Conflict studies expert, OSCE National Minorities expert-consultant and mediator between Crimea and Washington Idil Izmirli came to Crimea over again this summer. The purpose of the visit is to analyze the Crimean Tatar issue in the framework of IREX short-term project. From 500 participating project proposals, only 10 have been selected. Izmirli’s project is one of them.
In her interview to QHA news agency Izmirli, calling herself ‘Voice of Crimea in the U.S.’ told about her project, Crimean Tatar Diaspora and shared her plans for the future.
-Please tell about the grant you’ve won.
- It is an IREX Short-Term Grant. In fact, it’s the third time I win such short-term IREX grant. IREX is implementing 400-500 projects in different countries of the world. My project concerns Crimea. I described the situation in Crimea and how signing Association Agreement with the EU may influence the Crimean Tatars. I’ve also touched upon possible outcomes for Crimean Tatars in case if the Agreement is not signed and Crimea stays under Russia’s influence. I will stay in Crimea for two months and will be writing analytical articles, which would contain practical recommendations.
-What other work are you conducting in Crimea as an expert?
- Last year being invited as an OSCE expert, I wrote about culture, language and religion. On May 17, OSCE had given my report to President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian Parliament. In the report I emphasized the importance of conducting International Forum of Crimean Tatars.
Ukrainian Embassy in the U.S. also asked me to give them recommendations as for Crimea, which could be send to Yanukovych.
I also worked as an analyst at an American NGO the Jamestown Foundation, which is to publish a book about Crimea and conduct a conference in the near future.
At present I am analyzing the controversial book “Memory book of Eastern Crimea. Asked to remember” that was published in Crimea recently.
You can call me a mediator between Crimea and Washington, as in Washington there is a great number of public organizations, senators and other influential people who read our reports about Crimean Tatar people.
– What does the U.S. think about Crimea?
– They know almost nothing about Crimea. I am working on it. When I am back in the States I plan to write a book in English about Crimea and Crimean Tatars. There will be a chapter ‘who is who in Crimea’, which will talk about main actors in Crimea. This book will narrate about the conflict in Crimea after the return of Crimean Tatars to their homeland.
– What can you say about Crimean Tatar diaspora in the U.S?
-New York has a dernek (Association) and the mosque; many of Crimean Tatars live in Brooklyn. I live in Washington D.C. and I think I have closer ties with Crimea than some of them. In D.C. I know of three Crimean Tatars. We are not working together, but individually work on Crimean Tatar issues.
– Are our people assimilating in America?
-If I lived in New York I would have answered this question. Still, I know two Crimean Tatar women who are completely assimilated. They are married to Americans, speak English and live an American style of life. Mostly, Americans do work hard.
– You visit Crimea quite often, but still live in the U.S. Aren’t you planning to move here?
-I don’t want to live in Crimea as I believe that in the U.S. I can be more useful to Crimean Tatars. I can do more for Crimea by being there. I constantly write analytical articles in English about Crimea, participate in international conferences, make reports. At present, in Washington people know about the first Crimean Tatar move ‘Haytarma’, which was released here recently and about an incident with former Russian Consul Andreyev. We may say that I am voice of Crimea in the States.
– Who were your parents?
– My father Ismail Noyan is a Crimean Tatar born in Evpatoria (Crimea). His family moved to Turkey in 1937. He was one of the first founders of the first Crimean Tatar Association in Istanbul in the 1950s. He wrote poems and articles that were published in “Emel” and “Kırım” magazines. Izmirli is my husband’s last name.
– You moved to the U.S. after you got married?
– I was born in Istanbul and got married there. In 1987 my husband and I left for the U.S. to get education. I remember my father always said to me how important are education and knowledge. My mother’s mother was Russian and from childhood I could speak Russian a little.
When I was 9 I fell off a bicycle and became disabled. For 11 days I was in coma and doctors didn’t think I’d survive. But I did. At that time it was not easy for the disabled in Turkey as it is in Ukraine now. It was an everyday struggle: to cross the road, to climb the stairs. The U.S. has an Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects the rights of the people with limited capabilities.
– Where did you get your education?
– I studied Russian literature at Norvich University in Vermont, then sociology and later turned to conflictology. I decided to study ways of preventing and solving conflict situations as I wanted to do something for Crimea. Crimea is very close to my heart. My dissertation was about Crimean Tatars.
I received a PhD in conflictology at George Mason University. Now I teach in two U.S. universities, Maryland Univeristy and George Mason University, including on-line education. After theory I give my students case studies, tell them about Crimean Tatars, Chechens.
– What do you think about life in Crimea?
-The roads are bad. I’ve been coming here for 10 years, and they become worse and worse. I love Crimea very much and would like to come here every year.
–What would you change in Crimea first of all?
– The son of Yanukovych bought Simferopol airport. Before, there was a special elevator there for the disabled, now it is not there as it is taken to Kyiv. That should not happen in the International airport. I will make my best to solve this issue. I would also have rampants for the disabled. Ukraine still hasn’t solved this issue.
– What do you appreciate the most?
–Since childhood my father told me that if you can’t move, you should work with your brain. I can walk a little, I can write, I can type… what else do I need? In life I appreciate health and friendship, I don’t like being alone.
– Is it difficult to make friends in the U.S?
– Yes, it is. I’ve got only a few friends there. I have more friends in Crimea. This is funny, but true.