Greece cannot accept the "Turkish" presence in Western Thrace

Western Thrace
Mon, 25 Jul 2022 9:41 GMT
Ayşe Şimşek from TRT Haber prepared a news report on the identity struggle of the Turks of Western Thrace and the recent developments. The news on TRT Haber with the signature of Ayşe Şimşek is as follows:“Today, is the 27th anniversary of  Dr.Sadik Ahm...
Greece cannot accept the "Turkish" presence in Western Thrace

 

Ayşe Şimşek from TRT Haber prepared a news report on the identity struggle of the Turks of Western Thrace and the recent developments.

The news on TRT Haber with the signature of Ayşe Şimşek is as follows:

“Today, is the 27th anniversary of  Dr.Sadik Ahmet,  the late leader of Western Thrace Turks who death in a suspicious traffic accident.

Dr. Sadik Ahmet was imprisoned for for calling Western Thrace Turks as "Turks".

Dr. Ahmet shouted the words “If being Turkish is a crime, I repeat this: I am Turkish and will remain so” to the whole world.

There is an association that took over the "Western Thrace" struggle of Sadik Ahmet, and that is the Xanthi Turkish Union.

It was closed by court order because it had the word "Turkish" in its name.

Xanthi Turkish Union, which was founded in 1927 and is the first association of Western Thrace Turks, has been fighting for their rights for 39 years.

According to the ECtHR's decision, associations have the right to have the word "Turk" in their names. Greece, on the other hand, insists on deafening.

 "Xanthi Turkish Youth Dormitory", the first association of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority, was established to meet a social need related to the economic structure of the city.

The association, which was named Xanthi Turkish Union in 1936, was closed by a court decision in 1983 because it had the word "Turkish" in its name.

Western Thrace Turks are struggling with Greece in terms of education, identity, religion, language and culture.

There is an association that does not let this fire of struggle go out. This institution is the Xanthi Turkish Union, which was established in 1927 and was the first association of Western Thrace Turks.  However, the association has been deprived of official status for 39 years due to practices based on the Greek policy of "There are no Turks in Western Thrace".

A 95-year-old big plane tree: Xanthi Turkish Union

Ozan Ahmetoğlu, President of Xanthi Turkish Union, explained TRT News the struggle of the Western Thrace Turks, the decision to close the Xanthi Turkish Union and the process of the lawsuit.

"The Xanthi Turkish Union is a 95-year-old big plane tree. It is a cultural association founded by Turks in Xanthi in the Western Thrace region of Greece. Our association has been carrying out activities and events in order to keep our culture and identity alive, to keep it alive and to pass it on to future generations for 95 years since its establishment.

Unfortunately, things get complicated in 1983. Xanthi Turkish Union continues its nearly 69-year process as an official and legal association.

But in the 1980s, Greece put into practice the policy of "There are no Turks in Western Thrace". As a reflection of this policy, the signs of Xanthi Turkish Union, Komotini Turkish Youth Union and Western Thrace Turkish Teachers' Union, which are among the oldest non-governmental organizations with 'Turk' in their names, are first removed by the police. Subsequently, a closure lawsuit is filed against these associations by the governors of the period.

22 years of domestic legal struggle

The legal and domestic struggle of the Xanthi Turkish Union has been going on for many years.
The domestic legal process, which started with the removal of signboards in 1983, continued until 2005. In other words, the Xanthi Turkish Union has been fighting for domestic law for 22 years...

Cases of the Xanthi Turkish Union go between the courts, come and go, are postponed, rejected, start again…

 ECHR found Greece wrong, Xanthi Turkish Union won

In February 2005, the Greek Supreme Court upheld the dissolution decision of the association. Thus, this struggle in the Greek domestic legal system for 22 years gained a new dimension.

The association took the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the same year.

The judicial process of the Xanthi Turkish Union continued at the ECHR between 2005 and 2008.

The ECHR announced its decision on March 27, 2008 that it found the Xanthi Turkish Union to be justified.

Greece replied, "I do not implement the decisions of the ECtHR".

Ozan Ahmetoğlu gives the following information about the decision case before the ECtHR:

"The judges who found the Xanthi Turkish Union unanimously justified are 7 people in total. One of these judges is Greek Cypriot and the other is Greek… And we won this case with 7 zeros in our favor.

We believed that with the decision of the ECtHR, this event would be closed and that our association would regain its legal/official status… Unfortunately, our request was rejected…"

Having signed the European Convention on Human Rights, Greece has to implement the decisions of the ECHR. However, Greece replied, "I do not implement the decisions of the ECtHR".

Greece drafted an independent law in 2017

Greece has not implemented the decisions of the ECtHR for 14 years. Greece does not return the official and legal status of the Xanthi Turkish Union and continues to resist on this issue.

Between 2012 and 2017, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe put pressure on Greece to implement this decision. Greece, instead of implementing the decision, prepared an independent law in 2017.

Do countries need to prepare a new independent law for the implementation of ECHR decisions?

Ahmetoğlu said, "Lawyers say that this is not necessary. Every country that has signed and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights also undertakes that it has to implement the decisions of the ECtHR in its courts.

After the law passed by Greece in 2017, I can say that the apocalypse broke out in Greece.
Ultra-nationalist circles reacted by saying, "Are you enacting this law to formalize the Xanthi Turkish Union?"

The Minister of Justice of the time had to withdraw the law from the parliament," he said.

Since the ECtHR's decision, the Xanthi Turkish Union has exhausted Greek domestic law twice and has been rejected twice.

Has Greece paid the fine of 8 thousand euros?

Greece was sentenced by the ECtHR to pay 8,000 euros for non-pecuniary damage.

The Xanthi Turkish Union did not allow Greece to pay this compensation.

