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De-Occupation Is A ‘Realistic Goal’ For Crimea — Crimean Tatar Activist
27 February, 2017
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On the third anniversary of the annexation of Crimea, co-founder of the ‘KrymSOS’ project, Alim Aliev, speaks to Hromadske regarding the current situation in Crimea. ‘KrymSOS’ is a social organization focused on facilitating the de-occupation and rejuvenation of the Crimean peninsula.

According to data collected by ‘KrymSOS’ and other international organizations, the current number of internally displaced people stands at 35,000. This figure contrasts significantly to the official data, which only identifies 22,000 IDPs. “This is why,” as Aliev states, “it is important to create some kind of strategy for these people. These people are bridges between non-occupied territories and occupied territories.”

What is more, in the three years since its annexation, 279 cases of human rights violations have been reported in Crimea. 

Aliev concludes the interview by highlighting the four main consequences of the current occupation of Crimea, beginning with the militarization of the peninsula which has created an ‘atmosphere of mistrust and fear’ in the region. Other aspects include; the ‘building of parallel institutions’, resulting in the outlaw of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar People, the change in population created by the emigration of citizens from mainland Russia- namely military personnel, pensioners and business people, and finally, the introduction of a new Russian identity in Crimea. Aliev explains this change in identity: “There are many symbols of Russia in Crimea, but many symbols of Crimean Tatars and Ukraine have been destroyed now. I say this even about language, and the Crimean Tartar language.”

However, despite this, Aliev remains somewhat optimistic about the future of Crimea. He describes the notion of the de-occupation of Crimea as a ‘realistic goal’ not only for him and his colleagues at ‘KrymSOS’, but for “thousands and thousands of people in Crimea. They are waiting for it.” 

It’s been three years since the annexation and occupation of Crimea, can you tell me, how many IDPs are there from Crimea? And what is life for them like now that it’s been three years since the events?

Including official statistics we have 22,000 IDPs from Crimea, but including the statistics of international organizations and Ukrainian organisations, we have 35,000. They are living in Kyiv, in Lviv, in Kherson mostly and their main problems are how to find work and how to find apartments. Of course, these problems are connected to each other. That is why, now for us, it’s important to create some kind of strategy for these people. Because these people are like bridges between non-occupied territories and occupied territories.

And they are probably the most susceptible to human rights violations, or could you describe some of the human rights violations?

In terms of displaced people from Crimea, there are different categories. The annexation caused a brain drain from the peninsula; young specialists, students, business people, and also political, cultural and social activists from Crimea. That’s why there are categories. But, according to our data, we have 279 cases of human rights violations for today in Crimea.

And that goes all the way to the annexation?

Yeah. And these people who are now living in the continental part of Ukraine, they say that they want to come back to Crimea after the de-occupation.

Right now, does that look like a realistic goal for you?

Now, yes. Because for example, for me it is a realistic goal and for my colleagues and for thousands and thousands of people in Crimea. They are waiting for it.

So what is the situation on the ground in Crimea?

Now, I said that we have these 279 human rights violations in Crimea, but under these violations we have four main tendencies. The first tendency is the militarization of the peninsula. Military forces came to Crimea and old military airports were renewed, as well as some aspects of the military in Crimea that weren’t in operation under Ukraine. That’s why we have the atmosphere of mistrust and fear in Crimea. The second tendency is the building of parallel institutions. The Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar people is a representative body of indigenous people in Crimea--it is now banned in Crimea. Instead, Crimea created so-called new Crimean Tatar pro-Russian organizations, but now they are not popular among Crimean Tartar people, which of course, is good for us. The third tendency is the changing population. We mentioned the people who have left Crimea, but also, we should also mention the people who have come to Crimea from mainland Russia, from different parts of Russia. These are people who work in the military, and they are pensioners and business owners. The last tendency is the creation of this new Russian identity, starting from childhood, in kindergartens, in schools, and during the lifetimes of all the people. There are many symbols of Russia in Crimea, but many symbols of Crimean Tartars and Ukraine have been destroyed in Crimea now. I say this even about language, and the Crimean Tartar language.