FAUZIA BAYRAMOVA: TATARSTAN’S IRON LADY
Fauzia Bayramova. Very few names in Tatarstan inspire so much love, admiration and adulation on the one hand and hatred, animosity, and even fear, on the other. Depending on who is asked, she is described as a radical, an extremist, a fanatic, an idealist, a nationalist, a firebrand, a savior, a saint... She is one of the most prominent politicians in Tatarstan and probably the most influential Tatar woman since the time of Suyumbeka (who ruled the Kazan Khanate in the middle of the 16th century).
Mrs. Bayramova is the founder and the leader of the Tatar Independence Party ("Ittifak"), which advocates the total and complete independence of Tatarstan, the rebirth of the Tatar state and the revival of its past glory.
Her uncompromising positions on many issues are in stark contrast to President Shaimiev’s style of politics based on consensus-building. Ethnic Russians in Tatarstan consider her their Nemesis. In short, Fauzia Bayramova is the most controversial politician in Tatarstan. Her political influence has much to do with her complex and unique personality which combines the iron will of Margaret Thatcher with the kindness and compassion of Mother Teresa.
Her biography gives few clues to understanding what brought her to political prominence. Bayramova Fauzia Auhadi Kyzy was born on December 5, 1950, in the village of Sabai in the Saba region of Tatarstan. After finishing high school, she continued her education in Kazan - at first, in the Theater School, then at Kazan University’s Department of Philology (1983-1989).
She began her professional career employed by the local TV station in Kazan. Later she worked in a publishing house. As a journalist and an editor she was a contributor to many newspapers and magazines.
In 1986, already an accomplished writer, she joined the prestigious Union of Soviet Writers. Her literary contributions include such works as "Bolyn" ("Meadow," 1986), "Sangat Donjasena Sajahat" ("The Journey to the World of Art," 1989), "Mon" ("Melody," 1991), "Maidan Tatarlarni Kota" ("The Ring Awaits Tatars," 1992), "Kara Urman" ("Black Forest," 1997), "Bezne Onytmagez" ("Don’t Forget Us," 1998) and "Daverlar Kucheshenda" ("At the End of an Era," 1998). Since 1994 she has been a member of the Presidium of Tatarstan’s Writers Union.
Mrs. Bayramova’s political career was launched in 1988, when she became involved in the establishment of the Tatar Public Center ("Tatar Ijtimagi Uzege," sometimes also translated as Tatar Civic Center), a public organization that advocated such goals as upgrading the status of Tatarstan from an "autonomous" republic to that of a "union" republic, promoting the Tatar language, etc. She was elected co-chairman of the TPC.
Two years later she became one of the co-founders of "Ittifak", the first non-Communist political party in Tatarstan. During the party’s first congress Bayramova was chosen as its chairwoman and has repeatedly been re-elected to the post, most recently during the party’s 4th congress in 1997. "Ittifak" has branches in more than 30 regions of Tatarstan. It publishes its own newspaper, "Altyn Urda" ("The Golden Horde"). The main goal of the party is achieving independence for Tatarstan and establishing a democratic political system in the republic.
In 1990-1995, Bayramova served as a deputy in Tatarstan’s parliament. During those years the parliament adopted many documents that laid the foundation for Tatarstan’s special status within the Russian Federation (which she prefers to call "the Russian Empire"). Bayramova took an active part in drafting such documents as The Declaration of Sovereignty of the Republic of Tatarstan (1990), The Results of the Referendum on Tatarstan’s Sovereignty (1991) and the Constitution of Tatarstan.
In 1991, Fauzia Bayramova staged a hunger strike in Kazan to protest the holding of Russian presidential elections on the territory of Tatarstan. The hunger strike lasted 14 days and galvanized a broader protest movement that resulted in victory: On May 27, 1991, the parliament of Tatarstan announced that Russian presidential elections would not be held on the territory of Tatarstan. This was the first major victory of the Tatar national movement.
The next year, Milli Mejlis, the unofficial parliament of the Tatar people, was established. In 1994-1997, Bayramova served as its chairwoman. Since the early 1990’s, she has been involved in promoting unity among the Turkic peoples of the world. In 1990, she participated in the first congress of the Turkic and Muslim peoples, held in Moscow. In 1991 Bayramova took part in the establishment of the "Turkic Peoples’ Assembly" in Kazan and became one of its leaders. Her involvement in this cause took her to many countries, where she made speeches and presentations on behalf of these organizations. She visited The Netherlands and Belgium (1990), Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (1991-1998), Germany (1990), the USA (1992), Denmark (1996), as well as Ukraine, Crimea, the Baltic States, Central Asia and many Russian regions.
Fauzia Bayramova is hoping to visit the US once again in the coming months. She is looking forward to the possibility of meeting with members of the Volga Tatar diaspora, with US politicians, academics and public figures.
At present, Bayramova is involved in making preparations for a Congress of the Peoples of Idel-Ural. She continues her involvement with Tatar, Turkic and Muslim causes.
Fauzia Bayramova lives in Yar-Chally (Naberezhniye Chelny). She has two children: Her daughter, Zulfia, is currently living in the US and working on her doctorate on the history of Islam. Her son, Suleiman, is studying at the Islamic University in Malaysia. This year Fauzia Bayramova made a trip to Saudi Arabia and performed the Hajj.
PHOTO: Fauzia Bayramova. Kazan, August 1997. Near hotel "Tatarstan". Night picket against Tatarstan government during Second World Tatar congress.