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Efforts of Western-Thrace Turks in Thessaloniki remain unsuccessful, mosque pledge not kept September 6, 2012

Posted by Yilan in Human rights, Human rights abuses, Thrace, Turkey, Yunanistan.
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Halit Habipoğlu: Why is the approval of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs needed for a request that comes from the Greek citizens?

The Greek Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to the request of Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris with regard to the opening of the New Mosque in Thessaloniki during the holly month Ramadan, which has been closed for worship since 1924.

According the to the news of daily Hürriyet, Yiannis Boutaris, Mayor of Thessaloniki, applied to the Greek Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports for the opening for worship on special days of the New Mosque whose right of use the Thessaloniki Municipality possesses as from 2012. However, the Mayor of Thessaloniki stated for the opening for worship of the New Mosque, not only the approval Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports but also of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is needed.

On the other hand, the Western-Thrace Turks living in Thessaloniki request for the opening for worship during the Ramadan feast of the Alaca Imaret Mosque which is in the best physical state among the mosques in Thessaloniki. Speaking to the daily Gündem, Ferit İsmailoğlu, member of the Executive Board of the Macedonia-Thrace Muslims Education and Culture Association, noted during the meeting they had with Yannis Boutaris three months ago, the Mayor promised to provide the Alaca Imaret Mosque for worship during the Ramadan feast.

“It is not understandable that the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul has the saying in satisfying the regarding demand expressed for a long time by the Muslims who are all Greek citizens. Today, the confusion on this issue is the result of the exclusionary attitude adopted by the Greek Government towards the request that comes from the members of the minority although they are its own citizens.” said Halit Habipoğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe

Muslims Suffer Violent Attacks in Bulgaria June 20, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Bulgaria, Human rights, Human rights abuses, Islam, Muslim, Turkey.
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Chief Mufti urges Muslims to defend themselves
Muslims Suffer Violent Attacks in Bulgaria

