Challenging the unrepresentative March 16th vote, Crimea’s indigenous Muslim Tatars are considering their own referendum on whether to join Ukraine or Russia, putting it as an inherited right to decide fate of their homeland.
On Islam The Tatars, who have inhabited Crimea for centuries, were deported in May 1944 by Stalin, who accused them of collaborating with the Nazis. (They were!)
Refat Chubarov, the head of the 250-member Crimean Muslim Tatars’ main assembly, told Reuters on Tuesday, March 25. “The Crimean Tatars should determine their fate themselves. “Nobody asked us, the Crimean Tatars … in what conditions we want to live,” he said. “Should the question feature prominently during the meeting, we will seek options of holding our own referendum.”
After Russian annexation of Crimea, fears of Muslim Tatars were doubled, voicing concerns over losing freedom and reviving the memories of exile and prosecution they faced in 1944. Boycotted by Tatar, Chubarov dismissed the hastily organized March 16 referendum as held at gunpoint under the gaze of Russian soldiers.
Representing about 15 percent on the Black Sea peninsula’s population, the suggested Tatar’s vote was likely to present a challenge to Russia from within to the peninsula. “We are fewer than ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians, but this is our land, we do not have any other place outside of Crimea,” said Chubarov.
As Crimean Tatars voiced increasing fears from losing their freedom under the Russian rule, a leading Muslim organization has expressed concern on the security and well-being of the indigenous minority. “It is of the utmost importance for the OIC that the right of citizenship, lives, religious and cultural heritage and property should be safeguarded,” the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said in a statement cited by Bernama.
The 57-member state organization warned that any recurrence of the past suffering of the Crimean Tatars who were expelled from their homeland in Crimea in the 20th Century should not be allowed.
After discovery of their collaboration with Nazis, the entire Tatar population, more than 200,000 people, was transported in brutal conditions thousands of miles away to Uzbekistan and other locations. Many died along the way or soon after arriving. The Soviets confiscated their homes, destroying their mosques and turning them into warehouses. One was converted into a Museum of Atheism.
It was not until perestroika in the late 1980s that most of the Tatars were allowed back, a migration that continued after Ukraine became independent with the Soviet collapse in 1991. (Big mistake)