Crimean Tatar Leader Appeals to Azerbaijan and Turkey for Support

July 4, 2014
Crimean Tatar leader Refat Chubarov

Staunton, July 4 – If Azerbaijan and Turkey, two Turkic countries, adopt a principled position of support for the Crimean Tatars, Moscow will have to change its current approach to the Turkic nation on the peninsula and live up to its earlier promises, according to Refat Chubarov, the head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis.

In an interview to the Azerbaijani news service, Chubarov says that members of his nation are “losing hope for positive change” and that their “disappointment is growing ever larger.” He says that despite problems, “We, Tatars in Ukraine lived freely and now we are simply being deprived of the oxygen” we need to survive.

Indeed, the impression now exists, the Crimean Tatar leader says, that “we have again returned to the Soviet Union.”

Chubarov stressed that “not a single individual in Crimea has escaped problems connected with the new realities” which involve “a deficit of freedoms” in all matters from the everyday to the most exalted.

In the past, he continued, Ukraine “did not justify many of our expectations, but nevertheless it provided us with what is the most important thing: it did not prohibit us from being ourselves … Freedom of speech, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom for open discussion – these values you recognize more quickly when they are taken from you.”

Chubarov’s views are shared by the overwhelming majority of Crimean Tatars. But there is now some evidence that Moscow’s pressure on that nation and the absence of clearly expressed support from the international community is leading some of its members to conclude that they have no choice but to make the best compromise they can with the Russian occupiers.

The latest example of that came yesterday when Remzi Ilyasov, a Mejlis member who is vice speaker of the Crimean State Council, said he would take part in the Russian-organized elections to the State Council and municipalities, a step Chubarov, Mustafa Cemilev and other Crimean Tatar leaders oppose.