Killing of Crimean Tatar alarms Turkey
Members of Crimean Tatar community pray over the grave of Reshat Ametov during his funeral in Simferopol on March 18. AFP photo
Turkey has warned against provocations that could cause further tensions in Crimea following the killing of a Crimean Tatar.
Reshat Ametov, who was in his 30s, disappeared on March 3 when three men in military jackets led him away from the scene of a protest in the Crimean regional capital of Simferopol, witnesses said. His body was found nearly two weeks after his disappearance near the town of Belogorsk, 50 kilometers east of Simferopol, naked and showing signs of torture and beating.
Ametov, whose murder has sparked anger and fear in a Crimean Tatar community bitterly opposed to Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, was buried March 18.
Turkey demanded that the murder be solved at once and that the perpetrators be brought to justice.
“Crimean Turk-Tatars who were able to return to their homeland after suffering huge grievances in history have been voicing their views and demands on peaceful grounds. We find it unacceptable that our kin have been exposed to pressure and threats during ‘the referendum’ process and afterwards and have even been deprived of safety despite their responsible attitude,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement released late March 19.
Noting that Ankara had been informed of various other provocations that Crimean Turk-Tatars had encountered, the Foreign Ministry expressed particularly concern over news reports that referred to “official authorities” and which said Crimean Turk-Tatars would be evacuated from regions in which they currently reside.
“We reiterate our expectation that provocations that would further complicate the current troubled situation in Crimea should not be given rise. We will continue closely watching for the serenity, welfare and security of Crimea Turk-Tatars,” the ministry said.
Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and applied to join Russia on March 17, after 96.6 percent of the electorate voted in a referendum on unification with Russia.
Many Tatars are thought to oppose unification with Russia, fearing their rights as a minority will be eroded.
Turkey, a NATO ally, has said 12 percent of Crimea’s population consists of Turkish-speaking Tatars who are Sunni Muslims, like the majority of Turks.
Crimea was part of the Ottoman Empire until it was conquered by Russia in the late 18th century. Tatars – the majority population at the time – were accused of collaborating with the Nazis during World War II and millions were forcibly removed from the area by Stalin in the 1940s, only returning to the peninsula following the death of the Soviet leader.