Turkish NGO Tears Greece for Closing Turkish Schools

August 21, 2019

The closing of five Turkish minority schools in Greece’s western Thrace region that borders Turkey is a violation of the law, the head of a Turkish NGO in the region said, an area that has some 150,000 Muslim Turks.

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

Kaymakci said under Greek law, the individual school board must consent to any closure, but this was not done and that Turkey 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 said. The islands of Kos 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 has bilingual primary, secondary, and high schools for the Turkish minority, but there are no such schools for Turks living on Rhodes and Kos. He said the closings reduced enrollment in the area to 65.

In February, The Turkish minority in Western Thrace region came together to commemorate the Jan. 29, 1988 rally against what it called the government’s oppression and denial of their identity.
The event 31 years earlier occurred in the city of Komotini where Turkish Minority of Western Thrace Advisory Board (BTTADK) Chairman Ibrahim Serif said the rally in 1988 was “a peaceful resistance movement” against the increasing oppression, said Anadolu.

In 1988, the Greek judiciary had shut down several associations in the Western Thrace which had the word “Turkish” in their names, by saying “there are no Turks in Greece,” the report added, with the Turks living in that area of Greece saying they in 1988 that oppression was getting worse after Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

In those years, Turks in Western Thrace – who were being called Muslim Greeks – said they had trouble with everyday tasks such as getting driver’ licenses and repairing or building new houses and in 1990, the report said, far-right Greeks attacked shops of Turks in Komotini and Xanthi, causing injuries.

Today, associations having the word “Turkish” in their names are still banned in Western Thrace, although the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Greece on the issue in 2008. Western Thrace region of Greece is home to around 150,000 Muslim Greeks who prefer to call themselves Turks there instead.


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