At UN Forum of Indigenous Peoples, Crimean Tatar leader highlights consequences of Russian occupation

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International solidarity among indigenous peoples around the world encourages them to influence their governments so that they support Ukraine more actively, according to the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Refat Chubarov.

He told about this in a recent comment to Ukrinform in New York, where the annual session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples is being held.

According to Chubarov, who heads the Ukrainian delegation at the session, “some politicians or rulers are acting inappropriately toward Ukraine.”

He recalled that Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva publicly expressed the idea that “Ukraine could go toward Russia, in particular, on the issue of Crimea, and this could create certain preconditions for peace.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the event and during official meetings, “I said that no one delegated the rights to their sovereignty and territory to anyone,” Chubarov emphasized.

“That is, international solidarity between indigenous peoples is in demand, and indigenous peoples could influence their governments,” he added.

The politician said that the format of the Permanent Forum provides for annual sessions where governments and indigenous peoples communicate with each other “as openly as possible”. Six areas are discussed: economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health care, and human rights.

He recalled that these issues are considered in the context of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly in March 2007. Ukraine joined the declaration in March 2014, when the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Statement on the guarantee of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people as part of the Ukrainian state.

“Each delegation tries, let’s say, to enlighten others, put forward their proposals, but through the prism of their position, experience and problems,” Chubarov noted. “But no matter what they talk about, they always talk about the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples.”

According to him, the Ukrainian delegation referred to its own practice and situation and in their speeches, they paid attention to the current situation of Ukraine, which is determined by the Russo-Ukrainian war. “The occupation of Crimea cancels out any hopes for sustainable development for as long as it goes on,” he emphasized.

The chairman of the Mejlis reminded that the absolute majority of representatives of the Crimean Tatar people did not accept the Russian occupation and chose to oppose it.

“I emphasized the fact that the attitude toward indigenous peoples has changed radically in Ukraine,” said Chubarov. “In particular, thanks to the Law ‘On Indigenous Peoples’ adopted in 2021, which was initiated by (President Volodymyr) Zelensky.”

According to the law, “the indigenous people of Ukraine is an autochthonous ethnic community that was formed on the territory of Ukraine, is the bearer of an original language and culture, has traditional, social, cultural or representative bodies, refers to itself as an indigenous people of Ukraine, is an ethnic minority in its population, and does not have its own state entity outside of Ukraine.”

Such peoples are Crimean Tatars, Karaites, and Krymchaks.

“I can’t recall a single draft law that would have caused such hate on the part of Russian representatives, including the Russian president…” Chubarov noted. “Putin has twice publicly spoken about this law, claiming that Ukraine discriminates against Russians and others because it does not recognize them as indigenous peoples.”

And the State Duma of Russia adopted a special appeal to the Council of Europe about the “threat” posed by the approval of this law, although it is fully aligned with the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, the chairman of the Mejlis noted.

He also noted that the government is “implementing the law slowly”. In particular, it contains an article that obliges the government, in line with a certain procedure, to grant appropriate status to the representative bodies of indigenous peoples. “However, the Cabinet of Ministers has not yet made a decision that the Mejlis is the representative body of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people, despite the fact that the aforementioned statement by the Verkhovna Rada recognizes this status at the political level,” Chubarov said.

As Ukrinform reported earlier, the 23rd session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues “Strengthening the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination in the context of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth” is being held at the UN headquarters in New York on April 15-26.

This forum is the highest consultative body that deals with the issues of indigenous peoples regarding their economic and social development, culture, education, health care, and human rights.

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