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Ukraine: wishes from His Beatitude Shevchuk to Mustafa Dzhemilev. The Crimean Tatar Hero turns 75

Even His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader and father of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, wanted to pay tribute to Mustafa Dzhemilev, the national leader of the Tatar population of Crimea, on his 75th birthday. During the Soviet era, Dzhemilev fought for the Crimean Tatars’ right to go back home after their deportation to Uzbekistan that was organised at Stalin’s request in 1944, as a punishment for their alleged collaborationism with the Nazi armies. Many Tatars, an ethnic minority of Turkish descent, starved to death in Uzbekistan. Because of his campaign for the Tatar population’s return home, Dzhemilev was interned for 15 years in prisoner-of-war camps of the Soviet Union. As a protest, he went on the longest hunger strike ever, which lasted 300 days. Since 2014, Dzhemilev has been commissioner of the Ukrainian president for the affairs of Crimean Tatars. In his letter, Shevchuk reminds Dzhemilev: “You have experienced many terrible, hardly imaginable things: seven sentences, 15 years in internment! Endless legal actions, false allegations, deceitful witnesses … Your hunger strike was an opportunity to tell the world about the pain and sufferings of their people. Your life is a never-ending fight”. Dzhemilev – Shevchuk goes on – is “a living example of someone who really knows the price of the concepts of freedom and independence for Ukrainians, for Crimean Tatars and for all the people in the world. With Your life, more than with words, You confirm a need to be faithful to your conscience despite the trials you had to experience”. In 2014, Mustafa Dzhemilev received one of the greatest honours of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church: the Blessed Omelyan Kovch award. “I hope the example of Your life may become an inspiration for the new generations”, Shevchuk concludes.

 

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