The Crimean Tatars are seeking autonomy within Russia in light of massive documented human rights violations since Russia annexed Crimea.
The 300,000-strong Muslim minority make up less than 15 percent of Crimea's population of 2 million and has so far been overwhelmingly opposed to Russia's annexation of the peninsula.
Crimean Tatars' assembly leader Refat Chubarov told more than 200 delegates: "In the life of every nation there comes a time when it must make decisions that will determine its future."
"I ask you to approve ... the start of political and legal procedures aimed at creating ethnic and territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatars of their historic territory of Crimea."
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization has taken their cause and has documented the following human rights violations:
--Homes being marked with crosses on their doors. This was also done prior to Stalin's mass deportations during World War II;
--Local authorities carrying out passport controls;
--Families keeping their children home from schools for fear of persecution;
--Women and children fleeing the area for either Turkey or Ukraine for fear of persecution;
--Three critical organizers kidnapped, threatened, and forced to leave the region;
--Journalist Ibrahima Umerova and a cameraman from the Crimean Tatar – run television channel ATR being taken hostage by unknown armed men in Simferopol on 18 March 2014;
--A Crimean man, Reshat Ametov, was kidnapped, tortured, and killed; his body was found two weeks later;
--Crimean Tatars were turned away at the polls when they tried to vote in the secession referendum;
--Crimean civil servants threatened with the loss of their jobs if they did not take part in the referendum.
The independence of Kosovo from Serbia following the NATO bombing campaign several years earlier to stop Serbia's military offensive in that area was recognized by most of the international community. However, the Russian government used that as leverage to wrest Crimea from Ukraine in the name of self-determination. But now that these are precedents, it is only fair that the Russian government respects the right of the Crimean Tatars to self-determination and the right to carry out their own domestic affairs. So far, we know of no acts of terrorism committed by these people. This was a move that was done by legal means through the framework of international law.
Putin can't have it both ways. He can't demand the right of ethnic Russians to have self-determination and then ignore the right of other people to that same self-determination that he insists for the people he is trying to protect. He can choose to ignore the Crimean Tatars. But then it will only be a matter of time before there is unrest and guerrilla warfare within the very area which he is trying to create as a showcase for his country.
We created this precedent in 1776 when we declared the right of peoples to revolt against tyrannical governments. If the ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine want to become part of Putin's Russia because of rampant rightwing violence by Ukrainian nationalists sometime down the road, fine. Let them. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander as well.
The alternative, as we see in countless other conflicts around the world, is perpetual warfare. Russia may still be a nuclear power, but there are limits even for that. The USSR bled itself to death trying in vain to prop up a friendly government in Afghanistan. There is a reason it is called the "graveyard of empires." If Russia chooses to bleed itself in a long war of attrition rather than respect basic human rights and follow the very standards that it sets for the rest of the world, then it will not be a matter of if, but when its present government will totter and fall into third world status or even get deposed as a result of a precipitous drop in living standards caused by billions of dollars worth of capital flight ($70 billion this year alone). And Saudi Arabia can always decide to turn on the oil spigots and flood the world with cheap oil, bankrupting the Russian oligarchs.