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Turkish NGO slams Greece for closing minority schools21 August 2019

NGO says Greece restricts right of education of Turks in Western Thrace, home to Muslim Turkish minority of some 150,000

A Turkish NGO slammed Greece on Tuesday for closing five Turkish minority schools in the country’s Western Thrace region, which boasts a Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000.

Greece’s Education Ministry decided on July 31 to close five Turkish minority schools on the pretext that enrollment is too low, said Mustafa Kaymakci, head of the Rhodes, Kos, and the Dodecanese Turks Culture and Solidarity Association, in a written statement.

Kaymakci said under Greek law, the individual school board must consent to any closure, but this was not done, and so Greece is in violation of its own laws.

He said Turkey, on the other hand, believes offering schools for the education of the nation’s Greek Orthodox children is a human right even if there are small numbers of students.

"However, Greece restricts the right to education of Turks in Western Thrace, and never presents the right to education of Turks on Rhodes and Kos as a part of assimilation," Kaymakci stressed.

The islands of Kos (Istankoy) and Rhodes also have a Muslim Turkish minority totaling around 6,000.

"We request that Greece present all cultural rights specified for minorities by the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, United Nations, and Greek Constitution, and to open the schools providing Turkish-language education on the basis of bilingualism for Turks on Rhodes and Kos," Kaymakci said.

Western Thrace currently has bilingual primary, secondary, and high schools for the Turkish minority, but there are no such schools for Turks living on Rhodes and Kos.

Kaymakci added that with the new closures, the total number of Turkish minority schools in Western Thrace closed by the Greek government citing low enrollment has reached 65.

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