: Protest highlights Russian authorities drive to ‘silence' Crimean Tatars
Society21:58 Mar. 18, 2016

Protest highlights Russian authorities drive to ‘silence' Crimean Tatars

Majority of Crimean Tatars face discrimination as they continue to oppose Russian occupation

A silent protest in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Dozens of activists have gathered in the city center holding paper cutouts to represent Crimean residents who've been silenced since Russia's annexation of the peninsula.

Crimea SOS Group Activist, Yevgeniya Andreyuk"During the time of occupation, we know that people went missing and, unfortunately, not one was found alive - which is at minimum from 12 to 20 people, there are no exact numbers. And this event is devoted, first of all, to all of those people. The people we are holding in our hands are those people who wanted to be present at this event and were not able to because, for example, they remain in Crimea and cannot leave it and join us today."

Watch also Waking up world to Russian persecution of Crimean Tatars

Russia's occupation of Crimea is entering its third year. Human rights groups say Crimean Tatars face discrimination and hardship as they continue to be outspoken against Moscow's illegal annexation.

The majority of Tatars opposed the Russian takeover, and boycotted the referendum on joining Russia in March 2014. Since the annexation, rights organizations say at least 400,000 people have fled the region.

Activist, Rustem Halilov: "In general, this event is to support those who are still in Crimea and think they are alone, they forget that their neighbour may be a silent protester, they forget that there are many people like them near to them."

The Turkic-speaking indigenous Muslim minority make up about 12 percent of Crimea's two million population.

Read also Russian-occupied Crimea is one of the worst places for living - research

After the Second World War, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin deported tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars to central Asia. Decades after Stalin's death, in the 1980s they began returning to their homeland.

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