ABTTF takes the education problems of Western Thrace Turks to the UN

Western Thrace
Mon, 25 Sep 2023 9:50 GMT
ABTTF takes the education problems of Western Thrace Turks to the UN

The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) submitted a written statement entitled "Access to pre-school education in mother tongue for children belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace in Greece and the rapid decline in the number of primary schools" to the 54th ordinary session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

In its written statement, ABTTF underlined that according to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the Turkish community in Western Thrace in Greece has the autonomy of education and noted that the autonomous structure in education has been damaged to a great extent with various laws, regulations and practices over the years and has been taken under the control of the state with fait accompli legal practices.

ABTTF noted that the number of primary schools belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace is decreasing rapidly and with the ministerial decision issued in 2010, schools with less than nine students started to be closed down and Turkish primary schools were subjected to the same practice despite their autonomous status in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne.

Pointing out that this practice has become a means of systematic discrimination against the Turkish community in Western Thrace, ABTTF emphasised that in 2008 there were 194 Turkish minority primary schools in Western Thrace and this number decreased to 188 in 2011 due to closures, 170 in 2014, 164 in 2015, 133 in 2016, 130 in 2017, 128 in 2018, 123 in 2019, 115 in 2020, 103 in 2021, 99 in 2022 and 90 in the 2023-2024 academic year.

Stating that the government rejected the applications for the establishment of bilingual minority kindergartens in Western Thrace where Turkish children can also receive education in their mother tongue, Turkish, ABTTF noted that the fact that the language of instruction in kindergartens for children whose mother tongue is Turkish is only Greek is problematic and negatively affects their start to their educational life.

ABTTF stated that Greece insists on ignoring the need to establish bilingual minority kindergartens and continues to close down Turkish primary schools on the grounds of lack of students. On the other hand, ABTTF stated that for the Greek Orthodox minority in Türkiye, whose status and rights are determined by the Treaty of Lausanne, the primary school in Gökçeada, which was opened in 2013 with only 4 children and which also includes a kindergarten, today has 21 children, while 35 students are studying in the secondary and high school opened in 2015.

ABTTF also reminded the UN treaties to which Greece is a party and called on Greece to restore the educational autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace guaranteed by the Treaty of Lausanne, to allow the establishment of Turkish kindergartens within the Turkish minority school system and to be entirely private, and to stop closing down Turkish primary schools with autonomous status by unilateral decisions on the grounds of low student numbers.

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