“We will never give up,” said Refat Chubarov. The Crimean Tatar leader was addressing his people. They’d come from all over the world to participate in the Second Crimean Tatar Congress held in Ankara, Turkey, on the 1st and 2nd of August 2015. “No one can determine the destiny of Crimea without the Crimean Tatar people,” he continued. “We have lived there for a 1,000 years.” Delegates rose to their feet and began chanting, “Nation, Homeland, Crimea”.
It was really interesting to watch 430 delegates from 14 countries representing 184 Crimean Tatar organizations meet and debate priorities, policies, procedures, in their own language.
Seventy-seven year old former dissident Ayshe Seyturmatova came from Simferopol. Khalil Khalilov recently completed a commerce degree at the Rotman School and flew in from Toronto. A round faced man in fatigues with “Genghis Khan” as his nom de guerre arrived from the war zone in the Donbass.
Along with the others, over two days they restructured the international organization, the Congress, so that the Crimean Tatar people can speak with one voice, make it more effectively heard internationally. Mejlis leader Refat Chubarov has been banned from Crimea for five years, but they elected him to head the Congress.
The event was funded by Turkey and criticized by Russia. Crimean Tatar leaders from Crimea were prevented from participating by those currently controlling the peninsula. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin attended, as well as Turkish politicians, and a variety of diplomats.
Crimea’s parliament dismissed the event as a fringe effort. But Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan met with the Crimean Tatar Congress leadership as soon as he returned from China.
And “Genghis Khan” invited me to his native Yevpatoria for plov as soon as what he calls the second Russian occupation is over, and he can return.