20.9 The Movement of the Meskhetians for a Return to their Homeland

No 20 : 2 July 1971

On 4 May 1971 the leaders of the Soviet State were sent an appeal signed by O. Selimov, chairman of the Council of Elders of the Turkic Association for the Defence of National Rights. The Council of Elders of the Meskhetian people, who have been in exile for 27 years, quotes the resolution of the sixth People’s Assembly on 2 May 1970 and requests that the Meskhetian Turks should be granted national autonomy (see CCE 19.6). A copy of the letter was sent to UN Secretary-General U Thant.

On 9 May a delegation consisting of 61 people arrived in Moscow. It was headed by M. Niyazov, R. Seifatov and Mamedov, members of the ISCL (Interim Steering Committee for Liberation). On 11-12 May the delegation Attempted to obtain an audience with Podgorny. In the Reception Room of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet the delegates were told that Podgorny would not receive them and that there would be no changes in their situation. On 14 May the delegation was received by V. K. Kondratyev at the Reception Room of the CPSU Central Committee. On the same day, having lost hope of receiving a positive answer, the delegation decided to turn to the Turkish embassy, but they were stopped from entering by police. On 17 May the delegation was received at the Central Committee by Starchenko, who announced that the problem would not be re-examined and that a mass re-settlement of the Moslem Meskhetians was out of the question.

In a letter of 18 May to USSR leaders, the large delegation requests the Soviet government to solve the question of the return of an exiled people to their lands. The Meskhetians state that should this be refused they will apply to the Turkish government for permission to settle in Turkey. 46 people signed the letter on behalf of the delegation.

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In Moscow on 25 May Meskhetian representatives Niyazov, Seifatov and Mamedov, having made preliminary arrangements with the Turkish consul for a meeting, set off for the Turkish embassy. At the entrance to the embassy they were apprehended and taken to the police station. They were tried on the evening of the same day. Niyazov and Seifatov were sentenced to fifteen and twelve days’ imprisonment, respectively, and Mamedov to a fine of ten roubles. Prisoners Niyazov and Seifatov declared a hunger strike.