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The main issue about the Western Thrace Turkish Minority28 August 2018

The Turkish Minority in Greece (or The Turkish Minority of Western Thrace) refers to the Turks who live in Northern Greece and are formally in a Minority status due to the Treaty of Lausanne.

Western Thrace Turkish Minority cannot enjoy the basic human and minority rights that are envisaged by the Greek constitution, International and bilateral standards. According to the Lausanne Peace Treaty signed in 1923 the status of the Minority is autonomous. The Greek authorities put in force many laws to undermine the autonomous educational, religious, and cultural status of the Minority on the grounds that the minority identify themselves as Turks which is one of the basic human rights.

The Turks of Western Thrace have a large history that dates back to approximately a millennium ago, the early 9th century A.D. during the migration of the Turks from Middle Asia to Europe. Today a group who are living in the northern part of the Western Thrace and named as ‘Pomaks’ are believed to be the descendants of the Huns, Avars, Cuman-Kipchak, and Pecheneks who were spread to the Balkans during the migration mentioned before.

Secondly, according to the settlement policy of the Ottoman State, Turks migrated from the Anatolia to the Balkans after the conquest of the Balkans in order to increase the Turkish population in the territory. These Turks are commonly known as ‘Evlad-ı Fatihan (Sons of the Conquest)’  widely in Balkans.

After all these explanations The Turks of Western Thrace should be considered as the descendants of the Ottoman Turks. However, the minority is facing some problems when introducing their identities. On the one hand, the minority identify themselves as Turks, on the other hand, the Greek State claims that they cannot be ethnically identified, but only religiously identified as they are a religious minority according to the Treaty of Lausanne.

It should be accepted that the minority is religious according to the Treaty but we should not miss the point that being a religious minority does not prohibit one to identify itself ethnically, linguistically or nationally as it is allowed in the Treaty. Furthermore, the minorities in Turkey are also a religious minority who are known as ‘non-muslims’ and there is no problem in identifying themselves ethnically, linguistically or nationally. So it can be easily understood that in that context being a religious minority means being culturally integrated.

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