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: 05-11-2002
: Transcript of Mr. Umerov's Conference in English

// // // URL: http://maidan.org.ua/static/mai/1036496377.html

Nalivayko:

Mr.Umerov, are there among Crimean Tatars separatist intentions toward Ukraine? If yes, then are they caused by the attitude of the current Ukrainian government towards Crimean Tatars?



Ilmi Umerov:

There are no separatist groups in the Crimean Tatar community and its national movement. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people has always maintained a pro-Ukrainian and pro-state position. There were times when it [the Mejlis] was the only pro-Ukrainian political force in Crimea.

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Natalya:

Will recent hostage crisis in Moscow have an impact on the inter-ethnic and socio-political situation in Crimea, especially if we take into account that the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people in its statements expresses its solidarity with the heroic struggle of the Chechen people for its independence and national revival?



Ilmi Umerov:
There are no prerequisites in Crimea for such situation to arise. Moscow events will not have an impact on inter-ethnic and socio-political situation in Crimea. But the eight-year long war in Chechnya must be taken as lesson and negative example in Ukraine.

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Radical:
However, Speaker [of the Crimean Parliament] Boris Deych said that emergency bells are ringing for Crimea in the Moscow situation Your comments?



Ilmi Umerov

I know Boris Deych well, and I think that he [only] meant that people should take such events [as an opportunity] to think on their causes.

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Serge:

About whether inter-ethnic relations become hostage

Mr.Umerov, why do you think all issues on inter-ethnic relations in Ukraine have been so sharply discussed lately? First of all, I refere to the proposition of the Crimean Parliament on Russian language, which was sanctioned by Medvedchuk (Head of Presidential Administration of Ukraine note of Crimean Aspects). In your opinion, does it symbolize that inter-ethnic relations become hostage to some short-term political interests of certain groups? Will you discuss this with Leonid Kuchma (the President of Ukraine - note of Crimean Aspects) tomorrow in Crimea?



Ilmi Umerov:

We are not going to discuss this with Kuchma. But seven Crimean Tatar deputies have expressed their position clearly, voting against the proposition to give the Russian language the status of second official (earlier this month the Crimean Parliament send a proposal to the Ukrainian Parliament to give the Russian language the status of the second state language alongside with the Ukrainian language. Only seven deputies all Crimean Tatars in the Crimean Parliament voted against the proposal and the chairman of the Crimean Tatar faction in the Parliament Ilmi Umerov made a statement demanding the protection of the Ukrainian as the only state language in Crimea note of Crimean Aspects)

There are no inter-ethnic tensions in Crimea, and giving the official status to the Russian language is political speculation of certain politicians and political groups, which want to score more points before Presidential elections.

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Advocat:

Mr.Umerov!

Previous question, mentioned Medvedchuk. In particular, that he was the initiator of the appeal (about Russian language note of Crimean Aspects) adopted by the Parliament of Crimea. Question: Do you have irrefutable arguments that Medvedchuk really used his official position to stir up the Crimean Parliament for provocative actions?



Ilmi Umerov:

I did not catch his hand there : )

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Advocat:

What a pity!!! But hes very sneaky!

I asked this because Medvedchuk and those with him are openly Moscow-oriented group, can easily lead to anti-Tatar hysteria rising in Crimea again, after terrorist attack in Moscow, - so be careful!



Ilmi Umerov:

Thanks.

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Shooter:

Are there discussions in the Crimean Tatar community on the possible declaration of independent Crimean Tatar state (in Crimea)?



Ilmi Umerov:

No. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people demands that the obscure status of the of Crimea as territorial autonomy was changed to become Crimean Tatar national-territorial autonomy within Ukraine.

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Advocat:

Mr. Umerov!

I understand that my proposition is quite provocative, but wouldnt it be better for the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people to propose to the Parliament of Ukraine to create a national-territorial autonomy for Crimean Tatars within the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.(the ARC)



Ilmi Umerov:

Our demands (for national-territorial autonomous republic note of Crimean Aspects) apply to whole Crimea, including Sevastopol (Aq-Yar)

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Advocat:

I know about this. I support your demands.

But not the nonsense called the ARC. Thats why I asked why not to destroy it this way?

I wish you success!



Ilmi Umerov:

Thanks.

