The Turkish Muslim minority in Greece’s Western Thrace region commemorated Jan. 29 Resistance Day, as they demand the Greek government respect their rights and recognize their identity.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Ibrahim Şerif, head of the Consultative Committee of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace (BTTADK) and elected mufti of Komotini (Gümülcine), told how on Jan. 29, 1988, thousands of members of the Turkish minority rallied in Komotini to protest the oppression and denial of their identity by Greek state authorities.
Turks were initially able to freely use their minority rights stemming from numerous international treaties including the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne but starting in 1967, the far-right military junta that took power in Greece started to reverse this situation.
By 1988, the minority were deprived of not only minority rights but also essential citizenship rights, Şerif said.
It was against this background that the minority took to the streets and rallied for their rights to be restored, an occasion now marked as Jan. 29 Resistance Day, he said, noting that some citizenship rights were restored by Greece as a result.
For instance, Şerif added, the minority were able to get driver’s licenses and buy real estate after 30 years of being denied these rights.
But problems in these minority rights, including deficiencies in education, the election of religious leaders, and not recognizing the Turkishness of the minority have not been redressed to this day.
Rights under the law denied
Also speaking to AA, Mustafa Trampa, the elected mufti in Xanthı (Iskeçe), stressed that many of the problems the Turkish minority faces today have roots in the junta era in 1967-1974.
These include the administration of properties of Turkish religious foundations and elections of religious officials by the minority itself.
Maintaining that Greek state authorities aim to erase the Turkishness of the minority and consequently attack the values and traditions of the minority, Trampa said: “It is of utmost importance for us to make sure younger generations of the minority are taught about Resistance Day.”
In 1988, the Greek judiciary shut down several associations in the Western Thrace that had the word “Turkish” in their names, absurdly claiming “there are no Turks in Greece.” The Jan. 29 march was held to protest this decision.
However, this was the final straw, as the Turkish minority lived through years of oppression, which was tightened after Turkey’s 1974 Peace Operation to protect the Turkish population of the island of Cyprus.
In those years, Turks in Western Thrace faced significant difficulties obtaining driving licenses and repairing or building new houses, to name just two examples of the oppression.
On the second anniversary of the rally in 1990, far-right Greeks, in a spirit of revenge, attacked more than 500 shops belonging to Turks in Komotini and Xanthi and injured many people.
The event is described by some academics as a “mini-pogrom.”
Today, associations having the word “Turkish” in their names are still banned in Western Thrace, although the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Greece on the issue in 2008.
Greece’s Western Thrace region is home to around 150,000 Muslim Turks.
Source : Daily Sabah