They demand national and territorial self-government and official status granted for Tatar language in the Crimean peninsula · World Congress of Crimean Tatars opens in Bakhchisaray, an event widely attended by delegates representing Tatar diaspora · More than 200,000 Tatars were deported to Central Asia in May 1944.
Massive deportation of Tatars on 18th May 1944 has been commemorated once again in Crimea. The date marks the date in wich Joseph Stalin ordered the forced displacement of the whole Tatar population of Crimea -nearly 200,000- to Central Asia. It is estimated that half of the total deportees lost their life along the journey.
According to RFE/RL, around 15,000 people took to the streets of Simferopol (Crimea) on Monday to commemorate the catastrophe and demand the Ukranian government to protect their linguistic and political rights. Tatars returning to their ancestral homes since the late 1980's have become a minority due to russification and ukrainization of their territory. That is why demonstrators requested Kiev to recognise official status to the Tatar language within the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and include it within the Republic's education schemes. On a political level, Crimean Tatars call for a national and territorial Tatar self-government outgoing the Autonomous Republic's current powers.
Coinciding with the remembrance, the Ukrainian government announced it will set up a special unit to investigate crimes against Tatars from Crimea committed by Soviet authorities. To do so, Kiev has asked Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) to declassify all the documentation relating to the deportation.
Tatar diaspora World Congress
Not all Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland, as many of them exiled to European and American countries. With the aim of discussing strategies and future goals, the Crimean Tatar World Congress is being held in Bakhchisaray (Crimea) and other Crimean towns until May 22. According to NRCU, the congress will gather delegates from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Germany, Russia and the US, among other countries.
As reported by RFE/RL several months ago, delegates have been preparing for the Congress amid controversy. Several Tatar NGO intended to boycott it alleging the gathering would only be aimed at making Mustafa Abdülcemil Qırımoğlu, chairman of the Tatar Parliament (the Mejlis) and a former prominent Tatar leader in the 1960s and 1970s, a "permanent leader" of Crimean Tatars.
Picture: Rally of Crimean Tatars with Tatar and Ukrainian flags (Idil Izmirli i Eskender Bariev, International Committee for Crime).