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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.

Turks of Greece overwhelmingly vote for Syriza February 17, 2015

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Turkish and Muslim population of Greece voted overwhelmingly for the radical-left group Syriza in Sunday’s elections and sent three deputies to the Greek Parliament from the Syriza cadres.

Radical-left Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left – Synaspismos Rizospastikis Aristeras) won Sunday’s elections in Greece by a great margin, and its leader Alexis Tsipras announced the new coalition in less than 24 hours. Along with many Greeks, who were frustrated with the economic crisis and EU-dictated austerity measures, many Turks and Muslim of Western Thrace also voted for Syriza.

In Xanthi (İskeçe) and Rhodope (Rodop) provinces, in which Turkish and Muslim minorities makes up a significant portion of the population, Syriza won the elections by receiving 45 and 48 percent of the votes respectively, well above the national average of 36 percent.

Hüseyin Zeybek from Xanthi (İskeçe) and, Mustafa Mustafa and Ayhan Karayusuf from Rhodopes (Rodop) provinces were elected as representatives of the Turkish community in the Greek Parliament. The Turkish community had also sent three deputies to the parliament in the 2012 elections.

According to the results, Syriza’s votes are higher in rural areas where the Turkish and Muslim populations are the majority. However, in cities and towns, in which the Greeks form the majority, Syriza also received a higher percentage of votes than the national average.

In Xanthi (İskeçe) province, Syriza received 45 percent of the votes. In the city of Xanthi, Syriza received 38 percent of the votes, meanwhile in Abdera municipality, its share increased to 42 percent. In Selero (Gökçeler) village of Abdera, Syriza’s votes were 74 percent. Again in Myki municipality, which is on the Bulgarian border and mainly inhabited by Muslim Pomaks, 69 percent of voters chose Syriza. The Thermes (Ilıca), Kotyli, Myki and Satres communities voted for Syriza respectively by 71, 68, 68 and 79 percent.

In Rhodope (Rodop) province, Syriza received 48 percent of the votes. In the city of Komotini (Gümülcine), in which Turks make up 40 percent of the population, Syriza received 39 percent of the votes. The party won with 32 percent in Aigeiros (Kavaklı) and 46 percent of Neo Sidirochori (Cambaz) villages of Komotini. In Arriana municipality, 65 percent of voters chose Syriza. Organi, Kechros (Mehrikoz) and Fillyra (Sirkeli) communities voted for Syriza respectively by 64, 62 and 65 percent. Iasmos, Amaxades and Sostis (Susurköy) villages voted for Syriza respectively by 48, 72 and 71 in Iasmos municipality. Syriza received 46 percent of the votes in Maroneia-Sapes municipality, with 45 percent of the voters choosing Syriza in Sapes (Şapçı) village.

Karayusuf spoke to German Deutsche Welle Turkish, and said that the Turkish community of Western Thrace have been affected worse than the rest of Greece in the economic crisis.

“Minorities were affected more, as minorities have less government employees and most people are workers or peasants. Eight to ten thousand families make their living through tobacco cultivation. As the support from Europe decreased, these people started having rough times” Karayusuf said.

He also noted that Western Thrace’s Turkish community was suppressed due to its identity, and Syriza was the only party with policies to preserve national identities.

Athens’ memorandum proposal – a Greek trap or a step forwards? October 6, 2012

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, Yunanistan.
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 Macedonian government should respond positively but also give its own proposals to the draft memorandum of understanding, presented yesterday by Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos to his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Poposki.
This is the position of diplomats and professors on the issue.
The letter sent to Minister Poposki says that the memorandum should set a framework and the basic parameters of the name issue solution. Most of the proposals in the draft memorandum, as Dnevnik comments, repeat the Interim Agreement, while the new, and rather moot, point concerns Athens’ demand for the two countries to undertake the engagement to find a name with a geographic term for a broad use.
The Greek foreign minister comments further that Poposki may address the Greek representation to Skopje, the Greek foreign ministry and name dispute negotiator Adamandios Vasilakis. Spokesperson of the Macedonian government, Alexandar Georgiev, on the other hand, said yesterday that Avramopoulos’ letter will be examined carefully and serious consideration.
With the draft paper the Greek government wants the two countries to agree on the inviolability of the borders, respect the territorial integrity of the other country, refrain from propaganda and statements, which could violate the negotiations, including the use of symbols, which are part of the cultural heritage of the two countries.
“We confirm that neither of the countries will back claims on any of the territories of the other or demand change of the borders,” the document reads.
One of the points in the documents envisages an agreement for speeding up the negotiations under the auspices of the UN, under Resolution 845, with the purpose to reach agreement on the differences, provided under Resolution 817.
With regard to this Avramopoulos proposes the two countries to reach an agreement on overall respect of the principles of good neighbourly relations and on non-interference in the home affairs of the other country under no circumstances.
The last point, which is unacceptable for Macedonia, is that the framework within which the name issue should be solved should be within the Greek red lines.
“There is a need to continue the process within the agreed framework of the basic parameters for the name issue solution, which will also include an agreement that any solution to the dispute will have a clear notion about the name and will not give chances for ambiguities around distinguishing the territory of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia and the regions of the neighbouring countries, especially the North Greece region and that the agreement will be for a broad use (erga omnes),” the paper says.
According to President of the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly H.E. Dr. Srgjan Kerim, there is an obvious stirring up in the name issue talks, which is felt after the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Macedonia. According to him, there is no reason for the Macedonian government not to respond positively to Greece’s proposal.
“Our country should consider the draft memorandum a good will for negotiations,” Kerim said.
According to Vladimir Ortakovski, professor in international law, the texts concerning the inviolability of the borders and the respect to the sovereignty are indisputable, since they are provided in the interim agreement, too.
“We should reply that we do not accept any framework except for the one set by the UN Security Council. We cannot allow the outlining of possible solution,” Ortakovski remarked.
According to him, the memorandum is Athens’ response to the initiative for good neighbourly relations, proposed by Macedonia.
“Greece showed that it does not want to be in passive position. Thus, our diplomacy should analyse the proposal and then respond with a counter offer,” Ortakovski commented further.
Professor Stevo Pendarovski, who considers the text of the draft resolution good, also thinks that there is a need to pay attention to the part, which concerns the set framework for the agreement.
“The UN resolutions do not set parameters for name issue’s solution. We have to see whether Greece sets this important definition on purpose. The government should reply that it will not engage itself with this part, since the preliminary condition is to hold talks on name issue’s solution, while the framework is not for broad use.”
Bosko Stankovski, PhD(c) of International Law with the Cambridge University, said that there were certain points, which need to be paid attention to.
“There are two things that impressed me. First of all, the language used in the memorandum shows that Greece is trying to update the name dispute as an issue connected to the security and the basic condition for our European-Atlantic integration. This is not just by chance, since nowadays no one believes that the name affects the security. Secondly, Greece wants to set the stretch within which the name will be used before reaching a final solution,” Stankovski remarked.
Diplomats, who preferred to stay anonymous, commented that if the memorandum was expanded with one more point – that the two countries undertake the engagement to observe the interim agreement, could help Macedonia get a date for starting the EU accession talks.
Professor Ortakovski said that the interim agreement will be in force even after Athens and Skopje sign a memorandum of understanding.
According to some, there is no difference between the memorandum of understanding and the agreement on good neighborly relations.

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.