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>Menu2015 Report on Human Rights Violations in Western Thrace

1.   EDUCATION                                                                                                                    

The educational autonomy of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority has been guaranteed by international and bilateral conventions, such as the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty.  In accordance with conventions, the minority has the right to establish, manage and control its own educational establishments.  However, these rights have been constantly violated.  Some examples of recent violations are :

  • In 2015, there are still no bilingual Turkish – Greek kindergartens; neither private nor public kindergartens are allowed to open.
  • Primary education; graduate teachers from other countries other than Greece are not allowed to carry out their occupation in minority primary schools. 
  • Also, provisions of law 4310/2014 state that members of the Turkish minority who have graduated from Greek faculties of education and are teachers of the Greek curriculum in minority schools are not allowed to teach the mentioned curriculum anymore. 
  • The 1968 Cultural Protocol between Greece and Turkey provides for production and use of text books from the protocol parties in minority schools, however there are long and unreasonable delays in the distribution of these books, thus hindering a child’s education.
  • Despite, the right from conventions for the minority to choose their own well- rounded teachers in minority primary schools; the State does not allow for this and appoints only insufficient teachers from the Special Pedagogical Academy of Thessaloniki. 1
  • There are only two minority secondary-high schools, one in Xanthi and one in Komotini. Their numbers are highly insufficient, in relation to the minority’s population. Therefore minority children are forced to continue their secondary and high school education in Greek public schools.  Thus students’ right to choose is obstructed.
  • Requests to open minority secondary-high schools to satisfy demand have been ignored as official applications remain unanswered.

2.   HATE CRIME / SPEECH                                                                                               

The Western Thrace Minority for many years has been subjected to hate and violence based attacks, in 2015 hate motivated crimes and attacks have increased day by day.

Some examples of hate-based crimes/attacks in 2015 in Greece :

  • 4th March 2015, Attack on Cinar FM’s Antennas:  Cinar FM, a broadcaster of Cinar Association, had its antennas, located in the antenna park, damaged to a great extent. (Perpetrators not found)
  • 7 March 2015, Attack on the Didimoticho Muslim Sports Culture and Education Association:  In Didimoticho, a town inhabited with a significant proportion of Turkish Minority members, ultranationalist/racist people disturbed by  the work of the association, broke the  association’s  doors and windows  (Perpetrators not found) The officials teaching in the area’s Quran Course in the village of Kyani are under pressure.
  • 17 April 2015, Attack on The Mahmud Aga Mosque and Alankuyu Masjid:  located in the same yard as Yenice Neighbourhood Minority School in Komotini, the Mahmud Aga Mosque was set ablaze during the early hours at 04:30. Also in Alankuyu Masjid, a hundred meters away trees were cut.  Another noteworthy aspect of this attack is that the elected Mufti of Komotini Ibrahim Sherif's residence is very close. (Perpetrators not found)
  • On 8th December 2015, The only political party of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority, the Friendship Equality and Peace (FEP) Party suffered an attack The new headquarters of the FEP Party was attacked during the late hours by an organisation called “ΟΙ ΦΡΟΥΡΟΙ ΤΗΣ ΘΡΑΚΗΣ” – ‘Guardians of Thrace’; the building’s windows were broken and the organisation’s name was written on the walls with blue paint. Also a photocopy machine was broken, cupboards and mirrors were smashed. The most painful was the theft of our Party’s founder and minority’s leader Dr. Sadik Ahmet’s car, in which he lost his life in 1995. Following these events, the criminal complaint and investigation started by the police, like in other attacks no solution and no official explanation by authorities regarding the attack.
  • On 17th December 2015, Attack on the Macedonia – Thrace Muslim Cultural and Educational Association in Thessaloniki:  the association’s funeral vehicle’s windows were broken and tires cut. (Perpetrators not found)
  • On 28th January 2016, members of the organisations ‘ Guardians of Thrace’ which carried out an attack on the FEP Party, beat inside his car an official from Xanthi’s elected Mufti and tried to spread fear by stating ‘ tell the Mufti its his turn’.

3.   RELIGION / FOUNDATIONS                                                                                       

The 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty and the 1913 Athens Treaty safeguard the religious freedoms of the Western Thrace Turkish minority; the following outlines the continuing breach of these in 2015 :

  • A new legislation in 2013 allows for a commission composed of assigned officials, including Orthodox employees, to assign Imams/Instructors for Islamic education at public schools.
  • This directly undermines the minority’s freedom of belief and religion. 2
  • The right to elect religious leaders is ongoing for the minority and rather than execute religious autonomy rights guaranteed under treaties for the minority to elect its own Muftis, they are appointed by the State.
  • Furthermore, the principle of self-governance of the Minority’s foundations has not been applied since 1967, when the elected boards were dismissed and replaced by the appointed employees.
  • As of that year, the minority does not have a say on the management of the boards, which led to the expropriation of their properties, with high taxes applied on its foundations.

4.   ARTICLE 19                                                                                                                     

Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code was introduced in 1955 as a measure to limit the minority’s numerical presence, in which State authorities stripped without knowledge and basis minority members of their citizenship.

  • The law left 60,000 minority members stateless in Greece and aboard.
  • Despite Article 19 being annulled in 1998, those minority members left without their Greek citizenship have not been returned their citizenship even in 2015.

5.   POLITICAL REPRESENTATION                                                                               

The Western Thrace Turkish Minority continues to be inefficiently represented in the Greek political arena and public life. The reasoning behind this insufficient representation especially in Greek parliament is the 3% election threshold which was introduced in 1990.

  • The threshold inhibits the minority and independent candidates to be elected in to parliament.
  • The required number of votes, in this case 300,000 is nearly double that of the minority population.  Therefore, the minority cannot be represented in Parliament with its own party and/or independent candidate.
  • As of 2015, there are 4 minority MPs in Greek parliament, however their advocating with minority issues is questionable as they are obliged to follow their majority party’s political programme. Again inhibiting the voice of the minority to be heard in the Greek Parliament.
  • The still existing %3 election threshold in Greece remains as a regulation that avoids the independent political representation of minority in the Greek Parliament while statements of all political parties in Greece prove that its abolition is considered as a matter of national threat.

6.   DENIAL OF ETHNIC IDENTY – FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION                        

The Western Thrace Turkish Minority’s existence in Greece is only accepted on a religious basis of ‘Muslim’, thus rejecting the minority’s ethnic identity.

  • Denial of ethnic identity has led to the closure of long standing associations, for example the Xanthi Turkish Union, the Komotini Turkish Youth Union, to name of few, as their titles include ‘Turkish’.
  • Cases of 3 associations; the Xanthi Turkish Union, the Cultural Association of Turkish Women of Rhodopi and the Evros Minority Youth Association have exhausted domestic and thus their cases seen in the ECtHR.
  • Despite, the ECtHR’s decisions and applications twice in favour of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority’s association the passage of nearly 10 years has not been constructive and decisions not executed.

Consequently, the presentation of the minority’s ethnic identity is denied and their fundamental rights of freedom of association restrained.

 

[1] EPATH was founded in 1968 during the Greek Junta Regime with the main purpose to train minority members in Greece to become teachers of the Turkish curriculum at minority schools. However, as most of the courses were taught in Greek, the level of Turkish required to teach the Turkish curriculum was inadequate.

[2] PACE report










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