Earlier this weekend, Robert Coalson – if you’re not already following the RFE/RL correspondent on Twitter, please change that – sent a Tweet that caught a bit of attention:
As of this posting, the Tweet already has 127 reTweets and 33 favorites, while a second one has (so far) garnered 67 reTweets and 12 favorites. Other intellectuals have also announced their support for Dzhemilev’s candidacy via Twitter. Perhaps not quite enough to sway the committee - they've received a record 278 candidates this year - but enough to generate a bit of a campaign.
The selection is still a few days away, and Dzhemilev stands far from the household name he deserves, but there may be something to his campaign. After all, the Crimean Tatar leader – and owner of the title for Longest Hunger Strike in USSR History – earned Poland’s inaugural Solidarity Prize in June, summing 1 million euros for himself and attendant causes. As Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski noted, “For years, Mustafa Dzhemilev has been promoting democracy and civil rights and civil liberties in Ukraine, specifically among the Tatar community. Dzhemilev demonstrated his democratic views as early as Soviet times, spending 10 years in a Soviet Gulag as a dissident.”
The award came on the heels of further momentum. In April, according to Ukraine’s Den, a host of civil groups in the Russian republic of Tatarstan gathered to officially nominate Dzhemilev for the Nobel Peace Prize. As the paper noted:
“There is no doubt that Mustafa Dzhemilev is one of the most worthy candidates for this prestigious prize. Owing to Dzhemilev the Crimean Tatars have become an integrated part of Ukrainian society and are taking an active part in the state-political building of modern Ukraine,” reads the joint statement of Tatar organizations (Council of the Elders, Tatar Civic Center, and Mejlis of the Tatar people).
RFE/RL reported that the groups include the “Council of Tatarstan Elderlies, the Tatarstan National Assembly, Tatarstan's Anti-Nuclear Association, the Muslim Women's Association, and others.” Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk also picked up on this thread and tossed his weight behind nominating Dzhemilev. The current campaign also comes on the heels of a 2011, pre-occupation push to recognize Dzhemilev, backed by the International Association on Protection of Repressed People.
Dzhemilev, of course, didn’t grab the award in 2011. But now, between the continued Russian occupation and repression of the Tatar community; the blockage of Tatar intellectuals from departing for New York; the de facto hostaging of Dzhemilev's son by Russian authorities; and the exile of both Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, another leading Tatar figure, there seems an added atmosphere – an added, pertinent rationale – of support for Dzhemilev’s campaign. And with Council of Europe’s human rights chief saying that his “biggest concern” is the continued plight of the Crimean Tatar population, the timing couldn’t be better.