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Systematic uneducation in Western Thrace01 November 2018

Western Thrace which belongs to the Northeastern of Greece, is a place where both Turks and Greeks live. Within the Treaty of Lausanne, the Muslim Turks in Greece and non-Muslim Greeks in Turkey were forced according to the population exchange. However, the Greek minority in Istanbul and the Turkish Minority in Western Thrace were not included in the exchange. Today, there are approximately 150.000 Muslim-Turks living in Greece. At least, another 150.000 Turks from Western Thrace had to migrate to many countries such as Turkey, Netherlands, and Germany, because of political and economic issues.

İlyas Molla | Guest Writer  Translated by Salih Canbaz  

The Turkish minority of Western Thrace, whose rights are protected by the Treaty of Lausanne, has faced different violations of rights since 1923 due to Greece's failure to comply with the agreement. This attitude of Greece is nothing but an attempt to assimilate Western Thrace Turks. The biggest pillar of the assimilation policy, as can be predicted, is attempted on minority education.

Greece has tried different methods for minority education and applied policies that may be the subject of a thesis in universities. In the middle of the 20th century, Greece was annoyed from the teachers graduated from Turkey, therefore Special Pedagogical Academi of Thessaloniki (EPATH) was established in 1968 that aimed to bring up teachers for minority schools, concluded with the annoyance of the public which continued for years. The qualified teachers graduated from Turkey were replaced with teachers graduated from EPATH. The teachers who went out of the regional policy were also fired and in a manner of speaking the best was done for the minority in order not to receive an education.

During the two-year education, the teachers graduated from EPATH do not learn even single Turkish word and ironically are employed to minority schools for a Turkish education. This application with no any logical explanation lasted until 2011, however, there was an alternative established since 2011 in place of the EPATH. This is an indication that the Turkish minority will face much greater problems in education in the coming years.

Another problem in minority education is the case of books used in Greek education. Almost 20 years ago, books published within Anna Frangudaki’s “Supporting the Muslim Children Program”, were not updated at all. Continuing the education with outdated books caused a reaction of the parents, and protests were held in more than 30 schools. Western Thracian parents demanded the education to be applied with the books that are taught in Greek schools. After the longlasting efforts and debates the demand of the parents was taken into account. The Muslim-Turkish Minority in Western Thrace should insist on every right topic and demand their rights.

The disfunctionalisation and reduction the quality of minority schools is a part of the “policy of uneducation” applied to the minority. With this attitude, Greece also makes it difficult for the members of minorities to learn Greek, play an active role in the politics of the minority, starting from primary school, and makes every effort in order not to educate minority children.

The minority schools, which have been closed in recent years with an excuse of a lack of pupils, unqualified teachers and insisting on books with insufficient content clearly show what Greece's main aim is in minority education.

Greece is also malicious in religious education. With the law known as “240 Imams Law” people are employed as religious teachers who do not have a pedagogical qualification and are expected to teach Islam in Greek while they cannot teach it even in Turkish.

Greece's practices that violate minority rights are increasing day by day. What new problems are waiting for Western Thrace Turks who are struggling for existence and identity is a different concern.

While all these are happening, the attitude of the European Union towards these rights violations in a member country is also noteworthy. It is still a matter of debate as to the extent to which European values have been applied when Greece is concerned.

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