Written statement by ABTTF to the UN Human Rights Council

Western Thrace
Wed, 24 Aug 2022 9:28 GMT
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) presented a written statement to the 51st session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.
Written statement by ABTTF to the UN Human Rights Council


The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) presented a written statement to the 51st  session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council titled ‘‘A further violation of the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, Greece with the Act on Modernization of the Muftiates’’. 

In its written statement, ABTTF raised the issue of the muftis in focus of the new law adopted by the Greek Parliament in July 2022, noting that the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, guaranteed by treaties, would be completely abolished under the pretext of modernising the muftis in the autonomous structure.

New law completely abolishes the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace

ABTTF indicated that the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, which today has a population of about 150,000, was guaranteed by the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty, and that contrary to the 1913 Treaty of Athens, to which Greece is a party, it did not allow the Turkish community to elect its own religious leaders, and did not recognise the elected muftis.

Noting that the community has chosen its own muftis in response to the appointment of muftis by the state since 1990, ABTTF stated that the elected muftis that are not recognised by the state have been prosecuted and sentenced to prison for the illegal use of religious symbols. ABTTF noted that today there is a dual structure in Western Thrace, namely state-recognized mufti regents and muftis elected by the Turkish community in Western Thrace.

Indicating that the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace was once again undermined by the Presidential decree No. 52/2019, which severely limited the powers of the muftis by affiliating the mufti offices (muftiates) entirely to the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, ABTTF stated that the State Council rejected the application filed for the annulment of the decree.

ABTTF noted that the act under the title ‘‘Modernization of the Muftiates’’ adopted by the Greek Parliament on 29 July 2022, contrary to the provisions of the1913 Treaty of Athens and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defines the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, aims at completely and officially eliminating the religious autonomy of the Turkish community.

Underlining that the act has been drafted without any consultation with the Turkish community in Western Thrace, ABTTF pointed out that the law does not foresee a regulation on the selection of the muftis in Rhodope, Xanthi and Didymoteicho by the community, and that it is apparent that the process of electing the muftis is attempted to be transformed into a mixed system of selection-appointment. ABTTF indicated that the state aims to establish full control and audit over the Muftiates because the act does not stipulate that both contracted and state employees who will work in the administrative units of the Muftiates must be members of the Muslim and Turkish communities.

ABTTF called upon Greece to ensure that the Turkish community in Western Thrace enjoys its right to elect its own religious leaders in accordance with the 1913 Treaty of Athens and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and to annul the act titled ‘‘Modernization of the Muftiates’’ and the Presidential decree No. 52/2019.

ABTTF

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