28 February 2018

EPISTEMOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS ON CRIMEA AND CRIMEAN TATARS

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The Benedict XVI Endowed Chair of Religious, Cultural and Philosophical Studies, housed at the Faculty of Humanities (FH), Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), organized on February 28, 2018, in collaboration with the Embassy of Ukraine in Lebanon, a roundtable discussion titled, “Human Rights, Late Modernity and Post-Truth Attitudes: Epistemological Reflections on Crimea and Crimean Tatars… Four Years on (February 2014 – February 2018).

This roundtable aims to raise rather epistemological questions that have to do with the very nature of truth and how we come to define it and then either accept or reject it. It is much more accurate and meaningful, therefore, to use the term late-modern rather than post-modern and to show how late modernity has contributed to post-truth attitudes.

The first phase started with a Ceramic Arts exposition by Crimean Tatar ceramists Rustem Skybin and Heorhii Brailovskyi that displayed several authentic pictures of Crimean Tatar people and some of the activists protesting, regarding the right of the Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland.

Also, the opening performance included Lenara Osmanova, a Crimean Tatar singer, singing two Crimean Tatar songs while dressed in national costume.

Dr. Youssef Rahme opened the discussion on behalf of Dr. Edward J. Alam, holder of the Benedict XVI Endowed Chair, who was unable to attend the event due to illness. Dr. Rahme mentioned how 24 years ago, Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees from Russia and the West. He added that serious human rights violations and discrimination persist in eastern Ukraine and specifically in the Republic of Crimea.

For his part, H.E. Ihor Ostash, ambassador of Ukraine to Lebanon, said, "We are deeply concerned about growing repression, serious human right violations, and discrimination of the Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea."

H.E. Çağatay Erciye, ambassador of Turkey to Lebanon, stated that to ensure protection, certain steps must be made to end violations.

Mustafa Dzhemilev, veteran leader of the Crimean Tatar National Movement and a Soviet-era political prisoner, upon the arrival of Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov in Ukraine, explained the origins of the Crimean Tatars (a mixture of Greeks, Byzantines, etc.). He said, “I spent fifteen years in jail, pleading that I deserved to be returned home.”

The party is thus currently banned from partaking in elections in Ukraine. This ban, however, does not prevent individual party members from partaking in elections as independent candidates.

During the declaration of independence of Ukraine, they struggled with communist party ideology. Crimean Tatars were deported from the Crimean Peninsula as a result of the state-organized and forcible action, ordered by the Soviet leader. To date, they have been occupied for 1,460 days (four years)!

Propaganda claimed that 96 percent went to the elections but the truth is the number was only 34 percent, and 100 percent of native Crimea opposed it!

Ilmi Umerov, deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, said, “I am against the legal occupation and I have not given my consent to it.” He added, “Territorial integrity has to be reinstated.”

He also told the story about his two-year imprisonment due to an interview he gave about Crimean Tatars on a show that was aired in Ukraine on a Ukrainian channel. Umeroc conveyed that not everyone is aware of what was happening and that he would like to highlight what is currently happening in Crimea.

Fethi Kurity Shhin emphasized the importance of the incidents in Crimea and what is happening to the Crimean Tatars, and how it violates human rights. He also highlighted the importance of the incidents happening in Crimea and to the Crimean Tatars.

Professor Myroslav Marynovych, vice rector for the mission of the Ukrainian Catholic University, said, “Non-violent attitude by the Crimean Tatars must be rewarded and appreciated.”

He added that certain moral standards are only broadcast to the Russians. Therefore, the manipulation of the news for propaganda is only projecting the Russian point of view and the golden mean of the truth is obtained unreliable. Nonetheless, the regime cannot block everything anymore because the internet is under no one’s control.

Dr. Eugene Sensenig, associate professor at the Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLPS) at NDU,  stated, “The 1944 genocide against the Crimean Tatars must be seen in the context of ethnic discrimination in the region, including the Great Famine in Mount Lebanon and Armenian Genocide, both starting in 1915.”

Finally, NDU President Fr. Pierre Najem met Professor Marynovych before the roundtable discussion on Crimea and Crimean Tatars.

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