Crimean Tatar leader wins Poland’s first Solidarity Award
Poland on Wednesday awarded the pro-Kiev leader of Crimea's Tatar community a prize for championing democracy and human rights, a choice likely to irk the Kremlin.
Mustafa Dzhemilev was given the inaugural Solidarity Award for fighting “for democracy and the respect of rights and civil liberties in Ukraine, especially with regard to the Tatar community,” Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters.
The 70-year-old Ukrainian lawmaker and Soviet-era dissident has dedicated his life to defending the rights of his people and commands huge respect among the Tatars.
He has also been front and centre in the Ukrainian crisis, telling a session of the UN Security Council in March that his people feared for their lives after Crimea voted to split from Ukraine and become part of Russia.
Last week Crimean authorities banned him from flying to the peninsula, accusing him of seeking to destabilise the situation there.
Crimea’s 300,000 Tatars, who make up around 12 percent of the peninsula’s population, largely boycotted the disputed referendum in which the majority voted to join Russia.
“The fact that Mustafa Dzhemilev can’t enter Crimea — as a Ukrainian lawmaker can’t enter part of his country’s territory — is a dramatic situation for him and for all of Ukraine,” Sikorski said after calling the Tatar leader to share the good news.
“And so our conversation was not merely formal but had emotional overtones.”
US President Barack Obama will be among a host of world leaders attending the June 3 award ceremonies in Warsaw.
Poland set up the annual Solidarity Award worth a million euros ($1.38 million) to mark the 25th anniversary of its first semi-free elections, which heralded the demise of communism.
“The Solidarity Award should serve as a reminder that it was here that it all began. That the Solidarity (trade union) began to tear down the walls that finally fell,” Sikorski said.