On Saturday, the Crimean Tatars canceled a rally to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their deportations to Central Asia by Stalin after Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov banned all gatherings in the peninsula until June 6 due to violence in east Ukraine.
The Crimean Tatars immediately called his bluff and condemned the move since the Mejlis were going to hold a rally on May 18, “the date Soviet deportations of Tatar families began in 1944.”
Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Mejlis, described the decree as an “inhuman act” at a news conference on Friday.
“What do the authorities want to show the Crimean Tatars on their day of national mourning, on a day when they say prayers for the souls of their deceased?” he said.
He announced the official cancellation on his website on Saturday, but he acknowledged that most Tatars will ignore the ban and cancellation.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Tatars that America stands with them and will also observe the forced deportation.
From The Kyiv Post:
“We commemorate the tragedy of 1944 with heavy hearts, even as we stand in solidarity with Crimean Tatars today against a new threat to their community,” Kerry said in a statement posted on the website of the State Department.
Kerry reaffirmed the U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its deep commitment to the human rights of all citizens of Ukraine, including those in Crimea.
In his words, the suffering caused by this mass expulsion is almost inexpressible. “Those who survived the horrific transit to Central Asia, the Urals and Siberia faced hunger, disease, and repression on arrival,” the state secretary said.
Soviet leader Josef Stalin accused the Tatars of corroborating with Hitler during World War II. Over 200,000 Tatars were forced to Central Asia, and the majority, which included women and children, died along the way. Many only started to return in the 1980s. The Tatars voiced fear that history would repeat itself before and after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine. Russia promised the Tatars they would receive equal treatment, but reports have shown it is the exact opposite. The United Nations human rights report listed many violations against the Tatars. Kerry acknowledged the inhumane treatment:
“Murder, beatings, and the kidnapping of Crimean Tatars and others have become standard fare. Local ‘authorities’ announced that Crimean Tatars will have to vacate their property and give up their land. Crimean Tatars have been assaulted for speaking their language, and Tatar community leader Mustafa Jemilev has been banned from returning to his home in Crimea for five years. Thousands of Tatars and others have fled their homes in Crimea, fearful for their safety. Those who remain face a future of repression, discrimination, censorship, limits on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the criminalization of dissent,” he said.