World Bulletin / News Desk
As Moscow assumes full control over Crimea, the peninsula's indigenous Tatar population is formulating a response to Moscow's unilateral annexation.
The chairman of the Crimean Tatar assembly, known as the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov said Wednesday that an emergency session of the 250-member body will be held on Saturday to determine the community’s formal response to the controversial March 16 referendum on joining Russia that it boycotted.
With Russia’s annexation, the organs of power in Crimea have transferred to Moscow. This has left the Crimean Tatars – who wish to remain Ukrainian citizens – in the position of having to cooperate with a government it considers illegitimate.
"In the space of three weeks we have found ourselves in a completely different, de facto, situation," Chubarov said in an interview with Reuters. "The Crimean Tatars should determine their own fate," he added.
The community is deeply suspicious of Russia as a result of their 1944 deportation to Central Asia. The Crimean Tatars were only allowed to return to their homeland in the late 1980s as the Soviet Union began to dissolve.
After returning to Crimea, many acquired, at times illegally, empty plots of land to build new homes. Over the years, their property rights were upheld by Ukraine as ownership was formally transferred to those residing or working on the sites.
Immediately following the referendum, however, Crimea's Russian-backed parliament began hinting that ownership rights would be overturned and several Tatar families would be forced to relocate.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, the Mejlis Vice Chairman Ayder Adzhimambetov discussed the community's concerns and their plans for the months ahead.
"We've been receiving signals from the so-called Vice Premier of the Crimean Parliament about forcing some families to leave. They haven’t given any specifics as to what their comments mean,” Adzhimambetov said in his office in Simferopol. “The Crimean Tatars have come home. For the last two decades we’ve demanded that our constitutional rights be upheld by the government,” he added.
After their return, most Crimean Tatars settled on unoccupied land as nearly all of their ancestral property had been seized by the Soviet government and resettled by mainly ethnic Russians.
“People asked to be provided individual land plots when they returned, but the authorities ignored their requests. Because of this, protest sites as they are known, sprung up around the peninsula. The people living on the sites aren’t there because they want to be, but out of despair because they had no other place to go,” Adzhimambetov said.
“We came back to our homeland and couldn’t receive six or eight hectares to construct homes. We aren’t asking for the property that belonged to our ancestors. Take a look at Simferopol’s old town. This was almost 100 percent Tatar before 1944. Now it’s inhabited almost entirely by Russians,” Adzhimambetov said. “People aren’t asking for a right to return. We think the people that are inhabiting our old homes should stay there. All we are saying is give us land and we’ll build new houses ourselves,” he said while stressing, “We will not abandon any of our land. Dwellings, schools, religious buildings, anything on the so-called ‘protest sites’ will never be abandoned.”
Chubarov claims that the Crimean Tatars will now be forced to acquire Russian citizenship unless they officially opt out of doing so. He argues if the Tatars live in their homeland and own their own property, why would they leave their country with their families established there?
Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs was recently forced to amend its law on banning dual citizenship to allow Crimeans who reject Moscow’s authority to retain their Ukrainian passports if they are forced to become Russian citizens.
“If the international community is unable to resolve the current crisis, Crimean residents will not have their Ukrainian citizenship revoked. We will have de-facto dual citizenship as Moscow will force us to have Russian passports. There is little we can do about this. We are now living under occupation and have to act according to the laws and circumstances in Crimea,” Adzhimambetov said.Last Mod: 28 Mart 2014, 12:56