Greece's Muslim Turkish minority awaits country’s compliance with European court rulings
Greece is home to substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering 150,000
On the occasion of Dec. 10 Human Rights Day, the Xanthi Turkish Union (ITB), one of the oldest associations of the country’s 150,000 strong Muslim-Turkish minority, hosted a webinar on Greece’s violations of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings regarding minority rights.
ITB head Ozan Ahmetoglu said the union was founded in 1927 and carried out its activities legally until 1983.
“But that year, the Greek state filed for a court to close the ITB and two other minority associations that had the word ‘Turkish’ in their name,” he said. “This was a reflection of Greece’s denial of the ethnic identity of the minority and their claim that there is no Turkish minority in the Western Thrace.”
After exhausting domestic remedies in 2005, ITB took the case to the ECHR, and in 2008 the court ruled in favor of the union, Ahmetoglu said, noting that the ruling determined that Greece violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
Greece, however, refuses to comply with the ECHR ruling, he said.
Long struggle for rights
The Greek court’s ruling on Wednesday denying an application by the Xanthi Turkish Union to reregister came in response to an ECHR ruling from more than a decade ago that Greece has never carried out.
Under the 2008 ECHR ruling, the right of Turks in Western Thrace to use the word "Turkish" in names of associations was guaranteed, but Athens has failed to carry out the ruling, effectively banning the Turkish group identity.
In 1983, the nameplate of the Xanthi Turkish Union (Iskece Turk Birligi) was removed, and the group was completely banned in 1986, on the pretext that “Turkish” was in its name.
To apply the ECHR decision, in 2017 the Greek parliament passed a law enabling banned associations to apply for re-registration, but the legislation included major exceptions that complicated applications.
Turkey has long decried Greek violations of the rights of its Muslims and the Turkish minority, from closing mosques and shutting schools to not letting Muslim Turks elect their religious leaders.
The measures violate the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne as well as ECHR verdicts, making Greece a state that flouts the law, say Turkish officials.