Turkey reiterated support Tuesday for one of the largest Turkish minority communities in Greece as a probe continues into the Xanthi (Iskeçe) Turkish Union because of a march to defend its rights last July.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry asserted on Twitter the probe is part of Greece’s plan of intimidating and punishing minority members who seek to reclaim their rights which were guaranteed by various bilateral and international treaties, including the Lausanne Treaty of 1923.
The ministry highlighted that Greece did not implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding the registration of the association because it contained "Turkish” in its title.
"Against the discrimination, we stand by the Western Thrace Turkish minority,” the ministry added.
The march by the Xanthi Turkish Union, one of the oldest and most influential associations of the Turkish minority in Greece, had been attended by thousands and prominent figures who protested that Greece had not applied decisions of the ECtHR which favored the minority.
Under a 2008 ECtHR ruling, the right of Turks in Western Thrace to use "Turkish" in the name of associations was guaranteed but Athens has failed to carry out the ruling, effectively banning the Turkish group’s identity.
The Western Thrace region is home to a Muslim Turkish community of around 150,000. In 1983, the nameplate of the Xanthi Turkish Union was removed and the group was completely banned in 1986, on the pretext that "Turkish” was in its name.
To apply the ECtHR decision, in 2017, parliament passed a law banning associations from applying for re-registration but the legislation included major exceptions that complicated applications.
Turkey has been urging Greece to comply with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions upholding the freedoms of the local Turkish minority, decrying Greek violations of the rights of its Muslim and Turkish minority, from closing down mosques and shutting down schools to not letting Muslim Turks elect their own religious leaders.