and former Soviet dissident Mustafa Dzhemilev to Ottawa.

Mr. Dzhemilev embodies the true strength and resilience of the Crimean Tatar people. He spent 15 years in prison for his defiance of the Soviet regime. While imprisoned, he endured a hunger strike for more than 300 days.

Today, Mr. Dzhemilev serves as the Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for the Affairs of the Crimean Tatars.

Nevertheless, he remains unable to return to his homeland.

In 2014, the international community witnessed a grave violation of international law with the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by the Russian Federation.

Today, the Tatars, along with other Ukrainians and ethnic minority groups, face renewed repression and persecution in occupied Crimea.

Tatar leaders and activists are subject to violent attacks, forced disappearances and unlawful detention.

Tatar literature has been banned and the Tatar language suppressed. Unlawful home searches are applied systemically to further intimidate innocent civilians.

The Mejlis, the top legislative body of the Crimean Tatars, has been banned and declared an extremist organization, exemplifying a further assault on the civil and political rights of the Tatars.

During a previous visit to Canada, Mr. Dzhemilev appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Allow me to share his words with you:

This atmosphere of increasing fear, the abductions, the executions is what makes our people leave their homeland. Can you imagine the tragedy of these people who, for many years, tried to come back to their homeland, and right now they are forced to leave their Crimea once again?

Honourable colleagues, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to denounce and discourage Russia’s aggressive policies and actions in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Let the Crimean Tatars have their homeland.