Staunton, May 18 – Despite a ban on any demonstrations by the Russian occupation authorities and a decision by the Milli Mejlis not to hold a mass commemoration lest it become the occasion for a Russian provocation, thousands of Crimean Tatars have assembled in their homeland today to mark the 70th anniversary of their deportation by Stalin.
In Simferopol this morning, several hundred people with Crimean Tatar national flags assembled in the Salgirka Park, and several hundred more met in the square in front of that city’s railroad station where the foundation has been laid for a future monument to the deportation which involved 200,000 Crimean Tatars, a large fraction of whom died as a result.
They were peaceful, did not use loudspeakers as in the past, and were surrounded by a heavy presence of Russian security officers. After brief meetings, they left in small groups via public transport and travelled to the predominantly Crimean Tatar Akmechet district away from the city center where they have joined more than 5,000 others.
According to the Kryminform news agency, people from all parts of Simferopol as well as neighboring regions are at the meeting. They are carrying Crimean Tatar flags and slogans like “The Motherland! The People! Crimea!” And they are being addressed by longtime veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement.
Also in attendance are representatives of the other peoples who were deported from the peninsula in 1944. In the air above the demonstration, Kryminform reports, there are two government helicopters. But as of this writing (0630 EDT in the United States), security officials have tried to enforce their regime’s ban on such meetings or reports of any clashes between them and the Crimean Tatars.
Beyond the borders of Crimea, there have been meetings and declarations of support for the Crimean Tatars and their cause from governments and public organizations around the world. The quiet courage the Crimean Tatars have displayed in coming out today in the face of a new wave of Russian repression will only gain them and their cause more support.
And consequently, while the number of Crimean Tatars taking part in this year’s round anniversary commemoration is smaller than the 30,000 who have typically gathered in recent years, the event this year has achieved even more for the Crimean Tatar cause and its fight for justice than did any previous meeting.