For the past century, Muslims in the Balkans are the victims of many episodes of ethnic cleansing by the crusaders and later by the Communists in Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece. As Communism collapsed, the Muslims in Eastern Europe are still facing suppression, discrimination, harassment and intolerance.
Recently, members of the far-right Bulgarian Ataka party have attacked several Muslims who gathered for their usual Friday prayers at a main mosque in downtown Sofia. The supporters of Volen Siderov, the leader of the Bulgarian ultra-nationalist party Ataka, burned carpets used during Friday prayers at Sofia Grand Mosquea and attacked the Muslims with stones and eggs, a Press TV correspondent reported.
Police say several people were injured as nationalists clashed with Muslims during Friday prayers. The Ataka party’s followers had gathered in downtown Sofia to protest against the Muslim community in the country.
The violence erupted after one of the rightist members grabbed a prayer rug and set it on fire, leading to a fight between the two groups. The tension also escalated after an Ataka activist tried to play patriotic music on the loudspeakers of the mosque. Siderov, who is running in the October 11 presidential election, said during the Friday protest that he wants demonstrations against Muslims to continue in Bulgaria.
Around one million Muslims currently live in the country amid grave concerns that the Muslim community could be deprived of their constitutional rights of religious expression if the extremist Ataka party’s leader takes power in the upcoming election.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boyko Borisiv expressed concerns over the incident, saying the ethnic cohesion of the Bulgarian society should be preserved.  But many people say mere words are not enough.
The Bulgarian government has recently forbidden passport pictures with women’s headscarves and banned religious literature from focusing on Islam in a move that has been widely viewed as part of a smear campaign against Muslims in the country.
Muslims Reactions
Part of the Bulgarian society is plagued with islamophobia, the Bulgarian Chief Mufti’s Office has declared in a statement urging the Bulgarian Muslims to take measures to defend themselves against attacks.
The Chief Mufti’s Office, however, complains that numerous similar incidents have followed ever since, and that the Bulgarian state institutions have failed to protect the Muslims in Bulgaria and their worship places. “After this next case of violence against a Muslim and the desecration of a mosque, the Bulgarian Muslims community has received a clear message that the state is either unable to protect us, or doesn’t want to do that, which leaves us in a very hard situation as citizens of the EU who were still hoping that there are sufficiently good democratic mechanisms for preventing repressions against us,” reads the statement of the religious leadership of the Bulgarian Muslims.
“Unfortunately, our hope turned out to be illusionary, our expectations were not met, and we are now aware that we have to provide for our own security and rights. Numerous cases, some of them rather shocking, in the recent years lead us to assume that Muslims are unwanted in this country, and that pressure against us will continue… [They] show that part of the Bulgarian society is hostile and aggressive against Islam, Islamic values, and the Muslim community,” the Chief Mufti’s Office says stressing that the above-described incidents should not be treated as hooliganism or criminal acts “but as a common strategy and intolerance against the Muslims, which could probably lead to more large-scale operations.”
It further calls upon the Muslims in the country to organize day and night guards as volunteers “in order to protect what the state fails to protect – the honor and dignity of Islam and Muslims.”
“These steps are the beginning of a self-protection campaign. We are going to inform you of your next steps depending on the development of the problems and the desires of the community. In conclusion, we turn to our state leaders, institutions, and authorities, to all evil-minded people, to all Islamophobes, to all attackers – do you think that we love Bulgaria less than you, concludes the Chief Mufti’s Office.
Who Are the Bulgarian Muslims?
Muslims in Bulgaria belong to various ethnic groups, such as the Turks, Pomaks, Gypsies and Tatars. The Pomaks are the main Muslim ethnic group in Bulgaria. There are many contradicting views, regarding the origin of Pomaks. According to some historians, they are the descendants of the ancient Slavic or Slavized inhabitants of the Balkans. Some of them converted to Islam at the time of the conquest and during the years that followed. Other groups converted to Islam during the period of the Ottoman Caliphate.
The number of Pomak population changed several times due to the suppression policy by the Christian and communist governments. During and after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the biggest waves of Pomak migrated to Turkey.  Bulgaria’s population is approximately 7.9 million according to a 2001 census. Approximately 13 percent of the Bulgarians are Muslims.
Bulgarization of the Muslims
Since the Bulgarian independence in 1908, the nationalist regimes marginalized the Muslims and traditionally considered them as foreigners, even if they were ethnically Bulgarian. The Orthodox Church is very influential and with the help of the Bulgarian nationalists they forced the Muslims to convert to Christianity. All the resisting Muslims were wounded, imprisoned, killed or deported. Thousands of them fled to Turkey and Greece. In the summer of 1989 more than 300,000 Muslims were deported from Bulgaria.
Mosques were converted into churches. Out of the 44 mosques in Sofia only one remained as a historical monument. The largest mosque in Bulgaria was the Tumbul Mosque in Shumen, built in 1744. Muslims were coerced to go to church every Sunday. Circumcision was prohibited, and the people who circumcised their sons were severely punished.
There are pressures on Muslims to change their names, vestment and language. Since 1942 a new law was passed which commanded Muslims to change their names to Bulgarian ones. About 2000 Turkish and Pomak village names were also changed to Bulgarian. Pomaks were banned from attending Turkish schools or use the Turkish language and they were forbidden to open private schools. Then Muslim school boards were abolished and unified with Bulgarian school boards. Thus all their non-Bulgarian daily life was subjected to censure.

Turks largest foreign group in EU in 2009—official October 19, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Turkish citizens were the largest group of non-European Union citizens living in the EU at the start of 2009, while the biggest group of EU citizens living in another member-state were from Romania, the EU statistics office said Tuesday.

In total, 31.9 million foreigners were recorded in the 27-member bloc beginning 2009, or 6.4 percent of the total EU population, said Eurostat.

The largest contingent of foreigners chose Germany as home—7.2 million people—followed by Spain with 5.7 million.

