In an interview with the QHA news agency, Mustafa Jemilev, Ukrainian MP and Leader of Crimean Tatars, commented on the alleged involvement of the Mejlis in sending volunteers to Syria.
- Is there any substantiation of the reports that emerge now and then in different medias, mostly pro-Russian ones, and rarely Western ones, about the involvement of Crimean Tatars in the war in Syria, as well as their affiliation with ISIS?
- These are sheer lies. We (the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars - QHA) have made a number of statements concerning ISIS. When the hostilities were only beginning to break out there (in Syria - QHA) and some Crimean Tatars had an urge to go Syria to fight for insurgents, not ISIS yet, we said, ‘That is not our war. We should not be there. Do not violate Ukrainian laws. There is no place for Crimean Tatars in this war. The opposition forces in Syria are very diverse and we do not yet know whether they are better or worse than the Asad regime”. That is what it was like back then. To the best of my knowledge, there are currently about 30 Crimean Tatars fighting on the side of the opposition, and none of them has joined ISIS. In fact, it was mostly members of Hizb ut-Tahrir who went there.
And the same goes for the Uzbek opposition. I have recently had a meeting with a leader of the Uzbek opposition in Istanbul. They have fully withdrawn and are fighting on the side of the opposition forces.
- And how about formation of a Muslim battalion?
- We were guided by purely practical considerations when approaching the matter of formation of a Muslim battalion. For example, I have met with Crimean Tatars serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They are willing to continue to do so but complain about having to eat bread and drink tea continuously because all other meals are made with pork meat. There are things you should keep in mind when dealing with Muslims in the Armed Forces. Or let’s take chaplains, for example... Would they keep a mullah for 5 or 6 Crimean Tatars in the Armed Forces? Of course not.
Therefore, we were talking about formation of a Muslim battalion and the President (Ukrainian President - QHA.) met us halfway by authorizing formation of a Muslim battalion and insisting that the matter be settled as quickly as possible. I am talking about forming a military unit which will be fully subordinate to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. And there can be no talk of it being answerable to ISIS or any other organization like this, because it will be fully under Ukrainian command. Firstly, it will bolster Ukrainian presence in the Kherson region; secondly, it will afford us an opportunity to keep those Crimean Tatars who left Crimea in the area.
- Why do they keep lying about the Mejlis and Crimean Tatars?
- This is how it is done: a certain Balbek, or somebody else, shows up and makes a statement which is then reposted by hundreds of websites. I mean, it is a very primitive technology.