The current situation of Crimean Tatars in connection with Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula causes a big concern of the whole world. True patriots of Ukraine, Tatars are resisting the occupying authorities of the peninsula, incurring the illegal detentions, searches, restrictions of their rights and freedoms. How to help ethnic minority and bring the state-aggressor to justice? What purpose the Russian side wants to achieve while flagrantly violating the rights of the Crimean Tatars and is it possible to establish an adequate dialogue of Tatar people with the occupying authorities?
We asked to answer this question Andrij Dobriansky who is an Executive board in Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and also a United Nations Representative in Ukrainian World Congress. These days Andrij is participating in International Conference “Mass violation of human rights in occupied Crimea” and Meeting of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Ukrainian government from the mainland can’t directly help the Tatars at the moment, and the Russian authorities continue to put pressure on them. The position of the Crimean Tatars is getting worse. Which way out of this situation you see for the Crimean Tatar people?
I disagree that nothing can be done from the mainland. There are many historical precedents of good faith efforts in neighboring countries of occupied territories. First and foremost, the areas closest to Crimea should be developed with sufficient facilities to assist those who chose to flee Crimea, as was the case in West Berlin. Adjoining mainland areas within range to broadcast into Crimea should have real information delivered over the airwaves to the people in Crimea who are only being fed with propaganda on their televisions and radios, much like NATO border countries did during the Cold War. Lastly, preparing for the eventual reintegration of Crimea is something that needs to be planned for, including building up the rest of the economy to absorb the economic and humanitarian devastation without crippling the rest of the country, as well as constantly documenting the crimes against the indigenous Crimean Tatar people, so that one day a proper investigative tribunal will be able to pass judgement on this heinous act.
Is it possible to bring Russia to justice at the international level for violations of the rights of Crimean Tatar people? Is it possible to arrange admission for representatives of international organizations to monitor the situation of human rights on the occupied territories?
The only hope for returning basic human rights to the people of Crimea is the end of Russia's military occupation. Russia's claim over Crimea is without contemporary precedent, broke numerous international doctrines and agreements, and must be reversed in the eyes of the rest of the world. Only by addressing this original crime, can we begin to deal with the numerous individual violations against the indigenous Crimean Tatar population and other victims of Russia's Crimean invasion.
Paradoxically Crimean Tatars proved to be stronger patriots of Ukraine than Crimean Ukrainians. What do you think is the reason for so strong pro-Ukrainian Tatars’ position? Why shouldn’t they take the side of the occupation authorities in such a difficult situation and be more loyal?
Crimean Tatars have a long history of self-governance, making responsible decisions for the good of their indigenous community. The Crimean Tatars also have a long history of having been ethnically cleansed time and again by Russian colonizers. When Crimean Tatars "choose Ukraine" they are choosing to belong to a vision of government that values liberty over oppression, equality as opposed to the targeting of minorities, and friendship and understanding of different languages, traditions and faiths as opposed to eliminating local cultures to serve a colonial worldview. Crimean Tatars are Ukrainian by birth and by choice. Russia, on the other hand, aims to deny at gunpoint the inalienable rights of Crimea's indigenous people. I don't really see this as a difficult decision to make.
What do you think was the purpose of the Crimean occupation authorities when they violated human rights against Crimean Tatars, conducted searches and detentions and prohibited Mejlis? And is it possible in this situation to establish an adequate dialogue of Tatar people with the occupying authorities? If so, under what conditions?
The Russian occupation is quite simply attempting to erase any semblance of the indigenous Crimean Tatar identity from their homeland. Their stated goals include shutting down the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, replacing Tatar place names, and further removing opportunities for the Crimean Tatar language and culture to be taught and passed on. Given that these tactics are a continuation of Russian state policy since the time of Catherine the Great, the only solution to discuss with regards to Crimea is the return of its sovereignty as part of a whole and free Ukraine.