Crimean Tatars take up arms for Ukraine


The Tatar people, whose homeland on the Crimean Peninsula was illegally annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, are now mobilizing across their diaspora to resist the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian heartland. The World Congress of Crimean Tatars released a statement calling the Russian invasion “banditry,” and calling on Tatars everywhere to “fight against this immoral attack of Russia.” The statement reads: “Our Congress recognizes its humanitarian and moral obligation to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, and all other heroes and civilians who are victims of attacks and war, and so help them in all ways they are capable.”

In a second appeal, the Congress directed a message to Russians, and especially Muslims, urging them to protest, and demand an end to the war that has created a “threat to world security.” (Ahval)

Crimean Tatars have also organized a volunteer battalion to resist the Russian invasion. The battalion is commanded by Isa Akayev, who was among the Crimean Tatars who escaped the occupation of Crimea in 2014 and settled in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. In a video statement, he taunted that “there is enough land in Ukraine to bury all invaders—and don’t forget to put seeds in the pocket so sunflowers grow.” This is a reference to the viral video in which a Ukrainian woman confronted a Russian soldier, and offered him sunflower seeds, saying: “Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.”

The Tatars had an autonomous government under Ukraine’s rule, and the Ukrainian parliament adopted a law on indigenous peoples in 2021, further recognizing their identity and rights. The law, introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky, recognized the Crimean Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks as “indigenous peoples of Ukraine.” Both the law and the autonomous Tatar government were abrogated by Russia after the annexation. (Daily Kos)

A Russian court in Rostov-on-Don has meanwhile sentenced five Crimean Tatars to lengthy prison terms on charges of membership in the banned organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. The five include journalist Remzi Bakirov and rights activist Riza Izetov, who each received 19 years. Numerous Crimean Tatars have faced persecution on the basis of their supposed membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, part of an ongoing crackdown targeting the ethnic group since the Russian seizure of Crimea. (RFE/RL)

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