Turks in West Thrace protest Greek policies at OSCE meeting

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
ISTANBUL
Published

Turkish minorities in Greece have been subjected to racist and discriminatory policies, a number of local NGOs told the ongoing Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They mainly complained of the selection process for muftis, Islamic scholars who interpret and expounds Islamic law, as well as job grabbing and unequal treatment.

The NGOs claimed that the Turkish minority wanted to elect their own muftis in the Muslim-dominated areas, without any interference from the Greek government.

They also pointed out that the Turks' national identity was being ignored and systematically erased through social pressure.

Several representatives of the Turkish minority and the NGOs said it was difficult for Turks to take up jobs while preserving their national and religious identity.

They alleged that such problems were being created as the Greek state wanted to strip Turks of their racial identity and religion-based traditions.

Onur Mustafa Ahmet, who represented the Western Thrace Minority University Graduates' Association, said, "Greece does not recognize the elected Turkish muftis and appoints the ones Athens desires instead."

He accused the Greek government of interfering with Turkish community's internal affairs in order to keep a

tab on them.

Ahmet said most of the Turkish foundations have been closed down and the number of imams was also insufficient.

Kos and the Dodecanese Turks Culture and Solidarity Association's Nisan Ege Kaymakçı said that Greece does not recognize the Turks on the islands as Turks in an attempt to avoid giving them a national identity.

She claimed that their cultural heritage and presence were also being gradually threatened.

Touching upon assimilation attempts, Kaymakçı said despite common demands, no Turkish language education was being provided to Turkish children at schools.

Pervin Hayrullah of the Western Thrace Minority Culture and Education Company claimed that the Turkish minority in Greece faced racist attacks on the internet and several webpages constantly denounced the Turkish identity and their presence.

She requested the Greek government to monitor these racist attacks and make efforts to end the discriminatory rhetoric.

She also urged an investigation into the fire that destroyed a historic Ottoman mosque in Didymoteicho.

The mosque was built during Sultan Bayezid I's rule and was named after him. It was a cultural monument and not used for prayers. It was known to be the largest mosque in southeastern Europe and was regarded greatly because of its unique architecture and historical importance.

Around 100,000 ethnic Turks live in Greece, mostly descendants of families who remained on the Greek side during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence.

The Greek government, however, does not classify them as Turks but Muslim Greeks. The mosques in West Thrace have also been subjected to frequent racist attacks.

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