Washington, DC - Today, Crimean Tatars mark the 71st anniversary of the Soviet government’s forcible deportation of more than 230,000 Tatars from their homeland. The event has been marked in Crimea every year since the 50th anniversary was commemorated in Simferopol in 1994. This year, however, under Russian occupation, the Tatars have been banned from marking the occasion with their traditional memorial demonstration.
Those deported by Stalin’s USSR suffered unspeakable misery, hunger, death, and disease on the long journey to the Urals, Central Asia, and Siberia, which was followed by decades of persecution and false accusations by Soviet authorities. While their grandparents were forced to live in exile and repression, many of their descendants never to return, today’s Crimean Tatars also face repression and discrimination in Russian-occupied Crimea, with no representation and no recourse. Almost 10,000 Crimean Tatars have been forced to flee their homeland. Those who remain have been subjected to abuses, including interrogations, beatings, arbitrary detentions, and police raids on their homes and mosques. These brutalities and human rights abuses must end.
We join the Crimean Tatars and all the people of Ukraine in commemorating this solemn anniversary, and we remember those who lost their lives or who suffered under repression, whether in 1944 or in 2015. We condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea, which we do not recognize, and call for an end to Russia’s occupation. We also reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and our deep commitment to the human rights of all the people of Ukraine, including those in Crimea.