News / Europe

Russia Courts Crimea’s Muslims

Russia Courts Crimea’s Tatar Muslimsi
X
James Brooke
June 09, 2014 11:34 PM
Three months after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, the Russian ruble is now the currency and half of Crimea’s 2.3 million residents have applied for Russian passports. But there's one cloud on this Black Sea landscape - Crimea’s Muslim minority, the Tatars. James Brooke reports from Moscow.
James Brooke
Three months after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, the Russian ruble is now the currency of the peninsula, and half of Crimea’s 2.3 million residents have applied for Russian passports. But there is one cloud on this Black Sea landscape - Crimea’s Muslim minority, the Tatars.
 
A Moscow show of paintings by Crimean Tatars brings out Russia’s elite.
 
Ravil Gainutdin, Russia’s Grand Mufti, or supreme Muslim leader, visited Crimea right after Russia’s annexation. He welcomes Crimea’s 250,000 Tatars into the family of Russia’s 20 million Muslims.
 
"I hope that Crimean Tatars will gain decent living conditions and political representation as Russian citizens," said Gainutdin.
 
Mikhail Margelov, a member of the Russian parliament's upper chamber (the Federation Council) and Muslim expert, reminds reporters that in April, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that rehabilitates Tatars after their mass deportation from Crimea by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1944.
 
"The new law will wipe out the legacies of the crime of the 1944 deportation," said Margelov.
 
But one room away from the official press conference, Mamut Churlu, a Crimean Tatar artist, says many Crimean Tatars worry about the return of rule by Moscow. He recalls the night in March when Crimeans voted to join Russia, a referendum boycotted by Tatars.
 
“People spent the night fully dressed with their luggage ready.They thought they were going to be deported," said Churlu.
 
May 18 marked the 70th anniversary of the deportations. Last month, there were memorials and a rally - in Kyiv.
 
Rally participants chanted:  “Ukraine is the most important.”  They carried a banner reading: “Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians are Brothers.”
 
Up to 15,000 Tatars left Crimea after Moscow took over. Anifer Kursitova, fled with her family to Kyiv.

"It is difficult to be a refugee, and I hope to return to Crimea to live if the political environment opens up," said Kursitova.
 
At the May 18 rally, Mustafa Dzhemilev, the Tatars’ leader from Soviet days, called for an end to Russian control of Crimea.
 
“I hope that in the nearest future Crimean Tatars will have a new date to celebrate, that of the end of occupation," said Dzhemilev.
 
But that date may be far away.

Sergei Aksyonov, the de facto prime minister of Russia-controlled Crimea, has banned Dzhemilev from returning to Crimea. Last month, Aksyonov banned Tatar gatherings on the anniversary of the deportation. Several took place, but with Russian military helicopters hovering overhead.
 
Moderates worry that if Crimea’s Tatar minority feels oppressed, some young men will join other Russian-speaking Muslims fighting in Syria. Last month, a Syria-based Crimean Tatar jihadist called on Crimean Tatars to come to Syria for military training - or to carry out holy war at home.
 
Abdul Karim Krymsky is the deputy commander of the Muhajireen Army:
 
"Muslims and Tatars in Crimea have been humiliated and that now is the time for holy war," said Krymsky.
 
Back in Moscow, time will tell if the Kremlin can avoid radicalization by giving Crimean Tatars economic aid and political breathing room.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More