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Turkey marks 71st anniversary of Crimean Tatar exile

Turkish President Erdogan says exile was a 'shameful black stain in history'

Turkey marks 71st anniversary of Crimean Tatar exile


Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday the Crimean Tatars' forced exile under Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1944 from Crimea to Central Asia was a "shameful black stain in history".

In a statement, Erdogan marked the 71st anniversary of the Crimean Tatars' mass deportation under Soviet rule. 

"Anyone who has a conscience will never forget the pain and cruelty caused by the exile", said Erdogan.

Around 250,000 Crimean Tatars were taken from their homes and forced to migrate to another region, thousands of kilometers away from Crimea, the statement said.

There are still more than 100,000 Crimean Tatars living outside of the peninsula, although there has been some repatriation has since 1989, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

"Turkey will continue to stand for Crimean Tatar people's struggle to live in prosperity and security in their homeland", Erdogan added, saying international law had been snubbed during the annexation of Crimea by Russia after the 2014 referendum, thus engendering an abuse of rights in the region.

"On this anniversary it is sad to observe that a public commemoration in Simferopol has been prohibited", said a statement released by the spokeswoman of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini on Monday, commemorating the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.

"This is but the most recent example of the restrictions and intimidation faced by the Crimean Tatars".

"The EU has consistently reiterated its concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation on the peninsula since the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014", it added. 

 A referendum on the status of Crimea was held March 16, 2014, and a majority of the Crimean population voted to become part of the Russian Federation. The U.S. and EU denounced the referendum as illegitimate, as the region was occupied by Russian soldiers at the time.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated Turkey's stand on Russian annexation of Crimea, during his visit to Kiev on Monday to commemorate the exile's 71st anniversary.

"The exile is not only a sorrow day for Crimean Tatars, but also for all of the Turkic world", Cavusoglu said, adding that 250,000 Crimean Tatars were forced to leave their country in one night.

"More than a 100,000 Crimean Tatars lost their lives, just like the Ukrainians who were left to die in Holodomor," said Cavusoglu, referring to the 7 - 10 million Ukrainians who died of starvation in 1932 and 1933 in the then Soviet Republic.

Cavusoglu said Crimean Tatars have only one cause: "to live honorable and exist as one nation."

In Washington, the State Department joined Crimean Tatars and all of Ukraine “in commemorating this solemn anniversary, and we remember those who lost their lives or who suffered under repression, whether in 1944 or in 2015”.

“We condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea, which we do not recognize, and call for an end to Russia’s occupation”, spokesman Jeff Rathke added in a statement.

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