But the country with the highest percentage of foreigners was tiny Luxembourg with 44 percent, followed by Latvia (18 percent), and Cyprus and Estonia (16 percent).

That proportion fell to one percent in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Of the total number of foreigners, 11.9 million (2.4 percent) were citizens of another EU state, and 19.9 million (four percent) came from countries outside the EU—Africa (4.9 million), Asia (4 million), and the American continent (3.3 million).

Citizens of Turkey were the largest group of non-EU citizens with 2.4 million or eight percent, followed by Morocco (1.8 million or six percent), and Albania (one million or three percent).

But more than a third of foreigners in the EU bloc came from another member state.

The largest groups were from Romania, with two million or six percent of the total, followed by Poland (1.5 million or five percent) and Italy (1.3 million or four percent).

Bulgaria’s Ethnic Turks Contest 2009 Vote in Strasbourg October 15, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Bulgaria, Turkey, Turkish minority of Bularia.
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Ethnic Turkish Party Contests Bulgarian Election Results in Strasbourg: Bulgaria's Ethnic Turks Contest 2009 Vote in Strasbourg
The leadership of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms is challenging the results of the summer 2009 general elections in Bulgaria. The picture shows Hristo Biserov (l) and Lyutvi Mestan.

Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) has filed a complaint with the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg contesting the results of the 2009 general elections.

The information was reported Wednesday by the Bulgarian daily “Sega” (Now), citing sources from the party’s leadership.

The edition also quotes prominent and experienced in human rights cases Bulgarian lawyer, Emil Ekimdzhiev, who said DPS can claim its Members of the Parliament, whose election was annulled, suffered moral damages along with the entire political organization. According to Ekimdzhiev, in similar cases the Court awards EUR 10 000 in compensations. He, however, declined commenting on eventual political consequences from the outcome of the trial, only saying such cases usually drag on for 6 to 7 years and that he had been invited as council, but had rejected the offer.

The complaint stems from the April 2, 2010 refusal of the Constitutional Court to launch a trial in the case of the reshuffle of several MPs terms as a result from a law suit filed by the conservative Order, Law and Justice (RZS) party. Due to the reshuffle, DPS lost one parliamentary seat while the ruling, center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party gained one.

The claim with the Strasbourg Court is based on the Human Rights Convention articles, regulating the right of a due process and defense and the right to use effective legal means before the national authorities.

The ethnic Turkish party complained their position had not been heard by the Court as early as the RZS trial was going on, saying they were refused the right of defense and due process.

DPS further say striking 18 000 votes cast in neighboring Turkey only because the protocols were not signed violates the right of free elections.

Headscarf wearers at odds over Bulgarian passport rules July 25, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Bulgaria, Turkey, Turkish minority of Bularia.
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Biometric passports to be introduced by newest European Union member Bulgaria would require some Muslims to reveal more of themselves than they say their tradition allows.

For their passport photos, Bulgarians must show a centimetre of their hairline and both ears.

Some Muslims, mostly from the large Turkish majority, reject the requirement as \’invasive.\’

\’For me it is akin to stripping,\’ a young woman told the German Press Agency dpa in front of the Banya Bashi mosque in central Sofia. \’It is a crude invasion of my privacy.\’

The woman wears no headscarf in public but only because she is afraid of losing her job in the public service, she said, requesting to remain anonymous.

Unlike France, Bulgaria – which neighbours Turkey – is not considering any sort of a ban on Muslim clothing such as headscarves or the more radical burka, but authorities are adamant regarding the rules for passports and identity cards.

Ethnic Turks say that the enforcement of those rules reminds them of repression they endured as an unrecognized minority during the Communist regime between the end of World War II and 1989.

Nedzhmi Dabov, the mufti in Smolyan, in southern Bulgaria, says he plans to petition for changes to allow Muslim women to cover everything but their faces in the identity photos.

