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Interview with Nadir Bekirov

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24 July 2014

Nadir Bekirov, President of the Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea, interviewed by Rosalba Nattero at the United Nations of Geneva

Nadir Bekirov is the President of the international public organization “Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea”. We met him at the United Nation of Geneva in the occasion of the 7th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

What is the purpose of your work at the United Nations?

The main purpose is the official recognition of Crimean Tatar People first of all, but also of all Indigenous Peoples of Crimea which, logically, should produce the range of the legal and political consequences for these peoples, who are Crimean Tatars, Karaites, Krymchaks and Urums. All of them appear during the historical process of Crimean peninsula, which are very close one each other in their anthropology and culture, but were different by their religion, because Crimean Tatars – the biggest one people – are Sunni Muslims; Karaites have their special branch of Abrahamic religions, which is not very famous in comparison with Christianity and Judaism and Islam, because Karaites are a branch of this Abrahamic root of religion; Krymchaks, who are Jews, by their religion; and Urums, who are Orthodoxies.

Nadir Bekirov read his statement at the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

You are a representative of a tribe in particular, or all Indigenous Peoples of Crimea?

I’m Crimean Tatar, but I’m head of an organization which is called “The Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea”, and in our activity we try to care interests not only of Crimean Tatars but of all Indigenous Peoples of Crimea.

There are many problems for Indigenous Peoples in Crimea in this moment, I think.

A lot, because still, until now, mostly these Peoples are not recognized, neither like Peoples, nor like Indigenous Peoples in particular. All regimes who dealt with all these Peoples preferred to look to them like ethnic groups or national minorities, or something like this. For comparison, we have some communities of Crimean Tatars in Romania, who are our diasporas, but in cultural and social life they are stronger than Crimean Tatars in Crimea. Karaites – Karais in their language – have a small group in Lithuania which is non-comparably better protected by the Lithuanian State, where they are Diaspora of Crimea, than inside of Crimea. So, of course it is connected with the point that all new Crimeans in Crimea, new settlers, new populations and their authority, the first they are majority, the second they prefer to escape any kind of the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Populations in order to possess all natural resources of Crimea, all land of Crimea without any observations or without any obligations towards the Indigenous Peoples. This is the main point.

What do you expect from the Expert Mechanism?

The presentation of Nadir Bekirov at the United Nations of Geneva

A very hard question. I don’t wait something very straight from today’s activity of Mechanism. I started to come to Geneva at the era of the Working Group of Indigenous Populations in 1994, and I couldn’t say about some separate achievement, but as a trend, the first of all the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted, despite the Ukrainian government, who possessed Crimea abstained at the time of the voting for declaration. But, due to the recent developments – I mean this international conflict between Russia, who pretends to be master of Crimea, and Ukraine – Ukrainian parliament and consequently government, officially recognized the Declaration and recognized Crimean Tatars in a capacity of Indigenous People of Crimea. The fact is a little bit late, because Ukrainian State does not control the territory of Crimea now, so this is a recognition outside, which does not influence the position of Russian government, maybe even vice-versa, in contradiction to this Russian government, who actually controls Crimean territory now (like Ukraine at the very beginning did) tries to escape any considerations of the autochthonous population of Crimea, like an Indigenous Peoples. They say everybody is equal, everything should be decided by the voting, and firmly understanding that the Crimean Tatars and other Indigenous Peoples are less than 20% of population and any voting is de facto depriving of any perspective to recognize their rights.

Nadir Bekirov and Rosalba Nattero

We talked before about the links between Italy and Crimea. Can you say something?

In comparison with some parts of the World which we (Europeans) discovered recently, I mean 500 years ago, 600 years ago, even 1000 years ago, Crimea was the crossroad, or one of the crossroads of the roads to civilization, European civilization, and connections between Crimea and Italy, contemporary Italy, go back to ancient times, because we have the Cities or Towns in Crimea from ancient Greece, and consequently from the Roman period, including Byzantine period, and one of our Indigenous Peoples, who are Urums, they go back to the mix between local population and settlers from Byzantium empire, Eastern Roman Empire. So they have, even in blood and cultural manifestation some part, maybe very ancient, of Roman culture and Italian culture, but we even have a rather fresh mixture with Italians, because since the 15th century we had colonies in Crimea, Genoveses and Venetians, mostly in Sudak and Feodosia or Kafa, of that time there are small castles over there, sea coast, and in some groups of Crimean Tatars, practically Genoveses were substrate, who was turkisized, musulmanized and became Crimean Tatars. By the anthropology, by some music, style of life, etc they were very close to the medieval Genoveses, still now, and they even remember a little bit that some generations ago, they were Catholics and they were Genoveses or Venetians. Of course now we are a compact nation, like Italians, for example, that are a mix of different nation, the same are we, but it’s well known among Crimean Tatars that from that village, or that part of the Town people are in origin mostly Genoveses.

We are relatives!

Yes, certainly!


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