The problems of Western Thrace Turks expressed at the United Nations
Arık stated that Greece denies the Turkish identity of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, closes associations with the word "Turkish" in their names and rejects new registration applications.
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), which has special consultative status at the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council, attended the 87th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva, Switzerland on 5-6 February 2024, representing the Turkish community in Western Thrace. Melek Kırmacı Arık, ABTTF International Relations Director, attended the session which lasted three weeks in total and where Greece was also examined on Tuesday 6 February.
ABTTF participated in the public non-governmental organisations (NGOs) information meeting organised by the 23-member CEDAW panel of independent experts on Monday 5 February ahead of the Greece review. Speaking at the meeting in relation to the combined eighth and ninth periodic reports submitted by Greece to CEDAW, ABTTF raised the religious autonomy and freedom of association of the Western Turkish community and access to justice for Turkish women.
ABTTF pointed out that the periodic reports submitted by Greece do not mention the importance of the activities of the NGOs established by women belonging to minorities in the country and stated that Greece denies the Turkish identity of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, closes associations with the word "Turkish" in their names and rejects new registration applications.
ABTTF underlined that Greece has not implemented the three judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the three Turkish associations in the Bekir Usta and Others Case Group for almost 16 years and stated that one of these three associations is the Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Prefecture of Rodopi, which was established in 2001.
ABTTF stated that despite the ECtHR judgements, the registration application of another women's association, the Cultural Association of Turkish Women of Xanthi Province, was also rejected in 2017 and underlined that the non-registration of these two women's associations prevents the cultural and social development of not only Turkish women living in the provinces of Rodopi and Xanthi but also all women in the region.
ABTTF requested CEDAW to call on Greece to restore the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace recognised by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and to recognise elected muftis, to fully and immediately implement the ECtHR judgments against it and to register their associations in full respect of the freedom of association of members of the Turkish community.
ABTTF followed the all-day examination of Greece on Tuesday 6 February. The religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace and the customary law powers of muftis were also on the agenda during the session. ABTTF had pointed out at the NGOs' information meeting with CEDAW members that the state's interference in the religious autonomy of the Turkish community is a violation of rights, that the state establishes state control over society through religion and that it does not do this against any other recognised religion in the country.
Answering the questions posed by CEDAW members, the Greek delegation repeated the official state thesis and claimed that there is not a Turkish but a Muslim minority in the country.
Prior to the session, ABTTF had been actively involved in the review process with a parallel report on the combined eighth and ninth periodic reports submitted by Greece to CEDAW.