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Ukraine's Eurovision pick highlights Russian oppression

A Crimean Tatar singer has been chosen to represent Ukraine with a song about Russia's deadly deportation of the group. Jamala may face challenges if the song "1944" breaks Eurovision's rules on political content.

Ukraine late Sunday picked Susana Jamaladinova, a well-known jazz singer who belongs to the Tatar minority of Crimea, to represent the country with a politically provocative song at Europe's famous televised music competition held in Stockholm this year.

The singer, who goes by the stage name Jamala, will represent the former Soviet nation with her harrowing song "1944," which refers to the year that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin deported some 240,000 Tatars to Central Asia.

"I needed that song to free myself, to release the memory of my great-grandmother, the memory of that girl who has no grave, the memory of Crimean Tatars," Jamala told AFP news agency before the vote.

The song opens with the lyrics: "When strangers are coming, they come to your house; they kill you all and say 'We're not guilty.'"

While the song does not name Russia's annexation of Crimea, Jamala said the song is "necessary now" to highlight the plight of the Tatar community.

"It was hard for me to recall all these memories again and again, but I understand that it is necessary now. Because now the Crimean Tatars are desperate, and they need support," Jamala added.

Russia has increased its oppression of the predominantly Muslim ethnic group since the annexation of the peninsula in 2014, according to Crimean Tatars leaders and the UN.

"There is no mention there about occupation or other outrages that the occupants are doing in our motherland; nevertheless, it touches on the issue of indigenous people who have undergone horrible iniquities," said former Soviet dissident and leader of Crimea's Tatars, Mustafa Jamilev.

Jamala's song may face challenges at the Eurovision contest, which prohibits songs that contain political content.

In 2005, Ukraine's pick - a rap group by the name of Green Jolly - was told to rework the lyrics of its song "Razom Nas Bahato," an unofficial anthem of the 2004 Orange Revolution.

ls/jil (AP, AFP)

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