Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Under Russians, Crimean Tatar Language Official ‘Only on Paper,’ Turkish Rights Activists Say

Paul Goble


            Staunton, June 16 – A report by an group of Turkish human rights activists about the situation in occupied Crimea and given to Vladimir Putin by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says that the Crimean Tatar language rights exist “only on paper” and that the Russians have no real plans to end that or other rights abuses.


            As a result, Professor Zafer Uskul, who led the delegation, told the Anatolian News Agency that international human rights organizations must get involved to end these Russian abuses of the rights of Crimean Tatars and other residents of the Ukrainian peninsula (trt.net.tr/russian/из-российского-и-турецкого-мира/2015/06/15/турецкая-делегация-обнародовала-доклад-о-правах-человека-в-крыму-258489).


            During a four-day visit to Crimea, the Turkish rights activists met with representatives of the Mejlis, the media, religious leaders, NGO activists, and ordinary citizens.  Uskul said that throughout, they were tailed by officials of the occupation government. “It was clear that they did not want us to meet with those who are opposed to them.”


            After the Anschluss, Putin personally declared that Crimean Tatar would be the third official language alongside Russian and Ukrainian on the peninsula, but that declaration remains “on paper.”  Crimean Tatar media have been harassed and closed; no one can post an ad in that language, and Crimean Tatar is now taught in only 15 schools, not the 200 that nation requires.


            The occupiers say that this is not a problem because “all the residents of the republic know Russian,” Uskul continued.


            The Turkish activist also discussed the authorities attack on the Mejlis and its leaders, restrictions on Crimean Tatar media, warrantless searches of Crimean Tatar homes, medrassahs and mosques, and the failure of officials to investigate disappearances and to bring those responsible to justice.


            But perhaps Uskul’s finding was made in the course of a conversation he had with representatives of the Institute for Human Rights in Crimea before he visited the peninsula.  Its officials, he said, admitted that there were problems but dismissed them as part of the transition and that “all problems would be solved in time.”


            The Turkish professor and rights activist said that it is clear “there is no definite plan” and therefore the only hope will be if international human rights organizations and third countries get involved. The Crimean Tatars “need and deserve such protection,” he continued, and they have the right to expect it.


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