On the Crimean Tatars

On 17th March Mr. Leonidas Donskis MEP convened a hearing with Mr. Mustafa Dzhemilev, former Soviet dissident and Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, in collaboration with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) concerning the Crimean Tatars’ view of the current situation in Ukraina. Below is the intervention by Chairwoman Hautala to the hearing.[:]

Dear colleagues,

I am privileged to address the Mustafa Dzhemilev Hearing at the European Parliament concerning the situation of the Crimean Tatars.

Since I am not able to join you in person, I asked to take part in discussion via written note and I am glad that my good colleague Mr Donskis and the Secretary General of the Unrepresented nations and peoples organization, Mr. Marino Busdachin, allowed me to do that.

As the Chairwoman of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights I have learned that in the rapidly changing world it is important that the voices of the minority groups are heard.

Right to take part, be included and comment are cornerstones of democracy and without voices of minority groups any democracy will be feeble and debate unworthy. 

There are plenty of evidence from around the world that if a specific group becomes marginalised in the society, it can be difficult to reclaim a place in the mainstream politics. Furthermore, there are always more pressing and urgent issues than the protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights of minorities.

In Europe and close by, there are still today countries where economic and social obstacles in effect prevent meaningful participation of the minorities in the society. Crimean Tatars are one of these groups. Like many other traditional minorities, they have been annexed, ceased, colonialised and expelled during the turns of world politics but their culture has always preserved.

In this regard, it is most appropriate to pay respect to the work of Mr. Mustafa Dzhemilev.

His tireless work in promotion of human rights in the former USSR and support for the rights of Crimean Tatars has helped to revive the culture of Crimean Tatars and to promote the notion of the collective and individual rights of Tatars. His achievements were recognised in 1998 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, when he was awarded the Nansen Medal for his outstanding efforts and commitment to the right of return of the Crimean Tatars.

In all corners of the world, the rights of minorities are traditionally the most difficult issues to settle on national remit and related disputes tend to be most violent ones. Talks about land, culture and education, right to practice religion and take part in political institutions are traditionally very difficult and escalate easily. 

In his work to improve the situation of the Crimean Tatars, the movement led my Mr Dzhemilev has been marked by persistent reliance on non-violence. I would like to quote here Mr Dzhemilev himself. “When violent means are used, innocent people die, and no just cause can justify the taking of innocent lives.” This is a remarkable way to approach this issue and deserves to have more and more followers around the world. Too often the leaders of divergent groups fall into staunch juxtapositions and lose the ability to hear each other out.

Rights of minorities must always be discussed with transparency, openness and willingness to engage in real dialogue. Past violations must be discussed truthfully. In my work as the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights I have seen that no progress and consolidation process are possible unless both sides agree to see the past, present and future more or less through the same lens.

In promotion of human rights and rights of minorities, the EU has a clear role to play. Developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law and respect for human rights are the core objectives of the European Union.

Furthermore, the EU is committed to the promotion of universality and indivisibility of human rights, meaning not only promotion of civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.

To live up to its core objective to consolidate democracy, the union should actively assist all sides to conclude legal settlement on rights of the Crimean Tatars. In addition to this and in line with its most fundamental commitment, the EU should do more to support the Crimean Tatars to preserve their rich culture, their traditions, language and heritage.