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DevRand:

About Crimeas autonomous status.

Is Crimeas autonomous status favorable for Crimean Tatars, in your opinion?

What is your attitude towards todays proposition of Prosvita Association and Union of Ukrainian Writers to abolish autonomous status of Crimea (as I understand, in connection with the proposal of the Crimean Parliament to give the status of second official to the Russian language)?



Ilmi Umerov:

Present status of the Autonomy is not favorable for Crimean Tatars. It is essentially an autonomy of Russians within Ukraine.

It would be better not to abolish the autonomy altogether, but to change its status in favor of Crimean Tatars by introducing changes in the Constitution of Ukraine and other legal acts.

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Ilya:

Dear Ilmi! What do you think, how soon it will be possible to start talking about the Crimean Tatar autonomy?



Ilmi Umerov:

We must start to talk about it now. I understand the Crimean Tatar autonomy as the realization of the right of the Crimean Tatar people for self-determination, with the rights of other nationalities of Crimea protected.

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Ilya:

We can talk about the Crimean Tatar autonomy, but certain conditions are needed for this to happen. What, in your opinion, hinders the process? And what must happen for Crimean Tatar autonomy to become a reality?



Ilmi Umerov:

Understanding and goodwill of the State (of the President of Ukraine and majority of the Ukrainian Parliament)

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Ilya:

The opinion of other nationalities? What must be promised to the Russians so that they want to live in such Autonomy?



Ilmi Umerov:

I wont promise any privileges : )

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Kusay:

Why you were considered the most radical Crimean Tatar politician for a long time? What changed in your opinions (if changed)?



Ilmi Umerov:

I did not consider myself radical, in the sense this word is understood by the people on the street. Simply, my activities were always adequate to the activity or inactivity of the government. Specifically, when they [the government of Crimea] did not want to give us propiska (registration by the local administration required for employment and property ownership note of Crimean Aspects) and did not want to legalize houses bought for our own money we organized protest rallies and pickets; when they smashed up our tent camps we destroyed the building of the Crimean Supreme Council. And this was adequate.

I did not change (my views on that). (But) the situation has changed, and (changed) the relations of the Crimean authorities with the Crimean Tatar national movement.

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Radical:

What is your opinion about detention of Zakaev in Copenhagen?



Ilmi Umerov:

I have negative opinion about the detention of Zakayev. I think that majority of European countries maintains the position of unjustified indifference, while the Chechen nation is subjected to genocide.

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Serge:

What is your position and position of Crimean Tatars toward the Electoral Law of the ARC?



Ilmi Umerov:

We need guaranteed representation of Crimean Tatars

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Ilya:

What about the Greeks? Greeks appeared in Crimea before Tatars. Do they as well need quota in the Parliament? Or for Scythians?



Ilmi Umerov:

If Scythians show up and demand a seat in the Parliament, we are ready to discuss the possibility of giving them one place in our seat quota. We consider Scythians as our relatives, and you cant refuse a seat to your relative : )

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Ilya:

About the violation of democracy: In my opinion, quota in parliament (for Crimean Tatars note of Crimean Aspects) is a direct violation of democracy. Or your principles are different?



Ilmi Umerov:

Try to propose other mechanisms of the guarantied representation for the Crimean Tatar people. And my principles actually are different.

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Ilya:

What are your principles. If possible, could you please formulate your principles in a couple of words?



Ilmi Umerov:

Honesty, integrity and consistency.

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Radical:

They say there are (or were) training camps for Chechen fighters in Crimea. Is that true?



Ilmi Umerov:

I would be grateful if those who keep saying this would show me even one such camp. I am not aware of such camps.

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Maga:

On anti-Muslim policy: The Russian Security Service announced that they will bury Chechen Shahids in pigskin to deny them entry to Heaven. What do you think about this?



Ilmi Umerov:

We can simply dismiss stupid statements. And it is not up to them to decide who goes to Heaven.

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Leonid:

On the status of Mejlis: There were many talks concerning the status of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people. Supporting the most of Mejlis activities, I wanted, however, to ask: is there competition between Mejlis and local administrations in Crimea? Does Mejlis create parallel government bodies on the regional and district levels?

Do not consider this question as an accusation there is the need to sort things out.

