The Turkish minority in Western Thrace complains of discrimination

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Cekdem Asefoglu, chairwoman of the Friendship, Equality and Peace Party in Greece, said that the Turkish minority in the western Thrace region faces discrimination in various aspects of life.

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Asefoglu, leader of the party representing the Turks in Western Thrace (eastern Greece), added that the main goal of her party is to fight discrimination against the Muslim Turkish minority.

She stated that discrimination against Turks in Western Thrace can be clearly seen in Greece by taking a quick look at the Greek and Turkish neighborhoods in the city of Komolgene.

She explained that the visitor can clearly notice the discrimination, “the infrastructure in the Turkish neighborhoods is very weak, while its counterparts in the Greek neighborhoods seem much better, and there is discrimination in the appointment of public officials.”

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The party leader pointed out that the Greek media targets Turks, Turkish institutions and organizations, and personalities that seek to defend the rights of the Turkish minority.

She pointed out that she was personally discriminated against and received threatening messages because of her press statements defending the rights of the Turkish minority in Greece.

She also mentioned that a 16-year-old Turkish teenager from the city of Iskci (Ksanthi) was beaten on August 26 by 20 Greek youths with racial motives.

She explained that the attackers said to the teenager during the assault: “We will kill you, you filthy Turk, next time,” a phrase that reveals their racist motives.

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For his part, the head of the Turkish Federation in Eskeghe Ozan Ahmetoglu said that Greece deliberately denies the identity of the Turkish minority and seeks to disrupt the struggle waged by its people in local and European courts.

Ahmetoglu stated that “Athens practices serious and clear discrimination, refuses to call us the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, and for many years has deliberately ignored our identity that we defend and are proud of,” stressing that this denial brings with it many problems.

He stressed that Greece also deliberately ignores many problems related to the Turkish Muslim minority, and that the denial of Turkish identity in the region is at the top of those problems.

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He stated that the judiciary in Greece ordered the closure of the Turkish Federation in Iskja because its name contains the word “Turkish” and that this decision amounted to a robbery of the rights of the minority.

He said: “This decision has robbed us of the official status of our association. We are fighting through local and European law to restore this right, as we applied to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in our favour, but the Greek authorities did not abide by the decision and unfortunately continued to evade its implementation.”

Ahmetoglu stated that institutions and individuals working to defend the rights of Turks were targeted and that the Greek authorities had applied various pressures to prevent speaking Turkish in government offices in Western Thrace.

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He continued, “Greek citizens of Turkish origin have been subjected to discrimination in Western Thrace due to the constant pressures from the Greek authorities who seek to create a non-democratic environment.”

He stressed, “Government offices in Western Thrace must have a translator who speaks Turkish, this was used once in the Iskeghe courts and then this legal right was ignored.”

A number of Greek citizens of Turkish origin from Western Thrace said that they fear speaking Turkish in their daily lives due to the discrimination and pressures they are subjected to.

A merchant in Komolgene, who asked not to be named for fear of discrimination, noted that Greek customers had warned him not to speak Turkish in his shop.

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While a high school student stated that some of his Greek colleagues cut off contact with him because he spoke Turkish at school and thus avoided speaking it to maintain his social relations.