Last weekend, the Second World Congress of Crimean Tatars was held in Ankara.
The way the congress was held and the decisions it made undoubtedly dealt a blow to the Kremlin. The main thing that it failed to achieve was the marginalization of the congress in the eyes of the host country, Turkey. Neither the appeals of the pro-Russian collaborators among the Crimean Tatars, who gathered especially in the annexed Crimea, nor the staged protest demonstration at the Turkish Embassy in Moscow against the Congress being held in Turkey had any effect. Although Erdogan did not attend the Congress in person (he was on a visit to China at the time), he sent an official and unequivocal greeting to its participants, clearly stating that Turkey does not and will not recognize the annexation of Crimea by imperial Russia and that it will support the Crimean Tatar people in their struggle for their rights. Turkish Foreign Minister Chavushoglu also delivered a speech with a similar message at the Congress, and after the Congress, its organizers met with Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu and planned to meet with Erdogan upon his return.
Thus, both the organizers of the Congress (Turkish flags were displayed along with Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian flags, and the Turkish anthem was played at the end of the Congress along with the other two anthems) and official Ankara recognized the role and importance of Turkey.
The ideology of the Congress and its decisions were outlined in the programmatic speech of the moral leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev: non-recognition of the occupation of Crimea, moral resistance to it in Crimea and active preparation for its de-occupation beyond its borders. This last point includes the preparation of forces for the future liberation of Crimea, which is reflected in the news about the imminent creation of a Muslim battalion as part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as well as the ethnic self-preservation of the Crimean Tatars on the territory of mainland Ukraine, facilitated by their compact resettlement in the Kherson region on the border with Crimea.
The entire ideology of the congress and its organizer, the Mejlis, is oriented toward support for Ukraine. On the one hand, this support was obvious – Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin delivered a speech at the Congress and read a message from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in which he promised to grant Crimea the status of national-territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatars within Ukraine. On the other hand, a legitimate question arises: why was the congress held in Ankara and not in Kiev, the capital of the country to which the Crimean Tatars belong and which promises to support them? In addition to this question, there are concerns about why the national-territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatars is only promised on paper, and why almost nothing is being done to practically implement the program of compact resettlement of Crimean Tatar refugees in the Kherson region, as mentioned by Dzhemilev.
According to a Crimean Tatar activist on the peninsula, the decisions made at the congress left a mixed impression. Here’s what he said in an interview with the Voice of Islam:
“Everyone is satisfied except Russia, and it can be said that this was the main goal of the congress. We view positively the initiation of procedures for the restoration of territorial autonomy, the right to self-determination, etc., and hope that these actions will bear fruit. However, there is one open question: what about the Crimean Muslims? We learned that a certain Muslim battalion is being formed, but according to Dzhemilev, it is planned to be composed of foreigners, i.e. members of the Crimean Tatar diaspora, who may participate in the future liberation of Crimea. We also learned about the activities of other public and political organizations of Crimean Tatars outside Crimea, but nothing was said about us except that we must stay in Crimea and preserve our language and that we must be saved. As a result, we came to the conclusion that we welcome any actions in favor of our people, whether they are military, diplomatic, humanitarian, etc., but regarding the resistance on the territory of Crimea, we decided not to submit to forces outside of Crimea. It is time for all of us to realize that support will be provided only in the field of diplomacy, while no one is considering options to actually save us, which means that we need to be fully aware of the weight that lies on our shoulders.”
Thus, the main question that remains after the congress is how the struggle for the liberation of the homeland that the Crimean Tatar national movement plans to carry out outside the peninsula will correlate with the survival and resistance of the Crimean Tatars inside Crimea.