Seven Crimean Tatars were detained in Moscow on July 10 while holding a peaceful picket calling for an end to ethnic and religious persecution in Russian-annexed Crimea. Around 20 activists—most in their 50s and 60s, veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement—gathered in Red Square with placards reading: “Our children are not terrorists”; “The fight against terrorism in Crimea is a fight against dissidents” and “Stop persecution on ethnic and religious lines in Crimea.” The picket was held in advance of an appeal hearing for four Crimean Tatars facing “terrorism” charges for their membership in the civil organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. The detained protesters were charged with holding an unauthorized demonstration. One of those arrested is the father of one of the “terrorism” defendants.
The protest was especially poignant as it came almost exactly 32 years after activists from the Crimean Tatar national movement held a large demonstration in Red Square, demanding the right to return to their native Crimea after 43 years in enforced exile in Central Asia. (Human Rights in Ukraine)
The 1987 Tatar protest was the first to test the limits of “glasnost” by holding a mass public demonstration. Among Tatar demands was the re-establishment of the autonomous republic in the Crimea. A Crimean autonomous republic had been created by the Soviet authorities in 1921, but it was disbanded when Stalin had Crimean Tatars deported to Central Asia in 1944. The Tatars were allowed to return to Crimea by a decree issued in 1967—13 years after Soviet authorities had transfered the territory from Russia to Ukraine. However, the USSR’s internal passport system posed an obstacle to the actual return of many Crimean Tatars.
The Crimea’s autonomous powers were restored after Ukrainian independence in 1991. Since annexation in 2014, Crimea has been a de facto republic of the Russian Federation, but now dominated by ethnic Russians, with the autonomous Majlis (council) of rhe Crimean Tatars dissolved. (NYT, July 26, 1987; Not Even Past)
Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine