March 8 the world celebrates International Women's Day. Historically it appeared as a day of women's solidarity in the struggle for emancipation, but in connection with decommunization in Ukraine this date began to be more associated with the remnants of the USSR and now only a few remember that only in the last century women began to seek the observance of equal rights with men. Despite the statements of some politicians and personalities that today equality has become a reality, the struggle has not stopped even to this day. Millions of people in the world face prejudiced treatment because of their gender. The movement for women's rights has become especially topical in recent years, when thanks to the media materials about the problems of sexual harassment and sexism, more people are becoming aware of the real state of affairs.

Journalist of QHA spoke with the Ukrainian historian Andrii Ivanets, who told about the features of the movement for women's rights on the Crimean peninsula in the early XX century and how feminism was perceived in the Crimea a hundred years ago.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the situation of Muslim women in the Crimea was complicated. They lived in a patriarchal community, largely based on prejudices and outdated attitudes, and most of them were forced to follow a self-contained lifestyle. They were mostly in the family circle, engaged in domestic cares and had almost no opportunity to communicate with strangers, receive higher education and engage in politics. But despite this, the Crimea in those years became one of the centers of the feminist movement in the Russian Empire.

“It were the Crimean Tatar activists who paid attention to the emancipation of a woman. This tradition was established by Ismail Gasprinsky, who constantly wrote in his newspaper Terjiman about the education for women, the granting of equal rights that were enshrined in Islam, but their historical interpretations were not entirely correct,” the historian notes.

In 1905, Ismail Gasprinsky managed to found the first female magazine in the Muslim world called "Women's World", his daughter and prominent figure in the movement for the emancipation Shefika Gasprinska became its Editor-in-chief.

“The magazine was distributed not only in the Crimea, but also in other Muslim regions of the Russian Empire, and, possibly, in other countries. Historians suggest that the magazine had its own audience - not very numerous - among the intellectual elite, who got to know the problems of women and the ideas of feminism through the publication," Ivanets said.

The movement for women's rights in the Crimea began to actively come forward when the Crimean Tatars began to transform from an ethnic group into a modern national one. Women became an integral part of these changes.

“In April 1917 in Bakhchysarai  the first female Muslim committee was created. It was headed by the daughter of Ismail Gasprinsky, Shefika Gasprinska. Similar committees are beginning to form in other cities of the Crimea. A special role in these processes was played by the committee established in late April in Simferopol, which coordinated the activities of women's Muslim structures in different regions of the Crimea,” the historian emphasizes.

Until August 1917, the process of organization of the women's movement continued in the Crimea and during this time the Crimean women took part in all-Russian congresses of Muslims on a par with men. The same August of 1917 a Crimean regional women's committee was established in the Crimea headed by Ilkhamiye Tokhtar and the daughter of Gasprinsky was her deputy.

“The Temporary Crimean Muslim Executive Committee, which prior to the convocation of Qurultay led the bodies of national self-government on the peninsula, also devoted very serious attention to the women's issue. The first democratically elected Mufti Noman Çelebicihan personally contributed to the development of the women's movement on the peninsula and the granting of equal rights in all spheres of life, including religious," Ivanets said.

One of the decisions that historians attribute to the Crimean Muslim Executive Committee, headed by Çelebicihan, was the removal of the veil from Muslim women in the Crimea. It should be noted that wearing the latter on the peninsula was not widespread everywhere.

One of the most difficult problems in the Crimea early XX century was the education of the Crimean Tatars, as due to the policy of imperial Russia, national minorities often remained poorly educated.

“In the spring of 1917, the training began for Crimean Tatar teachers  in the Crimea. It is interesting that trainings were jointly conducted for both men and women. At that time, this was another step towards equalizing rights between men and women and was perceived as innovative. As a matter of fact, it was so,” Ivanets notes.

In those years, Muslim women had to defend the right to a full education, because in religious schools women were usually taught only to read the Koran, and only men were allowed to the writing lessons.

Activists and leaders of the women's movement in the Crimea Zeyneb Amirkhan, Ilkhamiye Tokhtarova and Shefika Gasprinska.

The Mufti and the Muslim Executive Committee in the Crimea also dealt with granting women equal rights with men in religious rites. Thus, during Ramadan in 1917, women were granted the right to visit namazes with men.

The feminist movement in the Crimea was perceived ambiguously: On the one hand, national structures supported women financially and even provided premises and financial assistance to the Crimean Regional Women's Muslim Committee in 1917, on the other hand, part of the traditional Muslim society did not understand how it was possible to grant  women "not their inherent rights”.

“This was one of the issues used by the opponents of the national self-government bodies in the Crimea. Conservatives and reactionaries using the women's issue sought to undermine the authority of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar movement. However, Muslim activists did not stand aside from this struggle. In September 1917 in Bakhchysarai a congress of ulems - scholars of Muslims - was held which united conservatives. It was held without the permission of the Mufti, and therefore the youth organizations of the Crimean Tatars did not allow it to be held. Most likely, the Muslim women were there as well," the historian says.

Despite the fact that the women's movement in the Crimea faced difficulties, the changes that took place at the beginning of the 20th century became the driving force for the beginning of granting women civil rights and freedoms, which today we take it for granted