Crimean Tatars: At risk of persecution and harassment in the new Crimea

Crimean Tatars face an uncertain future in the annexed peninsula, said Amnesty International today, ahead of presidential elections in Ukraine in which they and other residents of Crimea will no longer be able to take part.

“Despite assurances made by the de facto Crimean authorities to protect the rights of Tatars, since the annexation of the peninsula by Russia in March this year, the Tatar community has faced increasing violence and discrimination,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

“The Russian authorities have allowed armed groups that have been behind some brutal attacks against the Tatars to operate freely in Crimea. They have alienated Crimean Tatars by harassing Tatar leaders, threatening to dissolve their highest representative body, and restricting their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

“Up to 7,000 Tatars have fled Crimea already. Those who have stayed face the unenviable choice of having to give up their Ukrainian citizenship and accept a Russian one or become ‘foreigners’ in their homeland.”

Following World War II, nearly quarter of a million people were deported to remote parts of the Soviet Union, purportedly for collaborating with the German occupying force during World War II. Nearly half of them are believed to have died from starvation or disease as a direct result from the deportation. They were allowed to return to the Crimea only in the late 1980s. 

Amnesty International’s briefing, Harassment and violence against Crimean Tatars by state and non-state actors, lists Amnesty International’s concerns since the annexation of the peninsula by Russia on 21 March 2014:

• Tatar activists have been detained and ill-treated by groups of armed men and, in one case, killed;

• The informal leader of the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian MP, Mustafa Jemiliev, was banned and prevented from entering his homeland;

• Scores of Crimean Tatars have been prosecuted for taking part in peaceful protests;

• The highest representative body of the Tatars, the Mejlis, has been threatened with dissolution;

• Tatars are under pressure to give up their Ukrainian citizenship and apply for Russian passports.