Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Crimean Tatars Mark Yet Another Tragic Anniversary

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 23 – Yesterday, as the Chechens and Ingush recalled the 65th anniversary of their deportation by Stalin to Central Asia and the continuing relevance of that event, the Crimean Tatars marked yet another anniversary, the 91st year since the Bolshevik’s murdered the first president of independent Crimea.
On February 23, 1918, Bolshevik-led sailors from the Black Sea Fleet based in Sebastopol brutally killed Numan Celebicihan, the mufti for Crimea, Poland and Lithuania who was elected president of native Crimea less than three months earlier with a promise to transform it into a highly-civilized country in which all nationalities would live in democracy and freedom.
Crimean Tatars, whose independence was crushed by the Bolsheviks and who also suffered deportation under Stalin recall him frequently because the words of his poem, “Antetkenmen” [“I have Pledged’], have long served as the lyrics of the national anthem of Crimean Tatars seeking autonomy or independence (www.iccrimea.org/literature/numan.html).
And this year, despite the anniversary not being a round one, many Crimean Tatars have been reminded of his words because of the actions of the Ukrainian Berkut militia against Mustafa Hayirov during which they broke into his house firing submachine guns despite his willingness to open the door and receive them.
As a result of this attack, doctors were forced to amputate Hayirov’s hand, Crimea-L reported yesterday, noting that this injury recalled the words of Celebicihan about “the deep wounds inflicted upon Tatar social life by Russian absolute rule, oppression and tyranny,” wounds that Celebicihan hoped to cure before his death at the age of 33.
The Crimean Tatar Majlis condemned this action and called on Ukrainian officials to investigate the crime and punish those responsible. According to some reports, officials say they are prepared to compensate Hayirov for physical and moral damages, but his family has announced that it does not intend to call for that.
But in a counterpoint to this latest example of official lawlessness, approximately 20 members of a Crimean Tatar youth organization staged a peaceful demonstration and march in commemoration of the anniversary of Celebicihan’s death and reaffirmed his commitment and theirs to democracy and inter-ethnic comity.

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