Turkey has professed itself the steadfast defender of the Crimean Tatars’ minority rights, but, so far, that mission has not interfered with its interest in trade with Russia, its largest export-import partner.
The declarations of official concern continue, however. On a November 10 visit to Kyiv, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu announced plans to send an unofficial monitoring mission to Crimea to investigate claims of human rights violations against the ethnic Crimean Tatar population.
The move is Ankara’s first concrete step to support the Crimean Tatars, who claim they have been repressed and silenced by the local, de-facto pro-Russian authorities in the months since Russia’s March annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.
The entire Crimean Tatar population was deported under Soviet leader Josef Stalin to the steppes of Central Asia in 1944; as many as half perished during the arduous journey. About 300,000 returned to resettle in Crimea after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and most opposed Russia’s move to absorb the peninsula this spring.
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Nicholas Clayton is a reporter based in Istanbul.