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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.

Athens, Newspapers Riled over Turkish Prime Minister’s ‘Minority’ Statement October 4, 2012

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses, Thrace, Trakya, Turkey, Yunanistan.
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Greek newspapers have accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of provocation after Erdoğan referred to the Turks in western Thrace as the “Turkish minority,” daily Milliyet reported today.

Erdoğan sent a congratulatory message to the Fraternity, Equality and Peace Party (DEP) in Greece to mark the 21st anniversary of the party, which was founded by members of the minority community there.

“Our kin in western Thrace has always had a special place in our hearts,” Erdoğan said in his message. “That is why it is very important that our kin exercises their rights, which have been guaranteed by international agreements, to their full extent.”

“We will always stand by the Turkish minority in western Thrace, as we have done up to this day,” Erdoğan said.

The Turkish prime minister also expressed his hope that the minority in western Thrace and the Greek Orthodox minority in Turkey would serve as “a bridge of friendship” between the two countries.

The Greek Foreign Ministry responded to Erdoğan’s message saying there was no such thing as a “Turkish minority” in the international agreements to which Erdoğan referred in his message.

Greek newspaper Demokratia carried the story with the headline “Erdoğan provokes” and said, “Erdoğan has shown his true colors once again. He calls Greek Muslims Turks and tries to appear as their benefactor.”

Etnos newspaper said, “Erdoğan’s government is very interested in creating a minority issue in Thrace, and they are very good at it.”

Official Greek numbers say around 49,000 ethnic Turks live in Thrace, while western Thrace culture and education associations put the number at around 150,000.

Union of Turkish Youth attacked in Western Thrace March 28, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses, Turkey, Yunanistan.
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The attack took place on Sunday night and was noticed by the executives of the Union on Monday morning.

Assailants broke the windows of the Union and tried to open the entrance door.

Local police forces came to the scene of the incident upon a request by the chairperson of the Union, Koray Hasan.

In an exclusive interview with the Anatolia news agency, Hasan said that they strongly condemned last night’s attack.

We demand that necessary precautions are taken so that the assailants are arrested in order to ensure that peace in the region and the Turkish minority are not hurt, Hasan also said.

Tourkıkı Enosı Xanthıs And Others v. Greece December 20, 2009

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Human rights abuses, Yunanistan.
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The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its Chamber judgments1 in the cases of Emin and Others v. Greece (application no. 34144/05) and Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others v. Greece (no. 26698/05).

The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights in both cases, which concern associations founded by persons belonging to the Muslim minority of Western Thrace (Greece). In the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others the Court also held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time) of the Convention. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court held that the finding of a violation constituted in itself just satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage suffered by the applicants in the case of Emin and Others. In the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others the Court awarded the association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis 8,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. (The judgments are available only in French.)

1. Principal facts

Both cases concern complaints by the applicants about decisions taken by the Greek courts against associations founded by persons belonging to the Muslim minority of Western Thrace (Greece).

Emin and Others

The seven applicants, Houlia Emin, Aisse Galip, Feriste Devetzioglou, Mediha Bekiroglou, Aisse Molla Ismail, Eminet Mehmet Ahmet and Gioulsen Memet, are Greek nationals living in Rodopi (Greece).

In March 2001 they and other women from the region founded the “Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Region of Rodopi”. According to the statute of the Association, its aim was to create a “meeting place for women of the county of Rodopi” and to work for “social, moral and spiritual exaltation and establish bonds of sisterhood between its members”.

On 6 June 2001 the Greek courts dismissed a request for registration of the association on the ground that its title might mislead the public regarding the origin of its members. The Court of Appeal upheld that decision in January 2003, reiterating that by virtue of the Treaty of Lausanne only a Muslim minority – and not a Turkish minority – had been recognised in the region of Western Thrace. The Court of Appeal held that the title of the association, combined with the terms of its statute, was contrary to public policy. An appeal on points of law by the applicants was dismissed in April 2005.

Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others

The applicants are two associations, Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and “Academic Graduates’ Circle of the minority in Western Thrace”, and eight Greek nationals: Galip Galip, Ahmet Mehmet, Orhan Hatziibraim, Ahmet Faikoglou, Birol Akifoglou, Loutfie Nihatoglou, Hiousniou Serdarzade, Rassim Hint.

The first applicant association, Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis, was founded in 1927 under the name “House of the Turkish Youth of Xanthi”. According to the statute of the association, its purpose was to preserve and promote the culture of the “Turks of Western Thrace” and to create bonds of friendship and solidarity between them. In 1936 the applicant association successfully sought to change its name to “Turkish Association of Xanthi”. In November 1983, however, a decision was issued prohibiting it from using the term “Turkish” on any document, stamp or sign.

On 11 March 1986 the Greek courts ordered the dissolution of the association on the ground that its statute ran counter to public policy. The Thrace Court of Appeal upheld that judgment on 25 January 2002. It found that the applicant association was not in conformity with the Treaty of Lausanne and that some of the members presented the Muslim minority of Thrace as a “strongly oppressed minority”. The court referred, among other things, to the president of the association’s participation in conferences organised by the Turkish authorities and the publication of a letter in a Turkish daily referring to the “Turks of Western Thrace”. In April 2002 the first applicant association appealed on points of law and subsequently the nine other applicants also intervened in the proceedings in support of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis. The appeal was finally dismissed in February 2005.

