Western Thrace Turks mark 35 years of fight against Greek oppression

Western Thrace
Mon, 30 Jan 2023 10:11 GMT
The Turkish minority in Western Thrace marks the 35th anniversary of the day known as "Resistance Day" as they continue to struggle for their rights in the region where Ottoman-Turkish legacy dates back to the 14th century.
Western Thrace Turks mark 35 years of fight against Greek oppression

The Turkish minority in Western Thrace marks the 35th anniversary of the day known as "Resistance Day" as they continue to struggle for their rights in the region where Ottoman-Turkish legacy dates back to the 14th century.

On the occasion of the anniversary, Trakya University Balkan Research Institute Deputy Director associate professor Ali Hüseyinoğlu noted that the Western Thrace Turks' struggle for rights on Jan. 29, 1988, was a turning point for the Western Thracian Turks.

Hüseyinoğlu told Anadolu Agency (AA) that more than 10,000 Turks gathered in Komotini (Gümülcine) on Jan. 29, 1988, to seek their rights and that Jan. 29 was declared the "Day of Social Solidarity and National Resistance" due to that struggle.

Expressing that the first dimension of the struggle was the basic human rights violations as a result of the pressure, intimidation and discrimination policies of the Greek governments on the Turkish minority since the 1960s, Hüseyinoğlu said, "The second one was in the 1980s, which constituted of the Greek's abolition of the phrase 'Turk' in the names of 'Komotini Turkish Youth Union' and 'Western Thrace Turkish Teachers Union,' which were established in 1920s and 1930s, respectively.''

He noted that it was the final judicial decision of the Greek Court of Cassation for the dissolution of the last two associations in 1987 with the motto "There are no Turks in Western Thrace" that led to ''denial of Turkish identity'' and that this decision was the ''last straw'' in the Turkish minority's struggle, which has been going on for a while.

Hüseyinoğlu continued as follows: "Members of the Turkish minority, with their citizens, villagers, young people, women, elders, imams, teachers and pioneering figures such as Dr. Sadık Ahmet, Ibrahim Şerif, Mehmet Emin Ağa and Ismail Rodoplu acted together. From the center of Komotini, they shouted in unison to the whole world that all practices of injustice and discrimination against them should be ended, that their religious identity is Muslim and their ethnic identity is Turkish, and that they do not want to be treated as second-class citizens who have been exposed to open or covert discrimination. It was about restoring our basic human and minority rights, whose identities no one can deny and which have been violated for decades."

He also said that although the ceremonies on the first anniversary of Jan. 29 went smoothly, on Jan. 29, 1990, the second year, businesses belonging to Turks in Komotini were targeted by Greek fanatic groups.

Reminding of these incidents of violence and vandalism against Turkish-owned businesses, Hüseyinoğlu said: "The fact that these incidents took place in centrally located points where the Greek security forces controlled, and that although the shops of Turks and Greeks were side by side, the material damage occurred only in the shops belonging to the Turks, caused the tension between the Turkish minority and the Greek majority in Western Thrace to increase.''

Hüseyinoğlu stated that although the rights of Turks stemming from their Greek citizenship were restored after the struggle, the problems related to minority rights stemming from being a minority have continued for the last 30 years.

Expressing that the Turkish Muslim community counts a population of 150,000 citizens in the Western Thrace region of northern Greece, Hüseyinoğlu said that although 35 years have passed since Jan. 29, 1988, chronic and new problems continue to be experienced by the Turkish Muslim minority in many areas.

''From the denial of ethnic Turkish identity to issues related to mufti and foundation administrative committees, from victims of Article 19 to bilingual minority education, these problems continue to exist,'' he said.

''Although the solution to these problems by the Greek authorities will contribute to the integration of the Turkish minority society into the Greek majority society without assimilation, we are witnessing that the steps expected by the members of the Turkish minority on this and similar issues have not been taken in last 30 years by Greece, which became a member of the European Union in 1981,'' he concluded.

AA

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