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The Kurultay (National Assembly) of the Crimean Tatar People opens in Crimea

On 1 October 1999, the second regular session of the Third Kurultay of Crimean Tatar People opened in Crimea. The Kurultay (National Assembly) of the Crimean Tatar People was convened by the people in order to find solutions to the problems of greatest importance.

On 26 November 1917, the First Kurultay was convened in Bakhchisaray. It proclaimed the Crimean Republic and elected a national government. However, after a few months, the Kurultay was dissolved by the Bolsheviks, who executed its leader, Numan Chelebicihan. It took 73 years before the Crimean Tatars, suffering the most brutal repression, mass deportation and deprivation of political and other human rights, could follow their own democratic tradition, a tradition so feared by the communist regime, and convene the Second Kurultay in Simferopol in June 1991. At this time the delegates proclaimed a declaration on national sovereignty and elected the supreme representative body, the Mejlis. The chairman of the Mejlis, Mustafa Jemilev, is a well known human rights activist and leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement.

Over the past eight years, five sessions and two conferences of the Kurultay have been held by the delegates, in which they have made decisions relating to the most complicated issues in the modern life of the Crimean Tatar People. These include:

 

First Day

The current session of the Kurultay is a regular one. Delegates and guests have come from all over Crimea, Central Asia, Turkey, Romania, Germany, the United States and others countries. Numerous newspaper reporters are attending the session, which is being held in the building of a Ukrainian theatre. The Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People M. Jemilev announced the opening of the second session of the Third Kurultay. The Mufti of the Moslems of Crimea, Haci Nuri efendi, blessed the work of the Kurultay, delivered a sermon and recited a prayer. The Crimean Tatar national anthem and the anthem of Ukraine were played. M. Jemilev said briefly that Crimean Tatars will continue on the democratic course which they have chosen for themselves and that the sessions (of the Kurultay) will clearly contribute to the solution of current problems. He informed the delegates of the Kurultay that among the guests present were people whose attendance is particularly significant to Crimean Tatars: Ahmet Ihsan Krimli, the Chairman of the Association of National Groups of Crimean Tatars in Turkey; Jelal Ichten, the Chairman of the Association of Crimean Tatars in Istanbul; Genadiy Udovenko, the Chairman of the National Rukh (Movement) of Ukraine; and others.

Delegates and guests honored the memory of the many thousands of victims of natural disasters in Turkey and Taiwan; of terrorist acts in Russia; and of bombardments in Chechnya, with a minute of silence. After that a working presidium of the Kurultay was elected, comprising Mustafa Jemilev, Refat Chubarov, Remzi Ablayev, Julvern Ablyamitov and Abdureshit Jepparov. Mustafa Jemilev was elected chairman of the presidium. Delegates formed working groups. The secretariat and drafting committee of the Kurultay approved an agenda for the session, including six issues:

 

  1. A report on the activity of the national self-government of the Crimean Tatar People for the period December 1997 to September 1999.
  2. A report of the Inspection Commission of the Third Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar People for the period December 1997 to September 1999.
  3. Additions and changes to the regulations of the Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar People, to the regulations of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and to the regulations of the Inspection Commission of the Kurultay.
  4. Ukrainian presidential elections.
  5. Confirmation of the authority of the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and his deputy.
  6. Rotation of the members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and of the Inspection Commission of the Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar People.

One of the veterans of the national movement referred to an important issue for the Crimean Tatars: the restoration of statehood for the Crimean Tatar People. He asked that it be brought into the agenda of the session. This caused a stormy discussion and most of the delegates agreed this issue to be of a more theoretical nature. Its discussion was excluded from the sessions of the Kurultay and deferred to a scientific/practical conference, to be held by the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People.

Following this, speeches were given by the guests of the Kurultay, representing the communities of Crimean Tatars abroad (specifically parties and voluntary organizations from different countries as well as Ukraine).

