The issue of Crimea is back on the agenda of the international community, so we should put our efforts together and coordinate our actions to bring Crimea back into Ukraine, said Mustafa Jemilev, Leader of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian MP, addressing the 4th traditional meeting of Mejlis senior members with foreign ambassadors and representatives of international organizations accredited in Ukraine held at Kiev’s Hayat Regency on December 15.

The meeting, attended by Mustafa Jemilev, Leader of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian MP, Refat Chubarov, Mejlis Chairman, Mejlis members, activists, Crimean Tatars holding public offices, 28 foreign ambassadors and representatives of international organizations operating in Ukraine, focused on human rights abuses and persecution of Crimean Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea, as well as chances of Crimean Tatars being protected by Ukraine and the international community.

Below is an unabridged version of the speech delivered by Mustafa Jemilev.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I would like to thank you for taking the time to attend an annual meeting of Mejlis senior members with foreign ambassadors and representatives of international organizations accredited in Ukraine.

    Held since 2011, these meetings are very important to us because they afford us the chance to raise awareness of the situation in Crimea and the plight of Crimean Tatars. We also get to talk about challenges our people have been facing after returning from deportation, as well as discuss ways of dealing with these challenges. We proceed from the notion that the problem of the indigenous peoples of Crimea regaining their rights, the problem of overcoming the consequences of WWII, and the problem of dealing with the crimes committed by the Communist regime should not be solely Ukraine’s internal affair but that of the entire democratic community.

The last two times we met we reached a unanimous agreement on the need to convene an international forum looking into the problems Crimea and the Crimean Tatar people faced. Due to the unwavering support of the OSCE, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, who developed and published the concept of an international forum, as well as a roadmap for tackling problems, the EU and particularly Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood, we had all it took to hold a forum like that. The only thing missing was the consent of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovitch.

    However, Yanukovitch was not interested in solving the problems, so he did not give his consent. His despotic puppet masters from Russia talked him into believing that the holding of the forum would constitute interference of Western states in Ukraine’s internal affairs and bolster the Mejlis which Yanukovitch viewed as a major organized force in Crimea capable of resisting his corrupted regime.

    The Yanukovich regime is gone now, but there is a new trouble. Our land has been occupied and a regime which is far worse than that of Yanukovitch’s has been installed in it. It is even worse than the Soviet totalitarian regime, the one Crimean Tatars spent several dozens of years fighting against for suppressing their basic civil rights and expelling them from their homeland.

Mass searches, arrests on ridiculous charges, abductions and murders, debasement of human dignity, persecution of people for merely speaking their mind are an everyday occurrence in Crimea.

    Being the major organized force capable of resisting occupation and annexation, Crimean Tatars and the Mejlis naturally drew the occupants’ wrath. Though Crimean Tatars account for only 13% of Crimea’s population, 90% of the 200 searches carried out since the peninsula’s occupation targeted Crimean Tatar houses and mosques. The majority of those imprisoned, made to pay steep fines, kidnapped and murdered, as well as the bulk of the nearly 35 thousand people forced out of Crimea, are also of Crimean Tatar ethnicity.

    Xenophobia, intolerance and chauvinism have risen dramatically in Crimea, and particularly after an incident involving the downing of a Russian fighter jet in Turkish airspace. Since Crimean Tatars are very closely related to the Turkish people, the rampant anti-Turkish campaign spearheaded by Putin has taken its toll on them as well. Dozens of Turkish families, including Turkish-Crimean Tatar ones, are being deported from Crimea, while companies doing business with Turkish companies are facing bankruptcy. Aksyonov, a one-time gang leader who turned ‘Head’ of the Crimean government, has been making statements in the press that all Crimean Tatars, and particularly those of them who studied in Turkey - and that is at least 500 young men and women, are either under the influence of the Turkish intelligence agencies or agents of this Russia-hostile state.

    Therefore, the major issue we should address now is liberation of Crimea. The questions I get asked most often by fellow Crimean Tatars arriving in Kiev from Crimea are as follows:

What are Western nations doing to end this nightmare of occupation?

Are not they going to betray us and leave us facing a wicked and cruel aggressor?  

Are they going to withdraw their signatures from the Budapest memorandum which guaranteed Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity?

Are they at least going to maintain sanctions pressure?

What is Ukraine going to do to liberate its own territory?

Can our allies help us educate our children, who hate being taught a supremacist curriculum and get diplomas unrecognized abroad, at their schools and universities?