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Turks in Greece hope for more rights from Syriza victory February 17, 2015

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
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While Greeks await an economic resurrection from their newly elected left-wing anti-bailout government, the country’s ethnic-Turkish minority is hoping for more rights and “equal citizenship.”

The charismatic leader of the anti-austerity party Syriza-40-year-old Alexis Tsipras-won a historic victory in last Sunday’s election.

Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years unveiled the country’s new government on Tuesday which includes three Turkish-origin Syriza MPs.

The Turkish community in Greece has largely supported the anti-austerity party, says the head of the Istanbul-based Western Thrace Turks Solidarity Association, Taner Mustafaoğlu.

“Apart from a recovery in the Greek economy they – Western Thracians – have an expectation on minority rights,” he says, referring to schooling and religious rights which he claims are underrepresented in the region.

Numbers for the amount of Western Thrace Turks vary between 60,000 and 150,000. They are a remnant of the Ottoman Empire but are not recognized as ethnic Turks by the Greek government, which classifies them among other Greek Muslims.

“Tsipras said that he wanted to see Western Thracians as equal citizens with Greeks,” says Mustafaoğlu referring to Tsipras’ comment made in Greece’s northeastern city of Komotini – Gümülcine in Turkish – 10 days before the election.

A Western Thracian who supports Tsipras’ party is 65-year-old Ferruh Sözüner who has been living in Istanbul since 1956.

“‘Left’ means freedom, equality and human rights and our expectations are mainly on education, economic, social and religious reforms in Western Thrace,” he says.

As a financial adviser Sözüner does not believe that Syriza would be able to realize its promises on economics but is hopeful on minority rights.

However, some believe Syriza’s victory was not as “overwhelming as it has been portrayed.”

Greek-born associate professor on international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University, Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, says: “Syriza’s victory came about because the Greek electorate is tired of further austerity measures which are entering their fifth year.

“Thus Syriza’s message that Greece will not put up with austerity anymore struck a chord among voters,” he adds.

Pointing out a major sub-story of the elections was the notorious far-right Golden Dawn party-some of whose leaders are in prison-becoming the country’s third-largest political force, Triantaphyllou says: “With populism permeating Greek politics, a failure of Syriza, which has invested in the populist and demagogy cards, to deliver on its promises could push many of its voters into the Golden Dawn camp.”

For some, the January 25 election was a historic moment not only for Greece but also for the whole European continent.

“Syriza’s pre-election motto was ‘Hope is coming’ and it is for this very hope that Greek people gave [them] their votes and put them in power-for the first time in Greece’s history a far-leftist party,” says 32-year-old PhD candidate in International Relations at Kadir Has University, Panagiotis Andrikopoulos.

Syriza has already showed their intentions right away with a symbolic move, he adds.

“For the first time in Greek political history a prime minister took his oath without the presence of the Christian Orthodox clergy,” Andrikopoulos says.

Andrikopoulos, who has been living in Istanbul for the last four years, says that thousands of young and educated people decided to leave Greece because there was “no hope and future” for them there.

“I cannot hide the fact that when I saw Syriza taking power and changing many things right from the beginning, immediately it crossed my mind that I would like to be there and live these changes,” he says.

Three Turks from Syriza party secure parliamentary seats in Greek elections February 17, 2015

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A man reads headlines reporting the results of the parliamentary elections in Athens, Jan. 26. REUTERS Photo

A man reads headlines reporting the results of the parliamentary elections in Athens, Jan. 26. REUTERS Photo

Three members of the Turkish minority community in Western Thrace have been elected to the Greek parliament, representing the far-left Syriza party that swept the elections on Jan. 25.

While two Greeks of Turkish descent, Mustafa Mustafa and Ayhan Karayusuf, managed to enter parliament from the leftist ranks by earning the most votes in Komotini, another Turkish candidate, Hüsyein Zeybek, won the elections in another Western Thracian province, Xanthi.

All three lawmakers are from Syriza, which has swiftly formed a government in cooperation with the anti-austerity nationalist party, the Independent Greeks.

Memorial house of Ataturk opened in Kodzadzik May 26, 2014

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The Memorial House of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whose father came from Kodzadzik, opened in the village on Monday.

President Gjorge Ivanov said Macedonia is proud to be called the native country of Ataturk’s father.


“We remain consistent with the traditionally excellent cooperation with friendly Turkey. I believe Turks in Macedonia, as well as the thousands of emigrants of Macedonian descent in Turkey will continue to be our ambassadors of friendship and cooperation between the two nations”, said Ivanov.


