World Bulletin / News Desk
Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev has been awarded the Meedal of State award by the Republic of Turkey, the highest award in the country.
The former head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (parliament) and current Ukraine MP Jemilev, 70, was given the award at Turkey's presidential palace for his hard work and efforts for his people in the Crimean peninsula on Monday.
Speaking at the ceremony, Turkey's president Abdullah Gul said that he was proud to give the award to someone who had worked so hard to have the voice of the Crimean Tatars heard across the world.
Jemilev thanked Gul for the role he played to assist Crimean Tatars who had fled to Turkey from persecution by the Soviety Union in their struggle to return home.
Speaking in front of an audience of dignified guests and members of the press, Jemilec recalled the trauma the Crimean Tatars faced when they were exiled from Crimea by the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1944.
Today, he said, Russia has taken advantage of Ukraine's weakness and has once again invaded Crimea, referring to the recent annexation of the peninsula following a referendum by the region's mainly ethnic Russian population.
'This is not 1944,' he said. 'In these tough times, Turkey did not leave us alone. Rather, it extended a hand to Ukraine.'
Crimean Tatars are the native Turkic-speaking Muslim population of Crimea who were forced out of their homeland after around a century of war between the Ottomans and the Russians in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Those who remained in Crimea where finally exiled in 1944 mainly to central Asia and the Caucasus. In the late 80s and early 90s, many took advantage of relaxed laws and returned home. Nonetheless, the 300,000 Crimean Tatars today only make up 13% of the population.
After the pro-Russian Crimean parliament declared independence from Ukraine following the ousting of former president Viktor Yanukovich in February, the Crimean Tatars complained that their community had been ignored by the ethnic Russian authorities.
Crimean Tatars mostly boycotted the referendum that paved the way for it to be annexed by Russia and have so far refused to recognize the move.Last Mod: 15 Nisan 2014, 15:45