I wish you success.



Ilmi Umerov:

No, there is no competition, because local Mejlis branches are representative organs of the Crimean Tatar people. Good relations between the local government and Mejlis are of great advantage, because Mejlis builds bridge between the local government and Crimean Tatars.

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Pani:

Tatars and entrepreneurship: Recently I was pleased to notice the growing presence of Crimean Tatars in small business, in services, especially in Steppe regions and South-eastern coast. Does the Crimean government supports such activities or put obstacles? How can you explain appearance of such businesses in these particular regions of Crimea, and why there are only a few of them on the Southern coast (of Crimea)? Thanks.



Ilmi Umerov:

Crimean Tatars have to work on repatriation, resettlement and development all at the same time. The rest of the Crimean population, however, is in a much stronger position. We do not feel special support from authorities, but I cannot say that they did anything specific to discourage our entrepreneurs. The Crimean Tatar entrepreneurship is held back, however, by the lack of money.

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Serge:

The best restaurant in Yalta is Tatar. The national cuisine is superb, and it was relatively cheap (for three of us we spent 90 hryvni) (about $18 note of Crimean Aspects)



Ilmi Umerov:

Do come again!

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Leonid:

Do you have results of the (recent state) census conducted in Crimea? In particular, what is the number of Crimean Tatars, other ethnic groups in Crimea. What have been the repatriation dynamics for last two years?



Ilmi Umerov:

As of today, it is official and confirmed by the census that 260 thousand Crimean Tatars have returned to Crimea. Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks and Germans altogether 10 thousand, but those who were themselves deported and their descendants 1 thousand people.

The repatriation in recent years was extremely slow.

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Loki:

What is your attitude toward present government of Crimea? Would you hazard a forecast about the possible change of this government soon? Do you think the next government would be more favorable to Crimean Tatars?



Ilmi Umerov:

We dont want this government to be changed, and we will not work in this direction.

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Ilya:

Dear Ilmi Umerov! I respect the demands of Crimean Tatars on restitution of the property confiscated by Communists (land, houses etc.) But there were not only Crimean Tatars who suffered during the years of Soviet regime. Millions of Russians, Ukrainians and of other nationalities were robbed. What if everybody will demand their expropriated property?
Three my grand-grandfathers were declared Kulaks and banished to Ural.



Ilmi Umerov:

Taking into account the present socio-economic condition in Ukraine, Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people does not bring up the question of restitution of property, which was confiscated during the deportation.

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Ilya:

But if you demand lands and state aid from the budget, why only for Tatars?



Ilmi Umerov:

This is because other deportees have had an opportunity to return to Crimea in times of the USSR, while we had to struggle for that for more than 50 years. And our repatriation began only in late 1980-ies.

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Ilya:

I meant that any citizen of the former USSR could legitimately demand the same treatment as Tatars. But [Tatars have an advantage] because they have strong, solid organization, and Russians and Ukrainians do not. Therefore the aid [that Tatars] receive from the state is not a fair reimbursement of their losses but because as a consolidated national force they have more power over the government decisions [than other groups, which is unfair].



Ilmi Umerov:

We also do not consider this as fair reimbursement, but we try to approach with understanding the socio-economic situation in Ukraine.

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Ilya:

Dear Ilmi!

Why demands of Crimean Tatars from the government, which are essentially political in their nature, are often perceived as an attempt to create inter-ethnic conflict?



Ilmi Umerov:

In reality, the government does not consider them as such, but the "Russian Community of Crimea" organization and Communists present them as attempts to create inter-ethnic tension.

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Ilya:



What to do then? It is clear, that nobody (or almost nobody) wants tensions to increase. What, in your opinion, must be done so that Russians could understand your ideas and perhaps would stand with you against the state machine?



Ilmi Umerov:

The state has for many years created the image of an evil Tatar and we will have to struggle together against such stereotypes. If among the non-Crimean Tatar part of population there are people who support this idea they can come any time to us.

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Ilya:

The image of evil Tatar: I think when instead of evil there will emerge the image of a kind Tatar, then it will be possible to talk about Tatar autonomy. And then the opinion of the government will not play the key role.



Ilmi Umerov:

Thanks, I agree.

