News / Europe

    Fear Is in the Air Among Crimean Tatars

    Mudasir Kafodar, a 55-year-old Crimean Tatar is pictured with his granddaughters.
    Mudasir Kafodar, a 55-year-old Crimean Tatar is pictured with his granddaughters.
    Tom Balmforth, RFE/RL
    At first glance, the village of Fontany 5 exudes a sleepy suburban calm.

    But below the surface of this Crimean Tatar settlement of about 500 people, there is fear.



    Russian troops are stationed just a few kilometers away on the streets of the Crimean capital, Simferopol. And rumors are in the air of looming attacks against Tatars.



    Mudasir Kafodar, a 55-year-old ethnic Tatar, holds his young granddaughter in the garden of his two-story stone house as his other six grandchildren played nearby.



    “We want to live in peace. But Russian troops have entered our territory - Ukrainian territory - and armed men are walking around. It scares us - not just me, but all of us,” Kafodar says.

    “They don’t say anything. They don’t explain who they are. But it’s clear they’re not Ukrainian - they’re Russian.”



    Kafodar was born in Uzbekistan and in 2000 moved back to Crimea, which he considers his homeland. His parents - now 93 and 85 - were deported by Stalin in 1944. He has built his own family's ancestral home from scratch and now fears losing it.



    Tatars make up roughly 12 percent of Crimea's two million inhabitants. Most were deported to Soviet Central Asia by Josef Stalin during World War II, accused of collaborating with the Nazis, and only returned after Ukraine won its independence in 1991.



    Sevastopol and Simferopol, Crimea, UkraineSevastopol and Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
    x
    Sevastopol and Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
    Sevastopol and Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
    And unlike the vast majority of Crimean residents, most Tatars supported the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled the pro-Moscow regime of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. They also are strong supporters of Ukrainian independence, of Crimea remaining in Ukraine, and of Kyiv’s drive for European integration.



    And with the Russian troops now in the picture, many fear Crimea could fall under Moscow's sway.



    But for Tatars like Kafodar the Russian military is not the only fear.



    Rumors of attacks

    For the more than two decades since Ukrainian independence, Crimean Tatars have lived together uneasily on the peninsula with ethnic Russians, who make up roughly 60 percent of the population and who yearn for Crimea to be part of Russia.



    Kafodar says rumors of attacks against Tatars in nearby villages, rumors that RFE/RL has been unable to independently confirm, are raising alarm bells.



    “What can we do? We are a peaceful people. We are not preparing for anything. What can we do?” Kafodar asks.

    “Several nights ago...unidentified men went to the house of Crimean Tatars and beat up the father and son.  They are in the hospital. Now they say unidentified men are going to attack [settlements like ours].”



    With Cossacks and other pro-Moscow groups marching through the streets of Simferopol chanting "Russia! Russia!" Kafodar and other villagers are taking measures - albeit modest - to defend themselves. Every evening, he says, about 20 residents of Fontany 5 keep a look out.



    Kafodar says they do not carry weapons and hope to appeal to would-be assailants that they are peaceful.

    “We are Crimean Tatars. We live here. We don’t need this [military action and unrest]. But we are a peaceful people. We are not planning anything bad. We aren’t even saying a word.”



    In the Crimean capital, Simferopol, meanwhile, Tatar civic leaders were nervous but defiant. The Crimean Tatar Assembly, or Medjlis, was buzzing with activity on March 1 as groups of men nervously discussed the unfolding situation.



    Ali Khamzii, a representative of the Medjlis, says “it seems like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has given the order to occupy Crimea.”

    “And he will send forces to the east as well. I can say only one thing. I am not going to flee. This is not Ukrainian land, it’s not Russian land; this is Crimean Tatar land.”

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Kirei Kireev
    March 28, 2014 3:05 AM
    Well, I think also it must be said:
    few people know that actually all Tatars are one nation. Only in the anti Tatar and anti Horde ideology they were divided into “different nations": "Crimean", "Volga", "Siberian" and many "other" Tatars - so that to crush them separately.
    All about this is explained in the book "Forgotten Heritage of Tatars" (by Galy Yenikeyev). It is about hidden real history of Tatars and their fraternal Turkic peoples. This e-book you can easily find on Smashwords company website: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MIG17

    There are a lot of previously little-known historical facts, as well as 16 maps and illustrations in this book.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora