05/19/2016, 12.16
RUSSIA - UKRAINE
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Prayers but no protests: Crimean Tatars commemorate the deportation

by Nina Achmatova

Public gatherings are banned on the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow, but Muslims have been joined in prayer even by Christians "so that such tragedies never happen again." The EU’s concern about the "deterioration of human rights".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On 18 May in all mosques across the Crimea - the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow without the recognition of the international community – held special prayers in memory of the victims of mass deportations of Tatars (ethnic minority of Muslim faith) ordered by Stalin during the Second World War.

"All religions are in solidarity with us on this issue," said Deputy Chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea, Andrei Ismailov, during a conference in Simferopol, as reported by Interfax. He says representatives of other religions - Orthodoxy is the majority religion in this peninsula annexed by  Moscow two years ago after a controversial referendum - prayed for peace, tranquility and that this tragedy never happen again to anyone".

As noted by Ismailov, the repression in the region has affected not only the Tatars, but also Armenians and other peoples: "So I think that this tragic date unites us all, each denomination in their own way to appeal to God and pray for peace and forgiveness of dead souls", added the religious representative.

In all the churches and monasteries of the Crimea panikhida were held – the Liturgy in memory of the dead - as was announced by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate press office. "God help us to overcome the sad consequences of the past, so that nothing like this happens again," said the Metropolitan of Simferopol and Crimea Lazar in an Crimean Inter-religious Council meeting. Along with other spiritual leaders, Lazar laid flowers at the memorial to the victims of deportation in Simferopol.

On 12 May 1944, the Red Army defeated Nazi troops in the Crimean peninsula. On May 18 of that year Stalin started the deportation of Tatars to Central Asia, determined to punish any person suspected of having collaborated with the Germans during the occupation of the region. In two days, over 180 thousand were forced to leave all of their possessions; many died during the journey, and the survivors only returned to the Black Sea peninsula after 1989. The Crimean authorities this year have banned any public demonstration to commemorate the sad anniversary, which was instead commemorated with different initiatives in Ukraine.

The EU's diplomatic representation in Kiev condemned the ban and said that 72 years after the forced deportation of the Crimean Tatars from their homeland, they still face persecution and intimidation. The prohibition to peacefully hold public commemorations is unacceptable", wrote the embassy in a statement. "The EU has repeatedly expressed serious concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Crimea and Sevastopol since their illegal annexation by the Russian Federation and calls for full respect of human rights", reads the statement.

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