Culture Minister Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska highlighted the significance of the memorial house in promoting the ideas of Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

“The Memorial House is a strong argument in the promotion of understanding through culture. The facility includes a memorial house and the family home of the Ataturk family. It is a proof of the permanent friendship between Macedonia and Turkey”, added Kanceska-Milevska.


Macedonian and Turkish Vice Premiers, Vladimir Pesevski and Emrullah Isler respectively, also addressed the event, stressing the enormous friendship between the two nations and states.

The memorial house was constructed by the Ministry of Culture and Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency – TIKA.


According to Macedonian and Turkish historians and archaeologists, Ataturk’s family had lived in Kodzadzik in the second half of the 19. century. By the end of the century, Ataturk’s father Ali Riza emigrated to Solun and married Zubeyde Hanım. Kemal Mustafa was born there and later enrolled at the Bitola Military High School.

Western Thrace Turkish minority to participate in EU parliamentary elections for the first time as a political entity May 26, 2014

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Turkish minority party in Greece to contest EU polls
Turkish minority party in Greece to contest EU polls

Turkish minority



The Friendship, Equality and Peace Party, representing the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, Greece, will take part in Sunday’s European Parliament elections for the first time, contesting the polls with 38 candidates.

Speaking to an Anadolu Agency reporter in Athens, the party’s chairman, Mustafa Ali Cavus, said Saturday that the party felt obliged to participate in elections ‘as a last resort,’ as he claimed the Greece government does not help solve the Turkish minority’s problems in many areas.

“We will participate in the EU parliamentary elections to raise our voice in a democratic way,” Cavus said.

The party’s vice president and a candidate for a seat in the European Parliament, Ozan Ahmetoglu, said that the elections are an opportunity to make the Turkish minority more visible.

Ahmetoglu said the minority had many issues, which were compounded by economic difficulties, including a youth unemployment level that stands higher than the national rate.

The European Union is holding parliamentary elections, which last four days through Sunday, when the majority of EU member states will hold their national vote.

The Friendship, Equality and Peace Party was founded in 1991 to represent the interests of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace.


Religious freedom for all December 28, 2013

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I have spent the past three days in the German capital, to attend an international conference organized by the Archons, a religious order whose main focus is to protect the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. But the conference, aptly titled “Tearing down walls,” was focused not only on the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the tiny Greek Orthodox community in Turkey but also other religious minorities that suffer religious freedom violations.

For example, the patriarchate is not recognized by the Turkish state with its authentic and official title, “Ecumenical.” The term, which means “universal,” implies that the patriarchate of Constantinople has authority over all other Orthodox Christians of the world. But Turkish nationalism found this global authority unacceptable – merely out of an immature hubris – and rather defined the institution as the “Patriarchate of Phanar,” referring to the insignificant neighborhood in Istanbul in which the patriarchate is located.

A few years ago, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan eased the official obsession on this issue, saying that he had no problem with the title ecumenical “since the Ottomans did not have a problem with it, either.” Yet still, no official text recognizes the Ecumenical Patriarchate as it is.

But that is the least of the problems. A much bigger one is the status of the Halki Seminary, the only institution in which the patriarchate can train new clergy and thus sustain its tradition. The seminary is closed since 1971, when a military junta decided to shut down or “nationalize” all independent schools.

The AKP government has been promising to reopen the Halki Seminary for a decade, but with no result. Indeed it was expected that Erdoğan would take this much-expected step in his much-hailed “democratization package” of last September, but he did not. Word has it that the government decided to take the Halki Seminary out of the “package” at the last moment.

But why? As I explained in the conference, the AKP’s Ottoman references in fact do not create an ideological obstacle to the reopening of Halki Seminary or other Christian institutions or churches. (After all, Halki Seminary was opened in mid-19th century under Ottoman rule, and was closed down by secularist/nationalist generals in the more “modern” era.)

Yet there is still an obstacle: the “reciprocity” principle between Turkey and Greece. Accordingly, both sides see their Greek and Turkish minorities as people in the wrong countries, and do not take any step for them unless the other side does with regards to its own minority.

This was made clear recently by an AKP official, Metin Külünk. “Do not have a doubt,” he said, “Turkey will not take a step to re-open Halki Seminary until Greece, who did not hold up the promise it gave in Lausanne, opens the Fethiye Mosque in Athens.” Notably his audience was the Western Thrace Turks Solidarity Association, founded by ethnic Turks whose cultural and religious rights have often been violated in Greece.

I despise this “reciprocity” idea, and defend religious freedom everywhere regardless of the political context. It is a political reality, though. Therefore, perhaps calls for more religous freedom will be more productive if they try to see and fix the troubles on both sides of the Aegean. They are quite similar problems created by similarly nationalist mindsets, after all.