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Greece’s policy on Turkish Minority in the context of Turkish-Greek relations23 May 2022

Dr. Yakup Kurt

According to the data obtained based on various scientific studies, it is concluded that Greece's record regarding minorities is not very clean. Apart from scientific data proving the violations of minority rights in Greece, various international organizations also underline this fact with thick lines.

If you wish, let's rewind the pages of history and take a look at the past.

After World War II, the Greek government implemented Article 19 of the citizenship law and pursued a policy of forcing or assimilating "non-Greek people", thus rolling over the various ethnic minorities living in many parts of the country and dispersing them. Various minorities settled from the east to the west of Greece, from the north to the interior of the country, have virtually disappeared from the stage of history.

Those who define themselves as Macedonian minority in the north of the country, and so on in the west, with the self-confidence of solving the minorities problem, the Greek government, using the problems in Turkish-Greek relations, such as Cyprus and the Aegean, as an excuse in the 1960s and '70s, evaluated that it was the turn of the Western Thrace Turks this time.

The Greek government, which put into practice various scenarios to "get rid of" the Western Thrace Turkish Minority, which it perceives as a potential threat due to its compact structure and national ties with Turkey, whose existence is guaranteed by the Treaty of Lausanne, first of all, put the Turkish minority into practice such as education and religious authority, whose status is autonomous, focused on efforts to eliminate its institutional structure.

In the first half of the 20th century, Greece took advantage of the social ruptures that occurred as a result of the settlement of some of the Turkish fugitives in Western Thrace. He used these institutions as a polarizing tool by supporting two different education models in minority schools (old script and new script) in order to divide the Turks of Western Thrace.

In this way, Greece established The Special Pedagogical Academy of Thessaloniki (SPATH) in 1968, for which it created its sociological conditions; with these critical moves through education and religious authority, it gradually took over the initiative in these institutions with an autonomous structure.

In the mid-1970s, the Junta administration in Greece was living its last days. However, at that time, a different minority concept, "Hellenic Muslims", was developed in order to isolate the Western Thrace Turks from their identity and to create a mass in line with the national ideology of the state. This perspective of the junta government regarding the minority was adopted by the following governments and fully implemented in the minority-centered bureaucracy of the state.

In the spring of 1974, Turkish-Greek relations began to be tested again with various crises due to the areas of disagreement between the two countries in the Aegean. The relations between the two countries, which were strained after a Turkish drilling ship named "Çandarlı" went to the Aegean Sea to explore energy deposits, almost heralded hot periods and even conflictual processes.

In the face of this situation, with the encouragement of some Western allies, the two NATO countries came together with the then Prime Ministers Androtsopoulos and Ecevit on 26.06.1974 in Brussels in order to resolve the problems between them through negotiations. Of course, the development that brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war that year was not the disputed areas in the Aegean, but the events in Cyprus, which developed faster than that. As in similar crises before, the negative course of Turkish-Greek relations this time started to directly affect the Western Thrace Turkish Minority. Due to the crisis in the Aegean, the comment in the column "Η γνώμη μας" (Our opinion) published in Ellinikos Vorras newspaper in early July 1974 (I don't remember the exact day) referred to the meeting of the two prime ministers in Brussels. In the article, which referred to the meeting in which Western Thrace Turks were also discussed, the policy to be followed by the Greek government on this issue was outlined in a schematic form. Also in the article, after the comment on Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit's poem about Turkish-Greek friendship, which he wrote earlier, stated that "what kind of lesson will the Turkish Prime Minister be given by his Athenian friend if he does not settle," the subject was brought again back to the Turks of Western Thrace. In the column of the newspaper, important clues were given about the plan of the Greek government, which tried to concretize in its mind who among the Turks would stay in Western Thrace and who would leave. In summary, the article stated that those who claimed to be Turkish with a logic fed by a highly racist culture would be sent from Western Thrace, and those who rejected their Turkish identity and defined themselves as "Hellenic Muslims" would live happily in Western Thrace.

When we look back at the whole picture by bringing various events before our eyes it is much easier today to understand which hand wrote the article written about fifty years ago and with what kind of motivation it was written. The rights of approximately sixty thousand Western Thrace Turks who were stripped of their citizenship in the last fifty years, who were cut off from their home, village, relatives and neighbours and could not even attend the funeral of their deceased relative, which were guaranteed by constitutional and international law documents, were viciously violated. As a result of decades of oppressive and denial practices, the quality and status of education, which was the only instrument that kept the cultural existence of Western Thrace Turks alive, was eroded by various methods.

Today, every conceivable way is used to alienate people from minority schools that have been discredited in the eyes of community. Our foundations and religious institutions, just like educational institutions, have been handed over to puppet administrations, which act as the support of the state for the destruction of the Turkish identity of the minority.

When it comes to the issue of sending Turks from Western Thrace and keeping the "Hellenic Muslims" happy, as mentioned by the owner of the column in the newspaper in 1974, we would like to make the following determination.

The number of Turks living in Western Thrace today, by not denying their identities despite the ban on using the name of the community they belong to and various pressures, is not insignificant.
However, there are also those who do not see the traps set by the Greek government, encouraged by the hypocrisy of the West playing the ‘three monkeys’, and do not speak out against the destruction of minority institutions.  As the "Hellenic Muslims", as promised fifty years ago, the doors of the country's blessings were opened wide.
By the way, it should be admitted that there is an important segment of people who lead a rich, prosperous and happy life in this way.

On the basis of these facts, the ultimate goal of the political/bureaucratic centers tasked with social engineering in the minority is to build a mass that has left behind the issue of belonging and identity instead of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace.

For this purpose, it should not go unnoticed that the younger generations are drawn to slippery and quite dangerous floors with encouraging promises by a secret hand. If the necessary analyzes are made with the accumulation of the past fifty years, which serve as an important projection to the future, and the final action against the minority is not stopped, it should not be difficult to predict what kind of minority community those who survive fifty years will live in.


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