Parallel Report from ABTTF to the Greece 2021 Report
The press release regarding the issue from ABTTF is as follows:
“In its parallel report, ABTTF detailed the issues that the Turkish community in Western Thrace is dealing with in the field of religious freedom and called on Greece to restore the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace.
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) prepared a parallel report in response to the Greece 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom published by the Department of State of the United States of America (USA) on 2 June 2022 and forwarded it to the relevant authorities of the United States.
In its parallel report, ABTTF detailed the issues of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, which enjoys ‘religious autonomy’ in accordance with international treaties, in the field of religious freedom, especially the issue pertaining to the muftis.
In its parallel report, ABTTF stated that the population of the Muslim Turkish Minority in Western Thrace was given as approximately 140,000 according to government sources based on the 2011 data. The Turkish community lived in the Dodecanese Islands, especially in Rhodes and Kos accounted to a population of approximately 6,000.
ABTTF stated that the prevailing religion according to the constitution of Greece is ‘Greek Orthodoxy’, as noted in the US report, and emphasised that the Greek state interferes in the internal affairs of the Muslim Turkish community in Western Thrace while not doing the same in the internal affairs of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Jewish community.
Noting that the Turkish community in Western Thrace was granted the right to elect their own religious leaders which consist of the muftis with the 1913 Treaty of Athens and that this right was guaranteed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, ABTTF indicated that despite this, the government had been appointing muftis or mufti regents since 1991.
Underlining in contradiction to the religious autonomy that have the Western Thrace Turks insofar as they have the ability to choose their own muftis (religious leaders) but that the elected muftis are not recognised by the government, ABTTF stated that the elected muftis were subjected to judicial prosecution and received prison sentences for illegally using religious symbols, and that there was a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) condemning Greece for violating Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Moreover, ABTTF noted that with the Presidential Decree No. 52/2019, the muftis which have an autonomous structure in Western Thrace were completely subordinated to the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and turned into ordinary government offices and that the powers of the muftis were highly limited, adding that the decree was in stark violation of the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace.
ABTTF also stressed that in accordance with Law No. 4115/2013, known as the ‘Law of 240 Imams’, which was opposed by the Turkish community in Western Thrace, religious officials/instructors attached to government-appointed muftis were assigned to teach Islam in Greek to the children belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace studying in mosques and state primary and secondary schools in Western Thrace.
Noting that although the Treaty of Lausanne grants the Turkish community in Western Thrace the right to establish, manage and control its own religious institutions, the government has appointed the administrative committees of the minority charitable foundations when the military junta came to power in 1967, ABTTF pointed out that Law No. 3647/2008 paved the way for the sale of foundation property and their transfer to local governments.
ABTTF called on the government to respect the right of the Turkish community in Western Thrace to elect its own muftis and the members of the administrative board of the charitable foundations it owns, calling on Greece to restore the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace guaranteed by the international treaties.”