mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Jihad in Crimea?
Tatar Turbulence May Rock Putin's Plane

An historically persecuted Muslim minority, an increasingly feverish far-right movement, and an uncertain political future are all stoking the fires of ethnic tension in Crimea. As Crimea awaits a referendum to decide its future sovereignty, set for Sunday, some are warning that a Russian annexation could turn Crimea into another Chechnya. The FT has the story:

Mustafa Jemilev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, said a number of militant Tatars had approached him to say they would fight the Russians.

“We have Islamists, Wahhabis, Salafis . . . groups who have fought [with the opposition] in Syria,” he said in an interview in Simferopol, the Crimean capital. “They say: ‘an enemy has entered our land and we are ready’. […]

Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and an expert on jihadist movements in Syria, said Russia’s invasion was already being actively discussed on social media and internet forums frequented by Islamic militants. “People are asking whether events [there] would legitimise the opening of a new jihadi front,” he said.

Crimea’s Tatars, who represent 12 percent of the population, staunchly oppose Russian annexation, for good reason. In 1944, nearly 200,000 Crimean Tatars were shipped away in trains to Central Asia within a matter of days, after Stalin accused them of aiding the Nazi occupation of Crimea. Around half of them died along the way, and Crimea’s Tatars haven’t forgotten.

Now the Tatars, a Turkic minority, are looking to Ankara in hopes that Erdogan will take a stand for his northern brethren. But seeing as how Turkey relies on Russia for 55 percent of its natural gas, it would probably require nothing short of a massacre for Erdogan to get behind the Tatars.

As Crimea’s pro-Russian mobs become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to silence anti-Moscow sentiment, the Tatars are being singled out, yet again, with ominous X marks on their houses. And while security forces on the peninsula look the other way and the crickets chirp in Ankara, Crimean Tatars may see no other option but to arm themselves. As the FT reminds us, such a precarious situation is vulnerable to the exploitation of militant Islamists. Just think of Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Chechnya. Let’s hope that the radicals’ rallying cries in Crimea go unheeded.



Features Icon
show comments
  • Nick Bidler

    Ha. There’s almost no reason for them not to listen to the clarion cal of ‘F those guys!’

  • gabrielsyme

    It seems slightly peverse for Russia to inherit the guilt for the crimes of the USSR. The Soviet Union oppressed the Russian people as well as other ethnicities, and its leaders came from a small and unrepresentative segment of society. This specific crime was ordered by Stalin who was, of course, Georgian and not Russian.

    The fact that Russia has been ambivalent about the Soviet past definitely doesn’t help, but Russia should not hold the blood debt for the crimes of the Soviet Union alone.

    • PKCasimir

      Oh and Russia didn’t historically oppress its minorities? Try reading a history book, you might just learn something.

      • Andrew Allison

        I suggest beginning with a history of slavery and racism in the US.

        • El Gringo

          You totally showed that straw man who’s the boss. I, personally, blame the Romans.

      • gabrielsyme

        If we are leaving the Soviet period out of this, one could just as easily and with greater force point to Tatar oppression of the Russians.

        Also, don’t be an ass.

    • B-Sabre

      I think the fact that current leader of Russia is clearly nostalgic for the days of the “Greater Soviet Union” completely justify it. You want to glory, you get the guilt as a freebie.

  • Andrew Allison

    The remarks of a single member of the Ukraine Parliament, which has no more legitimacy than that in Crimea, do not warrant, “As Crimea awaits a referendum to decide its future sovereignty, set for Sunday, some are warning that a Russian annexation could turn Crimea into another Chechnya.” The annexation of Crimea is fait accompli, and inciting ethnic violence won’t change that.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service