2. Procedure and composition of the Court

The application in the case of Emin and Others was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 19 September 2005 and in the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others on 15 July 2005.

Judgments were given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Nina Vajić (Croatian), President, Khanlar Hajiyev (Azerbaijani), Dean Spielmann (Luxemburger), Sverre Erik Jebens (Norwegian), Giorgio Malinverni (Swiss),
George Nicolaou (Cypriot), judges, Petros Pararas (Greek), ad hoc judge, and also Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar.

3. Summary of the judgment2


Relying in particular on Articles 11 (freedom of assembly and association) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination), the applicants in the case of Emin and Others complained of the Greek courts’ refusal to register their association and the applicants in the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others of the court-ordered dissolution of the association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis. In the case of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others the applicants also complained, under Article 6 § 1, of the excessive length of the proceedings.

Decision of the Court

In respect of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others, the Court declared the complaints based on Articles 11 and 14 admissible

only regarding the association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and the following applicants: Orhan Hatziibraim, Ahmet Faikoglou, Birol Akifoglou, Loutfie Nihatoglou, Hiousniou Serdarzade, Rassim Hint. It declared the complaint based on Article 6 § 1 admissible only in respect of Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis.

Article 11

Emin and Others

Whilst reiterating that the taking of evidence was governed primarily by the rules of domestic law and that it was in principle for the national courts to assess the evidence before them, the Court was not satisfied that the Greek courts had based their finding that the association constituted a danger to public policy on the title “Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Region of Rodopi” alone. It observed that it had not been possible to verify the intentions of the applicants in practice as the association had never been registered.

The Court observed that even supposing that the real aim of the association had been to promote the idea that there was an ethnic minority in Greece, this could not be said to constitute a threat to democratic society. There was nothing in the statute to indicate that its members advocated the use of violence or of undemocratic or unconstitutional means. The Court noted further that the Greek courts would have had the power to dissolve the association if in practice it pursued aims that were different from those stated in its statute or if it operated in a manner contrary to the law. Accordingly, the Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 11.

Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis and Others

The Court referred at the outset to the radical nature of the measure dissolving the applicant association. It noted that the association had pursued its activities unhindered for nearly half a century. Furthermore, the Greek courts had not identified any element in the title or statute of the association that might be contrary to public policy. The Court observed that even supposing that the real aim of the applicant association had been to promote the idea that there was an ethnic minority in Greece, this could not be said to constitute a threat to democratic society. It reiterated that the existence of minorities and different cultures in a country was a historical fact that a democratic society had to tolerate and even protect and support according to the principles of international law.

The Court also considered that it could not be inferred from the factors relied on by the Thrace Court of Appeal that the applicant association had engaged in activities contrary to its proclaimed objectives. Moreover, there was no evidence that the president or members of the association had ever called for the use of violence, an uprising or any other form of rejection of democratic principles. The Court considered that freedom of association involved the right of everyone to express, in a lawful context, their beliefs about their ethnic identity. However shocking and unacceptable certain views or words used might appear to the authorities, their dissemination should not automatically be regarded as a threat to public policy or to the territorial integrity of a country. Accordingly, the Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 11.

Article 14 in conjunction with Article 11

In both cases the Court held that it was not necessary to examine separately the applicants’ complaints based on Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 11.

Article 6 § 1

The Court noted that, in respect of the applicant association Tourkiki Enosi Xanthis, the proceedings in question had lasted more than 21 years. Having regard to the circumstances of the case, it considered that that was excessive and failed to satisfy the “reasonable time” requirement. Accordingly, it held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1.

Greece defies ECHR ruling and refuses to register Turkish organization June 10, 2009

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses, Turkey.
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Skopje, Friday, 29 May 2009 by Georgios N. Papadakis
Continuing their policy of avoiding recognition of a distinct Turkish minority in its territory, Greece refused for yet another time to register the NGO “Turkish Union of Xanthi”, despite the final rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

In its decision, the First Instance Court of Xanthi ruled against the registration of the Turkish minority organization, refusing at the same time the restoration of the status the NGO had until 1983.

That year, the organization’s activities were suspended and its registration was finally revoked by the Greek authorities in 1986. According to this decision, the Union could not have the word “Turkish” in its title, since there is not a Turkish but a “Muslim” minority only in Greece.

The organization objected to this decision and the issue was finally brought in front of the Greek Supreme Court, which simply validated the decision of the Greek authorities.

In 2005, the case reached the ECHR in Strasbourg and Greece was subsequently ordered to register the Union with its original name. The country immediately appealed against the ECHR’ s ruling and lost again last June.

Following these developments, the organization re-applied to the First Instance Court of Xanthi, which surprisingly rejected the application without giving more details about its decision.

According to Eurolang sources in the region, the Union’s representatives, although bitterly disappointed from the negative ruling, are already preparing to appeal again to the Higher Court. “They are trying to exhaust us and simply win time but they don’t realize that they have already lost”, a member of the organization told Eurolang.

The Xanthi Turkish Union case is almost identical to the one of the Home of Macedonian Culture, an NGO founded back in 1990 but still not registered by the Greek courts, despite the fact that the ECHR has ruled twice against Greece already.

Similar to the Turkish Union, Greece claims that an organization bearing the name ‘Macedonian’ (as a distinct definition different to Greek), which tries to protect Macedonian culture and language within Greek territory, cannot be registered as according to Greece there is no Macedonian community in the country. (Eurolang 2009)