January 29, the resistance day of Western Thrace Turks

Western Thrace
Sun, 29 Jan 2023 9:03 GMT
Western Thrace Turks continue their struggle to protect minority rights by keeping the spirit of the resistance they showed on January 29, 1988 alive.
January 29, the resistance day of Western Thrace Turks

Friendship, Equality, Peace (DEB) Party Chairman Çiğdem Asafoğlu told Anadolu Agency that January 29 is a national holiday for the Turks of Western Thrace, and that on January 29, 1988 and January 29, 1990, Western Thrace Turks showed serious resistance to the de-identification policies implemented by the Greek state.

Even after 35 years, the Turkish minority still has not received all its rights

Stating that 35 years have passed since the January 29, Asafoğlu stated that the Turkish minority still has not received all their rights, "On January 29, the Turks of Western Thrace shouted that they are Turks, not only against Greece, but against the whole world."

Stating that the struggle has always been within the framework of the principles of democracy, Asafoğlu pointed out that they will continue to seek justice from now on.

Pointing out that Western Thrace Turks were adversely affected due to the economic conditions in the region, Asafoğlu said:

"One of our most current problems at the moment is the economic bottleneck and the resulting migration. The crisis definitely affects the minority people more. Unfortunately, our university graduates have to immigrate from these lands and give up their hometowns."

Ozan Ahmetoğlu, President of the Xanthi Turkish Union (ITB) and writer for Gündem newspaper, said that the pressure policies against Western Thrace Turks reached their peak in the 1980s.

Stating that Western Thrace Turks started to struggle to seek their rights with the implementation of policies of assimilation and forcing immigration by the Greek state, Ahmetoğlu said that in 1987, the decision of the Greek Court of Appeals for the closure of the Komotini Turkish Youth Union, Western Thrace Turkish Teachers' Union and Xanthi Turkish Union because they had the word Turkish in their names. 

Ahmetoğlu continued:

"Actually, this gave the message, 'There are no Turks in Western Thrace.' At this date, the Turkish minority of Western Thrace has raised its voice against the denial of national identity, namely Turkishness, as well as the usurpation of citizenship rights and minority rights. I will continue my life in this land by protecting my rights.'"

Ahmetoğlu, who said that thousands of people came to Komotini to participate in the demonstration, despite being banned by the Greek authorities on January 29, 1988, stated that they were shouting to the whole world that they were Turkish.

Explaining that the Turks of Western Thrace were attacked by fanatical groups at the January 29 commemoration event in 1990, Ahmetoğlu emphasized that this was a black mark for Greece.

Expressing that many workplaces belonging to Turks were looted in Komotini on this date, Ahmetoğlu said:

"Western Thrace Turks were, in a sense, forced to migrate to be sent from the region. It is very sad that Greece still has not apologized to the Western Thrace Turks regarding this pogrom. We expect an apology from the Greek state, of which we are citizens."

"Thanks to those days, we were able to get some of our rights back"

Huseyin Istanbullu, a member of the Friendship Equality Peace (DEB) Party Central Executive Committee, said that he came to the demonstration in Komotini on January 29, 1988 with great difficulty, and that the Greek police closed all the roads to Komotini that day to prevent participation in the demonstration.

"That was a day when we exploded because our rights were not granted. We wanted to hold a march on 29 January in Komotini, led by the late Doctor Sadik Ahmet, to help the Greek state lift the pressure on us. Thanks to those days, we were able to get some of our rights back." İstanbullu said.

Hüseyin Cahit, who took part in the demonstration, also noted that in the 80s, the Turks of Western Thrace were deprived of their basic citizenship rights, such as getting a driver's license, and said that on January 29, 1988, a march to seek rights was organized in Komotini under the leadership of the late Doctor Sadik Ahmet.

Cahit said, "There was a situation like this: Sell and run. It was meant to say 'Get out'. Western Thrace Turks endured these atrocities."

Orhan, who was among the participants in the demonstration on January 29, 1988, who did not specify his surname, also stated that the whole world heard about the struggle of the minority to seek their rights thanks to January 29th.

Pointing out that there are still ungiven rights, "We still cannot elect our own muftis. Our schools are closed at the slightest opportunity." Orhan said.

Resistance of January 19 in Western Thrace

After the associations in Western Thrace with the expression Turkish in their names were wanted to be closed by court decision on the grounds that there were no Turks in Greece, the Turkish minority carried out a great march called collective resistance in Komotini on January 29, 1988.

On January 29, 1990, the second anniversary of these reactions, mass attacks against the Turks were carried out by fanatical Greek groups in Komotini and Xanthi.

In the attacks that lasted for two days with the permission of the Greek police, more than 500 shops and workplaces belonging to the Turks were destroyed and looted, and many Turks, including the late Mufti of Xanthi Mehmet Emin Aga and the Independent Member of Parliament of the time, Ahmet Faikoğlu, were beaten.

The Turkish minority in Western Thrace organizes "commemoration" events on January 29 every year.

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