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Tartar Journalist Covers Crimea For Audiences East And West

2013-2014 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow Ildar Gabidullin.

2013-2014 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow Ildar Gabidullin.

With the unfolding of events in Crimea, western media has struggled to explain the perspective and importance of Crimean Tatars, a sizeable minority whose roots in the Black Sea peninsula date back centuries.

In an opinion column written for Al-Jazeera, 2014 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow Ildar Gabidullin explained the “charm offensive” waged by the Kremlin on Crimean Tatars in advance of the March 16 referendum on Russian annexation, as well as the courting of Crimean Tatars by officials from the related, but ethnically distinct, Volga Tatars in Tatarstan.

“As the referendum draws ever nearer, apprehensions over the future of the region's Crimean Tatar community have grown,” wrote Gabidullin. “Most Western media coverage on the community has assumed little knowledge of and much sympathy for the Crimean Tatars and their cause.”

Originally from Tatarstan himself, Gabidullin previously worked as a news reporter for a Tartar-language television channel in the region’s capital, Kazan. Between 2011 and 2012 he lived in Turkey, where he wrote for several Tartar media outlets on issues relating to politics, culture and minority rights. He has also reported from Syria, Egypt and Iran. He began his career in journalism in 2009, covering politics and economics for Kazan’s “Shahri” newspaper.

Gabidullin has been embedded with RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service since his Fellowship began last Fall.

Early on, “A Story of Hard Work, Spiritual Struggle and True Love,” an original human interest video he produced, won a “Best of RFE/RL” award for excellence in the competition’s Video/Multimedia category. The video tells the story of Fannur Khamitov, a welder by profession, whose limbs were amputated as a result of a workplace accident in Siberia two decades ago. Helped by his lifetime partner, Madina, Khamitov says he takes inspiration from his children and celebrates “life as it is.” The video portrait is a heart-warming story of perseverance and triumph over adversity.

WATCH: An expert from "A Story of Hard Work, Spiritual Struggle and True Love”

So far, Gabidullin is happy with his experience at RFE/RL and believes he has acquired a wide range of skills that will advance his journalism career.

“For the first two or three weeks I was put through training that I found very useful,” he said. “They were interactive and multimedia training sessions, as well as video and photo journalism training.”

The Fellowship has also presented Gabidullin with ample opportunities to put his new skills into practice.

“Working for the Tatar-Bashkir Service is very interesting right now,” he said. He and his colleagues are covering events in Crimea and Ukraine for audiences that are otherwise dependent on official Russian media. In addition, they are investigating high-profile local stories, including “a drug scandal inside the police department of Tatarstan and police torture.”

Although Gabidullin is uncertain about where his Fellowship will take him next, he is certain of one thing.

“I know that I’ll work in journalism.”

-- Anna Shamanska /Zydrone Krasauskiene