“I am spoiled by freedom-loving Ukrainians”. Russian mobilization pushes Crimean Tatars into exile amid bitter echoes of Stalinist deportation

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Participants carry Crimean Tatar flags during a rally to mark the anniversary of the 1944 mass expulsion of Crimean Tatars from the region on May 18, 2021 in Yevpatoria, Crimea.

original Talk To ZercaloEnglish version by . Sam Breazeal.

about 13 percent 10% of Crimea’s population are Crimean Tatars.and like many ethnic minority Within the internationally recognized borders of Russia, the Crimean Tatars Wide report have ever disproportionately targeted By the Moscow mobilization campaign. this is, targeted repression When violence They have faced the hands of the occupying Russian government since Moscow first annexed the homeland in 2014.However, as several members of the minority group recently told the Belarusian Independent Press Zercalo, deciding whether to leave Crimea is not as easy as weighing the safety benefits.deportation of hundreds of thousands Crimean Tatars under the Soviet regime 100,000 people, remains in living memory, making life outside Crimea “unthinkable” for many. Medusa, in English, summarizes Zerkalo’s account of the painful choices facing the indigenous peoples of Crimea.

In June, Saidamet, a Crimean Tatar now living abroad, was recovering from surgery in a hospital on his home peninsula when his mother called him. Someone from the military committee was looking for him.

“I don’t know why; maybe they were preparing the list for the future,” he told Zerkalo. , he had no military experience, but knew that at 48 he was still old enough to be drafted.

Then, in early September, weeks before Putin’s mobilization announcement, Seidamet’s nephew received a subpoena from the Commissariat. According to Seidamet, his family, like most Crimean Tatars still living in Crimea, do not support the war.

People outside the building of the Crimean Military Commission during the Russian mobilization campaign. September 25, 2022

“[My nephew] He has no motive to fight — he is pro-Ukrainian at heart, half Ukrainian by blood, ”he said. “If one of our people supports Russia and the war, they are the exception, and in my opinion they are no longer Crimean Tatars. Our people love peace, they love Ukraine.”

For safety, Seidamet and his nephew left Crimea.

Their departure disturbed many relatives. After all, all Tatars leaving the Crimea Recently A past when there were practically no Tatars on the peninsula. A Ukrainian citizen, Seidamet himself was born in Uzbekistan as a result of the en masse expulsion of Crimean Tatars from their homeland by Joseph Stalin’s regime.

“In 1944 we were accused of treason, accused of being on the same side as the fascists, and deported. The majority returned, but the Crimean Tatars did not have the opportunity! My only hope was to return,” he said.

In 1989, the Soviet government finally lifted the ban on Crimean Tatars from returning to Crimea. Seidamette and his family returned home in his July of that year.

“When I was fifteen, [first] Set foot on Crimean soil. For all of us, coming home was monumental. Something we’ve been striving for all these years. So the prospect of once again abandoning the mountains and seas of their homeland of Crimea was an insurmountable problem for many, especially the elderly. And the 2014 annexation was a terrible blow. But most of us, the people, understood that while we were under the yoke of oppression and we no longer had free speech, we would stay home,” said Seidamette.

A camp set up by Crimean Tatars who recently returned to their historic homeland. Ukrainian SSR. November 1, 1911

But those who remained paid a heavy price. Another Crimean Tatar from the peninsula, 27-year-old Ildar (whose name has been changed for security reasons) said his various group chats were at checkpoints in rural areas two days after Putin’s mobilization announcement. said it began to fill with messages about the emergence of

“I did not serve in the army, but it was clear that they captured the Crimean Tatars first and that the round-ups began. I found them to be particularly thorough in the settlements that had once stood where the camp was.When the Crimean Tatars returned [to Crimea after 1989], the government blocked them by refusing to give them land. In some areas, people simply threw stakes into the ground and pitched tents, with houses later appearing. The land was then legally privatized,” he said.

He recalled one instance where authorities tricked a man into opening the door because under Russian law an order must be physically handed over to the recipient. After shouting that someone was hurt, the man came to help – and immediately got his call.

About the Crimean Tatars

Ildar himself eventually decided to flee to Kazakhstan, as did many of his acquaintances.

“Among my friends and relatives, probably 70% of Crimean Tatars have left the country.

