The following statement was released by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America on May 18.
This May 18, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the representative organization of nearly 2 million Americans of Ukrainian descent, joins with the Ukrainian World Congress, the worldwide assembly of Ukrainian organizations representing over 20 million people; the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people; and the government of Ukraine; to pause in a moment of remembrance for the innocent victims of the crime of genocide committed against the Crimean Tatar people by Josef Stalin’s soviet henchmen in 1944.
The Sürgün (violent expulsion in Turkish) in May of 1944 was a purposeful action of the USSR’s antihuman communist regime to rid the Crimean Peninsula of its approximately 238,000 indigenous people, the Qirim Tatar Millet. The Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported to other parts of the USSR, with no right to return until 1989. Finally, in 1991, the Qurultay of the Crimean Tatar People convened in Crimea for only the second gathering in a century.
Twenty-three years later, Vladimir Putin staged Russia’s military invasion and current illegal occupation of Crimea, and today seeks to erase any semblance of the indigenous Crimean Tatar identity from their homeland, replacing Crimean Tatar place names, and further removing opportunities for the Crimean Tatar language and culture to be taught and passed on.
Once again, the indigenous Crimean Tatar people of Ukraine are forbidden from gathering at traditional commemorative events in their native land. In Russia-occupied Crimea, severe restrictions have been placed on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including at traditional commemorative events such as the anniversary of the genocidal deportation of the Crimean Tatars. The Representative Assembly of the Crimean Tatar People, the Mejlis, has been illegally banned. The Crimean Tatar people are once again the victims of a cruel and ruthless occupation regime, and the language, rights and culture of the Crimean Tatar people remains as much under threat today as they were during Soviet and Tsarist regimes.
On this solemn anniversary of the deportation-genocide of the Crimean Tatar people, UCCA continues to voice support for the Crimean Tatar people in their struggle for their rights, and again calls on the governments of the free world to recognize Stalin’s actions as crimes of genocide.