“It is hard to find somebody who would better reflect the essence of the Sakharov Prize than Mustafa Dzhemilev – leader of the Crimean Tatars – who has fought all his life for the freedom of expression and human rights. He stood up against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, bravely supported the dissidents by signing letters in defence of prisoners of conscience oppressed by the Communist bloc, and now he demands the respect of human rights in the annexed Crimea. He is now 73 and still struggles and risks his life for freedoms and human rights having been again expelled from his homeland”, said Jacek Saryusz-Wolski MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group responsible for Foreign Affairs, at the presentation of nominees for the Sakharov Prize at a joint meeting of the Development, Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Committees this morning.
“Mustafa Dzhemilev dedicated his whole life to a non-violent struggle in defence of human and minority rights, freedom of speech and personal dignity. By standing against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Dzhemilev challenged Soviet totalitarianism. He fought for the recognition of the rights of Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland. Today he stands with Ukraine and continues to risk his life serving the cause of civil freedoms and human rights”, added Tunne Kelam MEP, who proposed Mr Dzhemilev’s candidacy.
Mr Dzhemilev was born in Crimea in 1943. In 1944, his family was deported along with over 200,000 Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. He was engaged in the fight against the Crimean Tatars’ deportation, co-founded the ‘Initiative Group of Protecting Human Rights in the USSR’, described as the Soviet Union’s first independent civic organisation, intervened in the defence of other human rights defendants, held the longest hunger strike in the history of human rights movements and recently, as a result of his pro-Ukraine position, Russia again banned him from entering occupied Crimea. The price Mr Dzemilev paid for his human rights activities was more than 15 years in the Soviet ‘gulag’ and most of his life in exile.
“As a role model of non-violent protests in the face of overwhelming odds, the EPP Group in the European Parliament supports Mr Dzhemilev as its candidate for the 2016 Sakharov Prize”, concluded Messrs Saryusz-Wolski and Kelam.