But until the dispute is settled many deeply religious Muslim women will remain without passports.

\’I will not travel to France,\’ an angry Safie Saidova, 42, told the 24 Chasa daily.

The newspaper ran a photo of Saidova as she wanted to appear in her passport – with the face surrounded by the scarf, no hair or ears in sight.

This is the way Saidova and other Muslim women typically appear in public in Bulgaria. Outside big cities, most Slavic Bulgarians also wear their own version of the headscarf.

Ethnic Turks make up about 10 per cent of Bulgaria\’s population. Unlike fellow Muslims embroiled in clothing controversies in Western Europe, they are not recent immigrants but have lived there since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Though many in Bulgaria tend to dismiss the row over headscarves and passports as overblown, it is the first clash in a long time between the government and ethnic Turks over a law. Until last year, the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) was a junior partner of the government coalition.

When Prime Minister Boyko Borisov\’s conservative GERB party came to power last year, Borisov formed a coalition with several nationalist parties and without DPS.

Now, as Turks are standing up for what they see as their religious rights, Slavic-Bulgarian nationalism is gaining momentum.

Radicals among Orthodox Christian Bulgarians – who make up a majority of the country\’s 7.6 million inhabitants – do not shy away from showing irritation with the growing number of Turkish women wearing headscarves.

\’Get out of Bulgaria, with your religion and customs,\’ a woman Christian wrote on the website of the private bTv channel. \’Just go to Turkey!\’

Sofia – Biometric passports to be introduced by newest European Union member Bulgaria would require some Muslims to reveal more of themselves than they say their tradition allows.

For their passport photos, Bulgarians must show a centimetre of their hairline and both ears.

Some Muslims, mostly from the large Turkish majority, reject the requirement as ‘invasive.’

‘For me it is akin to stripping,’ a young woman told the German Press Agency dpa in front of the Banya Bashi mosque in central Sofia. ‘It is a crude invasion of my privacy.’

The woman wears no headscarf in public but only because she is afraid of losing her job in the public service, she said, requesting to remain anonymous.

Unlike France, Bulgaria – which neighbours Turkey – is not considering any sort of a ban on Muslim clothing such as headscarves or the more radical burka, but authorities are adamant regarding the rules for passports and identity cards.

Ethnic Turks say that the enforcement of those rules reminds them of repression they endured as an unrecognized minority during the Communist regime between the end of World War II and 1989.

Nedzhmi Dabov, the mufti in Smolyan, in southern Bulgaria, says he plans to petition for changes to allow Muslim women to cover everything but their faces in the identity photos.

But until the dispute is settled many deeply religious Muslim women will remain without passports.

‘I will not travel to France,’ an angry Safie Saidova, 42, told the 24 Chasa daily.

The newspaper ran a photo of Saidova as she wanted to appear in her passport – with the face surrounded by the scarf, no hair or ears in sight.

This is the way Saidova and other Muslim women typically appear in public in Bulgaria. Outside big cities, most Slavic Bulgarians also wear their own version of the headscarf.

Ethnic Turks make up about 10 per cent of Bulgaria’s population. Unlike fellow Muslims embroiled in clothing controversies in Western Europe, they are not recent immigrants but have lived there since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Though many in Bulgaria tend to dismiss the row over headscarves and passports as overblown, it is the first clash in a long time between the government and ethnic Turks over a law. Until last year, the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) was a junior partner of the government coalition.

When Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s conservative GERB party came to power last year, Borisov formed a coalition with several nationalist parties and without DPS.

Now, as Turks are standing up for what they see as their religious rights, Slavic-Bulgarian nationalism is gaining momentum.

Radicals among Orthodox Christian Bulgarians – who make up a majority of the country’s 7.6 million inhabitants – do not shy away from showing irritation with the growing number of Turkish women wearing headscarves.

‘Get out of Bulgaria, with your religion and customs,’ a woman Christian wrote on the website of the private bTv channel. ‘Just go to Turkey!’