Islam’s two most important festivals, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, will become official state holidays in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on May 18, the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide.
“We want to build a state in which everyone feels like a citizen of Ukraine. I would like everyone to feel like a full-fledged citizen, not forgetting the history and traditions of one’s own people. We want to support you not only in words, but in actions, at the legislative level,” Zelensky told representatives of the Crimean Tatar people at a meeting where he announced the resolution.
Eid al-Ahda honors the willingness of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to the commandment of God. Eid al-Fitr takes place 70 days prior and marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.
Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, are predominantly Muslim. In the Crimean Tatar language, Eid al-Fitr is called “Oraza Bayrami” and Eid al-Adha is “Qurban Bayrami.”
On May 18-20, 1944, the Soviet regime of Josef Stalin rounded up and deported between 190,000 and 420,000 Crimean Tatars from their native Crimea to Central Asia, thousand of kilometers away. During the Perestroika era, as the Soviet Union grew more open, many Crimean Tatars began to return to their native land.
But after Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014, thousands of Crimean Tatars had to flee their homes again because of their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. They resettled on Ukraine’s mainland. Many other Crimean Tatars who stayed behind have faced persecution by Russia’s illegal government in Crimea.
Some 300,000 Crimean Tatars in Ukraine make up the largest part of the country’s Muslims, estimated between 600,000 and 2 million people. By some estimates, Islam is likely the second largest religion in Ukraine after Christianity.
During the same meeting, Zelensky also initiated the creation of a working group in the Office of the President to address the problems of the Crimean Tatar people. The group will include Crimean Tatars and will work on both legal and economic issues, Zelensky said.
Zelensky also approved the candidacy of Crimean Tatar politician Emine Dzheppar for the post of first deputy minister of foreign affairs. She previously served as first deputy minister of information policy in the government of Volodymyr Groysman in 2016-18 under former President Petro Poroshenko.
“Thank you for your statements published today, for the order of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We hope that the topic of Crimea, the topic of returning it to Ukraine and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine will never disappear from the agenda of the leadership of our state,” lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatar people, told Zelensky.
Besides Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, there are 11 official holidays in Ukraine: Western Christmas (Dec. 25), New Year (Jan. 1), Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7), International Women’s Day (March 8), Easter (non-fixed), Trinity Day (non-fixed), International Workers Day (May 1), Victory Day (May 9), Constitution Day (June 28), Independence Day (Aug. 24) and Defender’s Day (Oct. 14).
In 2017, Ukraine made Western (Catholic) Christmas a state holiday in addition to Orthodox Christmas. But Jewish religious holidays are not yet celebrated as state holidays.