Indeed, as of October 3, more than 10,000 people had left Crimea since Putin’s mobilization announcement, “a significant portion of them Crimean Tatars,” according to preliminary data from the Ukrainian presidential representative in Crimea.

* * *

Zarema (whose name has been changed for security reasons) said that across Crimea, the wave of panic that followed the mobilization announcement was slowly fading. But the fear of conscription remains, as has the repression that has continued in Crimea since 2014.

“Now the Crimean Tatars are under heavy surveillance. There are so-called bloggers who “fight” those who do not openly support special military operations [Editor’s note: Kremlin-speak for the war in Ukraine] Or someone who is simply silent. They’re prosecuting businessmen who got people for discrediting the Russian military, dismissed teachers, and allowed them to use the premises for certain events. I’m here. I know of a case where a Crimean Tatar family who moved from Mariupol was subject to administrative sanctions. Their child is in his first grade and the teacher gave the students an assignment to draw their country’s flag, so they drew the Ukrainian flag. Not surprisingly, other students insulted him and his parents were fined for “improperly performing his duties.” ”

More recently, according to Zarema, pro-government voices have attempted to interpret the draftsman’s lawyers as “illegal resistance” to mobilization. Given the circumstances, the danger is huge,” she told Zerkalo.

But Zarema also described efforts by the Russian occupation authorities to suppress Crimean Tatar identities outside the context of war, as well as how Ukrainian national identities are treated. promise Called from Moscow to give the Crimean Tatars “national cultural autonomy”.

“Since 2014, I have been working on issues related to Crimean Tatar culture. “We weren’t even allowed to gather to celebrate Flag Day. Cultural events were only allowed if they were pro-Russian. Schools informally ban Crimean Tatars. [language] lesson.

And these prohibitions have been underpinned by violence.

“I have friends who have been to prison, acquaintances who have gone missing. They pose as terrorists and attack Crimean Tatars every day. Arrested Nariman Dzhelyal for allegedly planning, but everyone knows why he was there [really] Arrested — he openly supported Ukraine. He was part of the Crimean Platform (editor’s note: the Ukrainian government’s initiative to return Crimea to Ukrainian control).

Crimean Tatars protest against Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Bakhchisaray, Ukraine. March 14, 2014

Zarema’s experience with the violence of the Russian state is not limited to her position as a lawyer. She has also lost multiple members of her family.

“One of my sons left in 2012. Obviously he was young, but he had problems with Russia. He fought in Syria. [Russia] and was killed. 30 years old this year. If the second son is still alive, he will turn 27 in November. He was kidnapped by his FSB agents in his 2014. He and my nephew were forced into a car. I don’t know anything after that. […] After that, the eldest daughter moved to Kyiv. When she returned to Crimea they constantly harassed her at her border. It made her very nervous.and they changed her apartment [in Kyiv] Upside down while she was gone. The FSB was also able to reach her tentacles. […] This is the difficult situation around us. Russia is a predatory organization and repression is its way of life, ”she said.

According to Abdula, many draft evaders have returned to Crimea because they cannot afford to live abroad. Seidamet also wants to return to Crimea, but only after another government comes to power.

“At some point in 2016, the lack of freedom that was offered to me like manna from heaven almost choked me. Sure, there was anarchy at times, but I loved it anyway! I remember I spent a month breathing freedom there and decided to return to Crimea, with the caveat that if I saw anything bad, I would talk about it. That’s why I still don’t hide my name.”

Members of the Crimean Battalion, a Ukrainian military unit made up mostly of Crimean Tatars, hold Friday prayers in Kyiv as the Russian offensive on Ukraine continues. May 27, 2022

There has also been at least one change since the mid-2010s in Seidamet’s view. That is, the international community seems to have woken up.

“Since 2014, a lot of people have forgotten about us. [Russia] He brazenly gnawed at a piece of the whole country and called it his own.However [one day], Crimea will be Ukrainian again and I have no doubt that we will return. For now, I’m dreaming of the Crimean Mountains. I take a walk through them and everything is fine. ”

original Talk To Zercalo

English version by Sam Breazeal “I am spoiled by freedom-loving Ukrainians”. Russian mobilization pushes Crimean Tatars into exile amid bitter echoes of Stalinist deportation

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