Travel Notes

03.09.2014, Wednesday

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Faruk Çakır, Eid of Sacrifice 2010

The Crimea is a peninsula located north of the Black Sea (that is, opposite the city of Sinop) and south of the Sea of Azov. The Crimea is not a separate state; it is an 'autonomous republic' within the Ukraine. According to Crimeans, this status is just on paper. According to them, with every issue they have, whatever the Ukraine (actually Russia) says happens. Of course the imbalance of the population structure plays a role in this. According to the official numbers, there are 250,000 Crimean Tatar Muslims; according to Crimeans there are 350,000 Crimean Tatar Muslims who live in the Crimea. There is no need to say that in comparison to the 48 million strong Ukraine and around 2.5 million Crimean regional population, this figure is very low.

Crimea, homeland

The Crimea is homeland to Tatars but most of them were sent to exile from this land. After the dissolution of the Soviet Russia, though, they slowly started to cometo their homeland.

There are mosques mainly in Bakhchisaray and Simferopol and in other cities as well where Muslims can perform the requirements of their belief.

Mosque by Sinan the Architec

We prayed the Eid prayer in the mosque that Sinan the Architect built, 'Juma Jami Mosque' in the city of Yevpatoria (Tatar: Kezlev). A young imam preached in Turkish. The importance of the Eid of Sacrifice in Islam and the necessity of sacrificing for the rich Muslims who can afford were explained in a way that could be understood by everyone and in Turkish, very close to Turkey's Turkish.

After the Eid prayer and sermon, everyone celebrated with each other in the mosque. We witnessed a tradition that we are not familiar with in Turkey. While the young kissed the hands of the old, the old first put their hands to their hearts, and then to their lips and then to their foreheads. According to the information given by our guides, that is a sign of love and affection.

The old never stop to pray

Another thing that drew our attention was that the elders spoke Turkish better than the young. When we said that we were from Turkey  to the elders with whom we spoke in the mosque or in its garden, they prayed for all Muslims and particularly everyone living in Turkey. They also prayed that 'Turkey shouldn't forget us'.

The animals were sacrificed with prayers

The IHH, who delivered the donation of the charitable people in Turkey to the Muslims in the Crimea, sacrificed the animals on the first day of the Eid in the village of Novoselskoye, in the city of Rozdolne at 'Nusret Aga' facilities.

Animals, that were sacrificed with tekbir (saying “Allahuakbar”) and prayers, were submitted to those who came from the Crimea and Ukraine. For instance, meat from the sacrifice reached Kiev, which is 900 km away. Those who picked up the meat of the sacrifice delivered them to the needy in their villages and districts.

Everyone talks about the exile

Those who live in the Crimea, and who witnessed the 'exile' in 1944, talk about the hardship that they went through in those days. Şefika Nanny is one of those who experienced the 1944 exile. She was sent to exile together with her family when she was 6 years old. She said: “our food was on the stove, they even did not let us have our meal. They put us on trains and they exiled us to Uzbekistan.”

Half of the Crimeans were put on board boats and then were sunk in the middle of the sea. The other half of them died of hunger and thirst in train wagons. Şefika Nanny also commented that the trains of those days were not comparable to todays' trains and said “we were stuffed into animal wagons!” Şefika Nanny returned to the Crimea in 1991 with her family.

Everyone should bring a “brick/stone”!

There are tiny mosques in Simferopol and they do not meet the demand of prayers, particularly Friday and Eid prayers. Crimeans Muslims wanted to buy land to build a mosque to solve this problem. The government wanted to prevent this. Muslim Tatars got together and marched against this and they started a campaign to build this mosque. They called out saying “everyone should bring a 'brick/stone'” in their campaign! And, as a result, thousands of bricks/stones were gathered. The stones and bricks that were compiled like a wall will be used in the construction of the mosque that is planned to be built soon. The courage and determination of the Crimean Tatars can force Ukraine and Russia to take a step back in every topic.

TIKA is working

The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) was formed as an organisation linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on a Cabinet decision on January 24, 1992 and it was linked to the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry on May 28, 1999. TIKA operates in 22 countries and regions including the Crimea. In 2006, the foundations were laid of three schools of which TIKA Presidency completed their repair and renovation under the “Crimean Autonomous Republic Education Infrastructure Support Project” and the foundation of “Zincirli Madrasa and Hacı Giray Han Tomb Restoration Project”, which is aimed to be added to UNESCO World Heritage List during our visit, we had the opportunity to see Zincirli Madrasa and Hacı Giray Han Tomb. The restoration works had been mostly completed but there was still some ongoing work. On the board hung at the entrance of the tomb, information about the work was given.

If you claim it, it becomes yours

We visited the house of brothers Recep and Enver Recepoğlu who reside in the village of Izabelna in the city of Agusta. Recep Recepoğlu has visited Turkey in the past. He has 2.5 acres of land and takes care of a flock of 200 sheep. However, most of the sheep belong to others. He is trusted with their care and he makes a living as a shepherd.

The dedication, effort and determination of Mr. Recep is worth seeing. In a way, he makes his bread out of stone. When we went to his house, his mother, who witnessed the 1944 exile, was there too. Those who witnessed the exile have a lot to tell. The witnesses of the exile are still alive but the number of them decreases every day.

Mr. Recep took us to the top of the village. The fields are full of lavender and rose bushes. He  says insistently that 'businessmen who know how to make lavender oil should come here. We should refine lavender oil here'. IHH Member of the Board Veysel Başar took a pinch of lavender and he promised to talk to 'businessmen who know how to do this'.

Then we asked “who owns these lands?”. Mr Recep said blushingly: “whose can they be? They are yours, or mine. Whomever claims it, it becomes his/hers. These lands, the Crimea is our mainland. They took it away from us. Now is the time to claim it.” Apparently, in Soviet Russia times, the lands here were sown but after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, no one took care of the lands. In a way, it is the want of care that leaves the land bare.

Recep Recepoğlu says that he has not sent his two little sons to school. He says “they have nothing to do with Darwin's school. What will they teach to my kids? I will educate them. If necessary I'll send them abroad.” He is very faithful, determined and brave.

Mr. Recep showed us land that was a mosque before in the city of Agusta but was demolished in Russian times. He says that he and others ask patriotic Muslims to build a mosque there. IHH Member of the Board Veysel Başar took the related documents and he promised to tell this to relevant people.