Crimean Tatar leader threatens to take up arms

On April 12, the pro-Russian Crimean parliament produced a new constitution officially declaring the peninsula as part of Russia following a referendum in mid-March, in which the vast majority of voters opted to join Russia. The 300,000 Turkic-speaking Muslim Crimean Tatars, who make up 13% of the Crimean population, for the most part boycotted the referendum as they deemed it illegal.

Crimean Tatar leader threatens to take up arms

World Bulletin / News Desk

Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev warned that bloodshed was inevitable in Crimea following its annexation by Russia and that if his people were forced to fight, they would be able to find the weapons to do so.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Turk during his visit to the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday, the former Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Parliament) head Jemilev said it would be a 'miracle' if no blood is spilled in Ukraine's breakaway peninsula of Crimea.

After receiving the Medal of State award, the highest award in Turkey, at the presidential palace for his efforts in raising awareness for the struggle of the Crimean Tatars, 70-year-old Jemilev told Russia that it was not 1944, referring to the year Crimean Tatars were forced out of their homeland by former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

'If need be, we too will find weapons,' he told Al Jazeera Turk. 'We can see Russian soldiers and tanks on the streets of Crimea. We don't want anyone to be killed, but we will take precautions to guard our rights and our honor,' he said.

'Right now the Crimean Tatars are in great danger. Foreign soldiers are on our land. It would be a miracle if no blood is spilt,' he added, warning that if one day a Crimean Tatar is killed there will be no stopping the urge for revenge.

Recalling the events of 1944, Jemilev said that despite the trials and tribulations his people had gone through, they had never taken up arms before and preferred a more effective non-violent protest, but questioned how far peaceful means would last.

On April 12, the pro-Russian Crimean parliament produced a new constitution officially declaring the peninsula as part of Russia following a referendum in mid-March, in which the vast majority of voters opted to join Russia. The 300,000 Turkic-speaking Muslim Crimean Tatars, who make up 13% of the Crimean population, for the most part boycotted the referendum as they deemed it illegal.

AUTONOMY

After becoming a part of Russia, Russia announced plans to issue Russian citizenship to all people in Crimea except those who wished to remain as Ukrainian citizens. Fearing that they would become foreigners in their homeland if they don't accept Russian nationality, some Crimean Tatars plan to adopt it. However, others in the community uphold that Russia is an invading force and therefore its citizenship should not be taken.

The Crimean Tatar convention has considered seeking autonomy within Crimea and is due to meet to discuss the issue soon. Jemilev said that there would be a difference of opinion in the meeting and expressed his hopes that a balance would be achieved to avoid a split in the community.

Although the Crimean Tatars have refused to recognize the authority of the Autonomous Parliament of Crimea, which declared independence from Ukraine after former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in late February, Jemilev said that the Crimean Tatar Mejlis has appointed two ministers to represent them in the parliament but in a written statement informed that the appointments didn't amount to recognition of the parliament.

Crimean Tatars are the descendents of Kipchuk and Oghuz Turkish clans who have been living in the region for centuries. Their population declined significantly when they were caught between the Ottoman-Russian wars of the 18th and 19th century. In 1944 the Soviet Union accused them of siding with Germany in World War II and exiled them. Most fled to central Asia, the Caucasus and Turkey. Relaxed laws in the late 1980s allowed many of them to return, but by that time they had been replaced by ethnic Russians who had taken over the land. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Crimea became an autonomous state in the newly independent Ukraine but maintained a Russian naval base in Sevastopol.

Last Mod: 16 Nisan 2014, 13:42
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