ITB's 40-year struggle for rights documented in a documentary

Western Thrace
Sat, 23 Dec 2023 10:22 GMT
The oldest association of the Turkish Minority in Western Thrace, the Xanthi Turkish Union (ITB), has documented its 40-year struggle for rights in a documentary.
ITB's 40-year struggle for rights documented in a documentary

The first screening of the documentary took place on Thursday, December 21, at the ITB hall in Xanthi during an event organized for this purpose.

Produced by ITB President Ozan Ahmetoğlu, the script for the documentary was written by Ozan Ahmetoğlu, Ismet Tuccar, and Sevil Şerifoglu.

Narrated by Nurhayat Gunal, the editing, color and sound adjustments, animation, and graphic design of the documentary are credited to Umit Farzli. The photos were compiled by Onder Sabanoglu.

The amateur production, which is of a quality that does not fall short of a professional documentary, lasted 30 minutes and was watched with great appreciation by numerous guests, ITB members, and ITB Youth Branch members who filled the hall.

Message from the Turkish Ambassador to Athens

The event was hosted by XTU Vice President Sevil Şerifoglu. Sherifoglu read a message from Türkiye's Ambassador to Athens, Cagatay Erciyes, who could not attend the event but expressed thanks and congratulations.

The documentary, prepared in Turkish, includes documents, photographs, interviews with executives, legal consultants, and ITB lawyers, covering the rights struggle of ITB since 1983.

"Forty Years of Rights Struggle"

In the documentary titled "Forty Years of Rights Struggle," the establishment and activities of ITB, and especially the legal, human rights, and democracy struggle since 1983, when the signboard with the inscription "There is no Turkish in Western Thrace" was removed, are narrated.

It is emphasized in the documentary that the status of "MINORITY" was granted to the Western Thrace Turks through the Treaty of Lausanne signed between Turkey and Greece, and the minority rights were guaranteed. The documentary highlights that ITB was established in the fourth year of the signing of the treaty and operated officially until 1983.

"There is no Turkish in Western Thrace"

The documentary recalls that ITB, as a legal association with legal personality from its establishment in 1927 until 1983, functioned as a legal association. After this date, the documentary explains how the closure processes of ITB, Gümülcine Turkish Youth Union (GTGB), and Western Thrace Turkish Teachers Union (BTTÖB), whose names contain the word "Turkish," began with the pretext of "There is no Turkish in Western Thrace" by Greece.

The documentary explains the initiation of the legal battle with the removal of the Turkish and Greek signboard at the entrance of the ITB building, the Turkish Youth Union of Gümülcine (GTGB), and the Teachers Union of Western Thrace Turks (BTTÖB) by the police on December 7, 1983. It is stated that shortly after the symbolic act of removing the signboard, a lawsuit was filed by the then Governor of Xanthi, Fanis Donas, requesting the closure of ITB.

The documentary narrates how the closure decision led to the events of January 29, the biggest social reaction and resistance in the history of the Western Thrace Turks' minority against the unjust, unfair, oppressive, and discriminatory decision. It is emphasized that XTU's struggle against this unjust decision has continued for 40 years.

ECHR Process

The documentary emphasizes that after the decision of the Court of Cassation, the Western Thrace Turks brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The documentary states, "In March 2008, the ECHR announced its decision on ITB. The ECHR stated that the decision to close our association was wrong and convicted Greece for this decision. Immediately after that, we applied to the internal law of Greece for the return of the legal status and legal personality of our association."

The documentary reminds that Greece has not implemented the decisions of the ECHR in favor of ITB for 15 years. It is mentioned that this issue has been the subject of discussions between Turkish and Greek officials, sometimes reflected in the public.

In the documentary, how the leaders of minority associations are frequently targeted in social media and the press is explained with documents.

After the documentary, ITB President Ozan Ahmetoğlu thanked those who contributed to the preparation of the documentary. Expressing gratitude to those who attended ITB's important day and event, Ahmetoğlu explained the preparation process of the documentary and said that the struggle of the Western Thrace Turks for their rights would continue until their rights were obtained.

Then, Hüseyin Baltacı, President of the Western Thrace Minority Graduates Association, Burhan Baran, PASOK Member of Parliament for Xanthi, Hüseyin Zeybek, New Left Member of Parliament for Xanthi, Mustafa Trampa, Mufti of Xanthi, and finally, Aykut Ünal, Consul General of Türkiye in Gümülcine, made speeches.

The speakers emphasized the importance of the documentary in documenting the struggle for rights and passing it on to future generations. They expressed their support for the legal, democratic, and human rights struggle against the unfairness of closing associations containing the words ITB and TURK.

Consul General Ünal: "We are Always with You."

Aykut Ünal, Consul General of Türkiye in Gümülcine, delivered the greetings of Türkiye's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan and said the following in his speech:

"The walls of this union, which has the distinction of being the first civil society organization of the Western Thrace Turkish minority, reflect a very rooted history. So much has happened in ninety years. We saw it in previous activities, and we see it when we look around. Forty years have passed since ITB began this struggle for rights. This struggle for rights is commendable, and we are always with you in your just struggle. When I look at this crowd here and see our compatriots in Western Thrace, I see Turks. On the other hand, I do not see a threat. Objectively, the rationale for the decision is invalid. The problems of our brothers living here are closely followed by all of Türkiye. We continue to follow the decisions of the ECHR, which found the association justified, in international forums. Your activities to preserve, develop, and pass on the culture, identity, and values of the Turkish community are important for both us and you. What is important here is to raise future generations. In addition to raising, teaching history, teaching their rights and laws, actually instilling the minority consciousness, which should naturally be a privilege, and at the same time instilling the consciousness of struggle."

After the speeches, the event concluded.

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