Sochi 2014 Olympic Games and Circassian Activism
First of all I would like to thank to the valuable members of the parliament and Federation of European Circassians for providing us the opportunity to express our ideas.
May 21st 1864 symbolizes the biggest tragedy in the Circassian history, the genocide and the exile. While Tsarist Russian armies were celebrating their victory in Kbaada, or with the new name Krasnaya Polyana, hundreds of thousands of people were massacred and as many as those were exiled from their homeland as a part of the plan which is aimed to clear Circassians permanently from Circassia. For Circassians May 21st is a critical point, and the start of the bloody process in order to end their existence.
142 years later, in 2006, proposition of Sochi, the capital of Circassia as the candidate for Winter Olympics, by ignoring all the massacres, genocide and exile, resulted in a huge reaction by Circassians. As Sochi being the candidate for Olympics, “OlympicGenocide” campaign which was started by Caucasus Forum was one of the most effective actions. Petition campaign was supported all over the the World by plenty of Diaspora Organizations and individuals. Collected signatures were send with a letter to International Olympics Committe. With in that letter opposition of Sochi olympics was declared and the reasons of the opposition were stated.
Even though IOC replied to the letter as they will investigate and take care of the subject, Sochi was selected as the city where the winter Olympics will be held. Circassian opposition raised with the process and the relations established with Olympic genocide campaign was evolved into a global initiative called NoSochi2014 which was expanded to USA, Europe, Middle East and Turkey. Activities in the means of increasing the worlds awareness about the truth of Sochi were speeded up. Works and events were announced on the web site NoSochi2014.com and It has effects over the public and media. The voices raising against Sochi Olympics from Caucasus are faced with threats and suppressions.
As the movement getting stronger in diaspora, several activities are organized in order to make the Circassian Genocide known in international arena over Olympic Games. Protest by American diaspora organizations, during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, Anti-Mascot Competition which was finalized in April 2012 and global May21 demonstrations are most important of these actions.
By all means Circassians are against the Olympic games due to the fact of genocide in the history and until now there is nothing done to heal the effects of the injustice. Diaspora’s opposition was promptly justified by Russia’s constructions in the region and the way she’s campaigning for the Olympic organization. Russia is running the Sochi games as a PR Project in order to cover up the historical and ongoing crimes, the destruction over humanity and nature. While destroying the natural life in an UNESCO World Heritage site, Russia is using the animals such as bear, panter and others which are special to the region, as the cute mascots of this PR Project, even though natural habitat of these animals are destroyed by the consructions of olympic site. Russia ignores Circassians, the native people of the region, who were send to non-existence 1.5 centuries ago. Sports games that symbolize the peace are trying to be orginized in Sochi, historical capital. This truth shows two things. Firstly, Russia did not get over the mafiatic style of governing the country. Secondly, IOC by giving that PR opportunity to Russia, declares that it became a political organization which doesn’t respect to any moral values
The first mass demonstration that was held in Istanbul in 2009 has been expanded to USA, Europe and middle-east in 2010 under an initiative named “May21″. Similarly in the mass demonstrations that were held in many different countries and cities in 2011 and last month this year have created a powerful reflection of Circassian identity struggle in academic world, in media and general public opinion. The protests started in 2009 with participation of a few hundred people now became a global movement that can call thousands of people to action on the streets in many cities of the world.
As the opposition to Sochi Olympic Games and Circassian genocide attract more attention, the opposition movement is more and more subjected to political pressure and manipulations. Since Russia has no ability to confront the opposition movement at a civil and democratic level, it attempts to marginilize and terorize the movement. Last month, Russian offical bodies claimed that large amount of explosives and weapons which terorists intended to attack the facilities in Sochi were captured in Abkhazia and neighbouring area. Furthermore, Russian foreign ministery released a press decleration just before the May 21st, asking Turkish government not to allow mass demonstrations that is organized to protest Circasian genocide infront of Russian consulate. With all these attempts, Russia is trying to connect the Circassian opposition with terror.
On the other hand, Circassian acvitism has been subjected to the threats aiming to pasify the most active ones. Our friend, Kuban Kural, member of Caucasus Forum, May21 and Nosochi2014 initiatives, was threathened with death by people with a slavic appearance after followed and harrased for a period started on April 22nd this year. The necesarry legal steps were taken after this incident. Also a press conference was held in Istanbul last week with the largest human rights organization in Turkey, Human Rigths Assoc. The representatives of several different NGOs joined the conference to show their support. Morover, a detailed file and statement about Kuban’s case was recently submitted to Amnesty International.
The most positive thing in this bad situation is that all organizations in the diaspora declared support for Kuban Kural and the strong message by the Circassian diaspora as a response to the attempts to surpress and silience the Circassian voice.
The more Circassian movement gets stronger, the more it will establish a free political will by establishing its international institutions. The Circassian diaspora that is out of Russian control and direct influence will play the most important role in this regard. Thus, Circassian struggle for recognition and recovery of the problems whose primary source is the Circassian Genocide will continue in a more effective way. Sochi, being presented as “Gate to the future” by Russia must not be prepared for a billion dollar RP project that an cover historical and ongoing crimes but it must be prepared to the future as the Circassian capital as it has been historically.
Özgür Aktekin (on behalf of Caucasus Forum)
18.06.2012, EP Brussels