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27 July 2015

Ammar Kanakh: Crimea Tatars are turning into a political issue on purpose by Kiev and the West

Ammar Kanakh: Crimea Tatars are turning into a political issue on purpose by Kiev and the West

It has been a year since Russia annexed the Crimea. Yet, the event is still widely discussed and criticised both by common people and politicians. There is a number of concerns about political, economic and social consequences of the Crimean peninsula reconnection to Russia. Crimean status referendum was considered as a potential source of ethno-political and confessional conflicts in the region.

IslamReview discussed this issue with the candidate of political sciences, associate professor of the faculty of philosophical and social sciences of the Sevastopol state university Ammar Kanakh who is able to observe all the events in the immediate vicinity.

– Apart from Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, there are other similar organisations working in the Crimean peninsula. “Kirim Berligi” is one of them. Such organisations might be regarded as political projects aiming at splitting Crimean Tatars. The question is what organisation is the most powerful one?

– The thing is that this was widely discussed in May before the anniversary of the Crimean annexation. We do understand that this date means a lot for the Crimean Tatars. Kiev understands this too. The Ukrainian politics are willing to take advantage of this event. Kiev is eager to create information noise. It works through Chubarov and Jemilev. They seem to focus on demonstrating that political, economic and social life in the Crimea is unstable.

However, if you talk to the Crimean people and Crimean Tatars, it will be clear that they have a better life under the Russian rule. I can draw an example which is not discussed in the mass media. In April 2014, Vladimir Putin signed the decree to rehabilitate Crimea Tatars and some other ethnic groups. In fact, it was the first recognition of Crimea Tatars as indigenous people of the peninsula. This was not recognised for 23 years under the Ukrainian power. Only when the Crimea was reconnected with Russia, the president Poroshenko admitted this. Crimea Tatars realise that they can be used as a political tool. Obviously, they do not to be such a tool as their economic and political concerns are the same as of those living in the Crimea. Crimea Tatars express solidarity with everybody. It is not right to believe that Crimea Tatars have a different state of mind from other ethnic groups of the peninsula.

As far as organisations are concerned, I should say that there are just few of them. They have a representative capacity. It is important to understand that there is no clear way of defining how much this or that organisation is supported. It is not worth finding anything negative about new organisations which defend the interests of the Crimea Tatars. We understand that the transitional phase of the Crimea reconnection with Russia is not that easy. Yet, it is clear now that it is getting stable there. There are no any global problems.

Ammar Kanakh: Crimea Tatars are turning into a political issue on purpose by Kiev and the West 
– Apart from the Spiritual Directorate of the Crimean Muslims which has been working under the Ukrainian rule, there appeared a new religious organisation on the peninsula. It is called Tavrichesky Muftiat. Are there any disagreements between them? Does it have any impact on the Muslims living in the Crimea?

– It seems like that there is some misunderstanding between them. This is the matter of representation. In this case, it is a religious representation. These two organisations aim at being as the only legitimate power which represents the Crimean Muslims.

As for the religion, there were followers of various ideological doctrines of Islam on the peninsula (including radical ones). “Hizb ut-Tahrir” is one of the examples. There were also departments of “Muslim Brotherhood”. They tended to function under the names of other public organisations. Salaphites were quite active in the Crimea too. Some of them went to the Ukraine. Regrettably, I do not have any accurate data with regard to this. Some organisations stopped functioning because of the Russian and Ukrainian legislation differences. I cannot but notice that the terms “extremism” and “radicalism” are more clearly explained in the Russian laws. First of all, I mean “Hizb ut-Tahrir”. There are also groups which function illegally. The Ukraine uses such groups to destabilise the situation on the peninsula and fire sectarian divisions.  This is made to demonstrate the West that Russia allegedly oppresses the rights of believers.

– Some Crimean Tatar-language media was forced to shut down because they did not manage to get re-registered in accordance with the Russian law. Foreign experts present this situation as Russia oppressing the rights of the Crimea Tatars. What do the Crimeans think about this?

– The point is that the new legislation is implemented gradually. We do realise that quite a lot of Russian laws differ from the Ukrainian ones. This is not the matter of a biased attitude. Let’s have a look at the media which was shut down. The TV channel “ATP” was not political and it did not pose any threat. They simply failed to comply with some of the requirements which were introduced by the Russian legislation. It does not mean though that the channel is shut down forever.

As for people’s reaction to this, everybody in Sevastopol and the Crimea knows about it. Nobody discussed this news that much. They did not talk about the media having been closed because it is owned by Tatars or the opposition. Everybody is sure that it is the procedural issue. It is worth paying attention to the role of Turkey too. Turkey has supported Crimea Tatars since 1990-s. It is well-known that the expat community of Crimea Tatars is quite substantial in Turkey. Clearly, they support their native land. They were not happy about the channel shutdown as they do not want anybody to encroach on Tatars’ rights. However, in reality it is no more than a legislative matter. They have realised this by now. Yet, there are some political forces which are eager to turn anything into a political issue so that to take advantage of it. The situation of the Crimea Tatars is turning into a political issue on purpose by Kiev and the West. This is obviously a media war.

– So, there are no religious or ethnic divisions on the peninsula, is there?

– There are forces which have always tried to use religions to achieve their own goals. They tried to spark conflicts and aim at demonstrating the peninsula as being unstable due to ethnic and religious disagreements. Yet, the sources of all the events are economic and political interests and the intention to control Crimea Tatars in order to use them as a pretext when needed. Interestingly enough, all the conflicts were heated up in the summer when the tourist season starts. You can draw some conclusions from this. At the moment we see that all these forces are losing their grip on the situation.

Aidar Zinnatullin