EFA President sends a question-letter to the EP for Western Thrace Turks
Lorena López de Lacalle, President of the EFA, sent a letter to the European Parliament about the violations in the field of education and religious autonomy that the Muslim Turkish minority in Western Thrace has faced.
The Friendship, Equality, Peace Party (DEB) and the European Free Alliance (EFA) group in the European Parliament submitted a parliamentary question to the European Parliament regarding the violations in the field of education and religious autonomy applied to the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace.
Lorena López de Lacalle, the president of EFA, the group represented in the European Parliament and of which the DEB Party is a member, raised concerns about educational issues and denial of the ethnic Turkish identity of the minority in a parliamentary question.
The parliamentary question presented by EFA's president, Lorena López de Lacalle, is as follows:
I am writing to express my grave concerns over the treatment of the Muslim Turkish minority in Western Thrace at the hands of the Greek authorities. As you may be aware, the Education Director in the Greek region of East Macedonia and Thrace has recently issued a letter banning minority primary schools from closing early on Fridays to allow their students to attend Friday prayers. This effectively prevents Muslim students from performing their religious duties. The announcement was met by a boycott in which 99% of the minority families participated.
Furthermore, in the last 20 years there has been a precipitous decline in the number of minority schools offering curricula in both Turkish and Greek. Of 230 such schools operating at the start of the new millennium, only 103 still remain. A further 12 were closed just last September. Taken together, these measures suggest a deliberate campaign to undermine the community’s rights both to practice their religion freely and to receive education in their native language.
The Greek government does not recognise the existence of a Turkish minority in Western Thrace. This alone represents a cause for concern, and is in violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. However, Greece does recognise the Muslim community as a religious minority. It therefore follows that preventing Muslim schoolchildren from attending Friday prayers amounts to discrimination even in the limited understanding of the Greek authorities. That it has been allowed to go ahead surely indicates that Greece is engaging in systematic discrimination against the community, with the goal of assimilation.
The latest circular allows for children to attend Friday prayers only if their parents come to school every Friday and sign a document. As I am sure you will agree, this effectively amounts to requiring members of a religious minority to identify themselves as such in order to access their right to worship.
What steps will the Commission take to ensure that religious minorities, such as the Turkish community in Western Thrace, can exercise their right to education without compromising on their ability to practice their religion? Will the Commission open an investigation to establish whether the actions of the Greek authorities in this case constitute a violation of their obligations under European law? As Commissioner for Equality, how do you intend to push for an end to religious discrimination in Europe when such instances are unfortunately still being implemented by EU member state authorities?
Yours sincerely,Lorena López de Lacalle, President of the European Free Alliance