FEDERATION of EUROPEAN CIRCASSIANS : The 4th consecutive Circassian Day at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, organized by the Federation of European Circassians and Ms Ska Keller, MeP, took place on Monday 5th October, 2009. Many scholars, academics and participants from all over the world joined this event.
The conference started with welcoming speeches by Mr Admiral Dasdemir, president of the federation, in Adygean and by Ms Ska Keller, who stated she and her party the Greens will continue to support the Circassians at their endeveours in Europe.
The conference, titled "Circassian homeland and diaspora" was divided into two parts. The first part dealt with the Circassians in the diaspora. The second one with those in their homeland in Northern Caucasus.
Dr Mitat Celikpala from the TOBB university in Ankara, Turkey, presented the Circassian history and present activities in Turkey - with a population of estimated 7-8 million of Circassian origin. He stated that even though the Circassian diaspora is one of the largest in the world, this matter is not well recognized by the public compared to the other two big diaspora populations of Israeli and Armenians. During his speech Dr Celikpala pointed out that the Circassians who were expelled from the Caucasus by Russians starting in 1864 contributed at a tremendous extent to the ottoman and later to the turkish military defense activities. However, they were surpressed later on at emancipating their cultural identity.
During the "Gastarbeiter" movement from Turkey to Europe - especially to Germany in the late 50s, 60s and 70s of the last century many Circassians also moved to Europe, where the desendents are now organized in many cultural associations. Starting with tight contacts to the Caucasus, returns of Circassians to their homeland began in the late 70s. Nowadays the Circassain diaspora, especially in Turkey, obtained a significant political power, which came to daylight during last years' wars in the Caucasus between Georgia and Abkhazia and Russia and Chechnya. Dr Celikpala completed his presentation by stating that the European diaspora gained importance due to Turkey's ambitions to join the EU. This may lead to a higher influence of the diaspora on Turkey's foreign policy concerning Caucasus and the EU.
Prof Dr Sevda Alankus from the Izmir university in Turkey presented the history and the situation of 170.000 Circassians in the Middle East (Jordan, Israel, Syria and Egypt). She claimed that many of the Circassians were employed in the military where they reached the highest positions. She pointed out that in Jordan, where the majority of the 170.000 lives, they are free to express their identity and their culture. Actually, the only Circassian school and newspaper in the diaspora is in Jordan, she said. In her summry Prof Alankus pointed out, that newest polls in the regoin show that the cultural identity is facing erosion due to increasing modernization of the society.
The third and last presenter of the first part of the conference was Mr Zeynel Besleney from the Londoan SOARS school, who focused on the European diaspora. He said that the first Circassian association in Europe was founded in Munich in 1968. He estimated about 50.000 Circassians living in Europe. The biggest danger for the increasing loss of their identity, he said, is the the situation of being trapped between three different cultures. Obviously the local culture is on the way to be the winner over the Turkish and Circassian one, he finally summarized.
Before the second part of the conference started, there was a presentation on a special topic.
Mr Tobias Knoll , heading the Munich based association of preserving the heritage of Kabardinian horses, gave a speech about their activities in Germany and their relations with the Caucasus. He said, that even though there are about 5.000 Kabardinian horses in Europe, no one of them is owned by a Circassian. He encouraged the Circassians in the audience to pay more attention on this horse race, which is one of the best in the world in terms of endurance.
The second part of the conference titled Circassians in the homeland was opened by Mr Valery Khatazhukov, head of the human rights organization in Kabardino-Balkaria. He claimed that many Circassians in the diaspora have already or are on the way to lose their languages. And this loss leads straight to the loss of the Circassan identity, he said. This language issue needs to be prioritized and solved at first in order to preserve the culture. Mr Khatazhukov pointed out, that 90% of those who want to move back to Caucasia were rejected by the Russian authorities. Moreover, politicians such as Shirinovski, head of the Russian Duma, official give statements that in order to solve the Caucasus issue all remaining Circassians in the Caucasus should be expelled to Iran and Abkhazia. This obvious fascism is not been seen by the EU at all, he stated. He pointed out three major demands of the Circassians in the homeland:
- Recognition of Adygean language as official language in the region
- Stop of assaults and kidnapping
- withdrawal of the law, that knowledge of Russian is mandatory in order to settle down in the Caucasus
In order to make these demands also heard by European politicians, this kind of Circassain
events are vital he finally stated.
Mr Ruslan Achumiz, who is together with the NART organization professionally working on
small ethnic groups , was the following speaker. He said that there are severe activities currently going on in the Caucasus to humiliate the Circassians and Adygeans in the region by declaring them as "barbarian" people. There is a film planned, he claimed, in which Adygeans
will be shown as the responsible ones for the problems taking place in the Caucasus. He
completed his speech with the hope that with this kind of public events, the Circassians may rise their voices and counteract to the activities mentioned before.
Prof. Erol Taymaz from the Middle-East university in Ankara, Turkey, was the last presenter of the conference. He focused on the Abkhazian issue, which was recently a huge point of interest in Europe. He explained the conflicts which led to the war in August 2008. He quoted the Georgian president Shaakashvili, who said that he is ready to sacrifice 100.000 Georgians in order to kill 100.000 Abkhazians. Prof Taymaz stressed that by destroying the Abkhazian libraries the Georgian president aimed the extinction of the complete Abkhazian cultural heritage at once. As a result more than 1000 libraries with more than 1,2 million books were burned down by Georgian troops last year. He completed his speech by reminding that just recently EU's inspection committee declared Georgia as the aggressor initiating last year's August war in the Caucasus.
At the end of the conference many European people, especially from Italy and Greece pointed out their support for the Abkhazian people and their republic. They congratulated them for the 16th anniversary of the Republic of Abkhazia.
The conference was closed after a farewell speech of Mr Dasdemir.
Federation of European Circassians