Association President Ozan Ahmetoğlu said, "We asked Greece for our official and legal status, that is, the return of the sign that was dismantled in 1983. We wanted our association to regain its legal status. Our association actually exists, but it does not exist legally.

Greece wanted to pay this compensation. For this, he gave a tax number for one-time use. Since our institution is not official, there is no tax number.

They gave us a tax number just to be able to pay this compensation.

When Greece paid this money, in a sense, it was possible to get rid of the obligation.

He would adopt the attitude of "I paid the fine, my obligation is over". We didn't take it consciously," he says, explaining how they disrupted Greece's game.

Saying that I do not implement the decisions of the ECHR means disregarding international law.

Greece's "mask" excuse

On July 10 last year, the Athens administration, which continued to ignore the rights of the Turks in Greece, was protested by the march organized by the Xanthi Turkish Union.

Different institutions and organizations of Xanthi and Komotini and non-governmental organizations of Western Thrace Turks were also present in the march. The action, which took place under great precautions, ended without incident.

Unfortunately, 7 months after this demonstration, Greece launched an investigation into the march. Xanthi Turkish Union President Ozan Ahmetoğlu was summoned to testify as part of the investigation.

The reason for the investigation was that masks were not worn during the walk.

Ahmetoğlu says this reason is tragicomic and adds:

"Because, during the coronavirus closure period, hundreds of protests were held in Greece, but no march was investigated for this reason. We know that this was done to intimidate Western Thrace society."

Greece does not recognize the ethnic identity of Western Thrace Turks

Even after 99 years, the Greek administration turns the "Greek-Pomak" propaganda into a state discourse. It does not accept the minority's right to define their ethnic identity.

As a matter of fact, Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis called Turkish villages "Pomak villages" and minority children "Greek children" in a video conference he attended in Xanthi last month.

Adhans are under threat, Eid prayers are not allowed, graves are destroyed and a sports facility and playground are built in their place. Schools of Western Thrace Turks are being closed.

Minority education, denial of ethnic identity, the problem of mufti, the continuation problems of foundations are still to be solved. Greece continues to turn a deaf ear to these problems and ignores them.

The Muslim Turkish Cemetery in the village of Xanthi Horozlu, where the Western Thrace Turks live, was destroyed by the Avdira (Bulustra) Municipality.

Avdira (Bulustra) Mayor Yorgos Çitiridis, arguing that the land belongs to the municipality, destroyed the historical cemetery in order to replace it with a sports facility and a playground.

There are many examples like this. Many Muslim Turkish cemeteries were razed to the ground, sport centres were built on them.

Eid prayer is not allowed

In Alexandria, near Thessaloniki, Greece does not allow to operate and build mosques for the Muslim minority. Nearly a thousand Muslim Turks living in the region could not perform the even the Eid prayer this year.

Turks have difficulties not only in finding education and places of worship, but also in finding cemeteries, because Greek authorities do not allow Muslim cemeteries.

Funerals have been buried in the cemetery hundreds of kilometers away for years.

This is the continuation of the minority education, the denial of national identity, the problem of mufti, the problem of foundations.

Ozan Ahmetoğlu said, “There are policies that do not take into account the rights of minorities. Our Turkishness is denied. Greece turns a deaf ear to these problems and ignores them,” he says.

Many problems with minority education go unheard

Xanthi Turkish Union President Ozan Ahmetoğlu gives the following example regarding the problem of minority education:

"The biggest and most crowded school in Xanthi is Xanthi Minority Secondary School and High School. Around 700-750 students are trying to get education in this school. The children here are educated in the old tobacco warehouse. It's a wooden building and the kids have to study in classrooms in the basement. Western Thrace Turks have been asking for a new school for years. We want a new building; we want a contemporary modern school…

The garden of this school is 150-160 square meters. If you say let's take all the kids out to the garden, they won't fit. Even this request is being ignored."

Minority schools closing: Number of primary minority schools fell from 231 in the last 25 years to 115.

As part of the administrative reform efforts of the Greek government, tens of Turkish primary schools in Western Thrace have been closed and/or merged since 2011.
This practice did not allow the opening of minority schools in other places where the people of Western Thrace live heavily and where minority schools are needed.

The Greek side claims that this is not a "closure", but a "suspension" due to lack of students; parents, on the other hand, see it as a step towards sending minority students to Greek public schools.
In this context, as of the end of 2020, the number of minority primary schools decreased from 231 to 115 in the last 25 years.

Greek extremists reacted to saying "İskeçe", the film was removed

While we were preparing this news, there were some indigestion against the Turks of Western Thrace in Greece.

In Greece, Xanthi Municipality prepared a promotional film in 3 languages ​​for the old town festival in the city. The use of the Turkish word 'İskeçe' alongside with the Greek name of the city ‘Xanthi’ disturbed some racist groups in Greece.
While the Turkish promotional film was removed after the reactions, the President of Xanthi Cultural Center had to resign.

Turkey's reaction to Greece

In addition, Greece recently decided to close 4 more primary schools belonging to the Western Thrace Turkish minority.

Turkey reacted to this decision of Greece.

The spokesperson of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanju Bilgic, made a statement saying, "We condemn the decision of Greece to close 4 more primary schools belonging to the Western Thrace Turkish Minority every year, using the austerity measures and the insufficient number of students as an excuse."

Due to the economic crisis in Greece, the migration of the Western Thrace Turkish people to foreign countries, especially the European Union countries, continues to increase. Many Turkish villages in Western Thrace have a sad appearance reflecting abandonment.

Xanthi Turkish Union has been seeking rights for 39 years.

ITB President Ozan Ahmetoğlu said, “This struggle started with the removal of our sign by the police in 1983 and it still continues today.

Our struggle will continue until the end of success, until the ECHR decision is implemented, until the legal status of our association is restored.” said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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