Five years ago, the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean Peninsula after unmarked troops marched into the Ukrainian territory and took control of the local parliament.
In the first six months of this year, Crimean Tatars who have lived on the peninsula since at least the 15th century, accounted for a disproportionately large majority of the number of arrests — 138 out of 200 — made by Russian Federation authorities.
The figures, released by the Crimean Tatar Resource Center (CTRC), a non-governmental organization, tell only a tiny part of the full story of injustice and harassment to which the community has been subjected since the peninsula’s annexation.
Out of the 73 recorded house searches, 55 were conducted in the homes of the Tatar minority, and out of 69 detentions, 57 were of Crimean Tatars, according to the CTRC. Today, Crimean Tatars cannot enjoy safety and comfort even in their ancestral land. However, they are no strangers to oppression and abuse.
In 1944, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin accused the Muslim Tatars of collaborating with Nazi Germany and betraying the country, and ordered their deportation from the peninsula.
In one of the 20th century’s major incidents of collective punishment, Moscow forcibly moved the entire population of about 230,000 to other Soviet states, mostly Uzbekistan. At the time, Crimean Tatars comprised nearly one-fifth of the peninsula’s population.
According to surveys by political activists in the 1960s, more than 46 percent of Crimean Tatars perished due to disease and starvation during the first three years of the deportation.
Most of the population was able to return to Crimea after the collapse of USSR in 1991. Crimean Tatars began to hold ceremonies each May 18 in remembrance of the forced population transfer. However, those gatherings have been banned by the Russian authorities since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The takeover of the peninsula followed a military intervention in Crimea that the Russian Federation staged in the wake of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and unfolded amid widespread unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine.
A referendum organized by Moscow in 2014 ostensibly to determine the status of Crimea was considered illegal by Western powers and boycotted by the Crimean Tatars. According to the CTRC, the annexation forced more than 20,000 Crimean Tatars from their homes as the Russian Federation sent 200,000 nationals to live on the peninsula.