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DevRand:

Tomorrow Kuchma will be in Simferopol, to hold the session of the Presidential Council of representatives of the Crimean Tatar people.

Related to this, two questions:

How often does Kuchma personally conducts such sessions, and if not very often then what is, in your opinion, the reason of his present visit?
How effective is such institution as the Council of representatives, for Crimean Tatars?


Ilmi Umerov:

If I remember right, this is the sixth session (the latest one took place last year), which he conducted personally. For example, last year there were three such meetings.
The majority of decisions that were made during such sessions were never fulfilled.
The Presidential Council of representatives of Crimean Tatar people is perhaps the only of recognition of the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people Mejlis.

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Alim:

Crimean Tatar political organizations: Ilmi-aga, following question has been asked at the Crimean Aspects website on October 28:

How the activities of Mejlis, Adalet, NDKT and other [Crimean Tatar] organizations, which still are not registered, can be evaluated?

Using this opportunity, I would like to know your opinion about this question.



Ilmi Umerov:

I cannot place on equal footing, and evaluate the activities of public organizations, and political movements with the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people Mejlis. And whether there is official registration, in this case for me does not matter.

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Maidan-Inform:

Why, in your opinion, Crimea remains face to face with the problem of Russian expansion in information space? Why the official Kyiv does not react, and why other regions of Ukraine are so passive?


Ilmi Umerov:

In our information space, Russians behave as impudent as we (the Ukrainian state) allow them to.

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Maidan-Inform:

How well does the Kyiv press cover events in Crimea? Are there some improvements?

Ilmi Umerov:

In my opinion the coverage of Crimean events in the Kyiv press is adequate, although the coverage of the Crimean Tatar issues is not entirely satisfactory.

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Freeman:

You did not answer to the question on activities of political organizations of Crimean Tatars, particularly, Adalet and OKND.


Ilmi Umerov:

I dont feel their impact on the [Crimean Tatar] national movement.

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Russian:

Is it possible that Tatars in Crimea do not want the same level [of autonomy] as Tatarstan [has] in Russia? : )



Ilmi Umerov:

But there is no Chechnya in Ukraine

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Radical:

Will you go to the square on November 7 (due to your official position)


Ilmi Umerov:

My official position does not require me to go to such events

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Russian:

On what genocide of Chechens you talk if [the Russian] census demonstrated significant increase in the Chechen population compared to 1990 (despite the flight of many Russians and Chechens [from the Republic]?) : )



Ilmi Umerov:

10% Chechens have been physically annihilated this is a true genocide. Results of the census are quite easy to forge in such [present Chechen] conditions.

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Ilya:

Genocide of Russians too: Russians and other nations die in this war as well. So it is not possible to say that this is genocide directed against of the Chechens [only]. How many Russian soldiers were killed on the battlefield by the way, from the bullets of those peaceful Chechens



Ilmi Umerov:

Battlefield in this case it is the territory of Chechnya, and Russian soldiers came to fight and kill

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Russian:

Because of your loyalty to the Kyiv regime and because you are [in your current position] part of the government structure, it is quite possible to compare you to Kadyrov (an ethnic Chechen appointed by Putin to the position of Governor of Chechnya note of Crimean Aspects) and other Chechen officials. Are there in Crimean growing Basaevs, as well as Wahhabits?



Ilmi Umerov:

You cant compare me to Kadyrov, and Ukraine to Russia. I dont know much about Wahhabits, but there is a small group of confused people [in Crimea].

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Nalivayko:

By the way, I would like to wish the leaders who will give press-conferences at Maidan, to have at least half the respect, time (and, as I see it, self-control) which Mr. Umerov demonstrated here today.
Thank you. I wish happiness to you and the Tatar people.

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Maidan-Inform:

Unfortunately, the Internet-conference with Mr.Umerov came to an end. It was a pleasure to talk to you. We invite you, Mr. Umerov, to come to Maidan frequently. The administration group of Maidan thanks partners from CrimeaTau and Crimean Aspects internet information projects. Without you this could not happen. We inform you that from now on, the new Crimea forum has been opened on Maidan, where all the issues raised at this Internet-conference, will be discussed.

Thank you, Mr. Umerov. Our best wishes!

// // // URL: http://maidan.org.ua/static/mai/1036496377.html




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