In particular, Genadiy Udovenko (head of the National Rukh Party of Ukraine, candidate for the Presidency of Ukraine and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations) stressed that the NRU had historically cooperated closely with the national liberation movement of the Crimean Tatars. He further noted that a founder of the Party, Vyacheslav Chernovil, had, even before its establishment, kept close contacts with leaders of the Crimean Tatar National Movement. These relations are, he went on, not temporary and opportunistic; cooperation between the Kurultay, the Mejlis and the NRU is an important force for peace, stability and democracy not only in Crimea, but in Ukraine.

Genadiy Udovenko expressed gratitude to the Crimean Tatar People and placed a memorial in the center of Simferopol to the well-known human rights activist in the time of the USSR, General Petro Grigorenko. A parliamentary committee, headed by Genadiy Udovenko and also including the Ukrainian National Deputies M. Jemilev and R. Chubarov, held a number of round tables on the legal status of the Crimean Tatar People in Ukraine. A special draft law is under consideration by the Parliamentary Commission, but has met stiff opposition from left-wing factions. The second important question was the socio-economic aspect of the return and resettlement of Crimean Tatars. Much agricultural land is currently neglected and uninhabited in Crimea, at the same time as many Crimean Tatars find themselves on rocky and infertile land. This problem can be settled without interference from government and parliament. Crimean Tatars for their part would provide a good harvest of fruits and other agricultural products.

The important task, according to Udovenko, is to get representation for the Crimean Tatars in the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. A committee is currently preparing a parliamentary hearing in the Parliament of Ukraine on the position of the Crimean Tatar People.

The Chairman of the State Committee of Ukraine on Nationalities and Migration, Rudko, stated that on 19 October he expects a meeting of Cabinet Ministers of Ukraine to discuss the implementation of the President of Ukraine's instructions and of the decisions of the Government of Ukraine relating to the Crimean Tatar People.

Aleksandr Emets, representative of the Reforms and Order Party, noting the historical relationship between the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian Peoples, reached the conclusion: "When in the 17th century Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian regiments stood shoulder to shoulder they were invincible. At present it has so happened that we are again in one country. This is our country, we live together here, we jointly build it. So togetherness has become the call of the day again."

During the session, the delegates heard congratulatory words directed towards the guests of the Kurultay, along with words of support and sympathy for the struggle of the Crimean Tatar People for the restoration of their rights. The Chairman of the Association of Crimean Tatar National Groups in Turkey, in his patriotic speech, called upon Crimean Tatars to strive for identified goals and promised to give general assistance to compatriots. Sayih Muhsin Yaziji, a representative of the Crimean Tatar diaspora in Turkey, noted the heroism of the Crimean Tatar People and its leaders and called on them to work through unity and consensus. He recalled the words of the great son, and representative of the Enlightenment of the Crimean Tatar People, Ismail Gasprinsky, relating to unity in language, thought and action. At the end of his speech, he presented gifts on behalf of the Turkish friends of the Crimean Tatars to the Chairman of the Mejlis, and leader of the Crimean Tatars, M. Jemilev, and through his person to the Crimean Tatar People generally.

Other speakers included: Cergey Velizhanskiy, deputy to the Chairman of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea; Jelal Ichten, Chairman of the National Groups of Crimean Tatars in Istanbul; Seit Ahmet Kirimca, Chairman of the Association of Crimean Tatars in the USA; Farid Akchurin, Chairman of the Moslem Party of Ukraine; Saganay Musfet, Chairman of the Association of Crimean Tatars in Romania; Faruk Memet, professor at the Bucharest Institute of Sea Navigation; Vahid Parvizoglu, Chairman of the Mussavat Party (in Azerbaijan); Riza Dagji, Chairman of the Organization of Veterans of the Crimean Tatar National Movement; and, Ibraim Konopatsky, representative of the Crimean Tatar diaspora in Byelorussia.

Chairman of the Mejlis, M. Jemilev, read the welcoming telegrams, including one from the President of Turkey, Suleyman Demirel.

The Kurultay will continue its work on 2 October at 9.30 a.m.