Turks of Western Thrace: Wikis


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The region of Thrace.

Turks of Western Thrace (Turkish: Batı Trakya Türkleri) are ethnic Turks who live in Western Thrace, which is in the north-eastern part of Greece. The Turkish community number between 120,000 and 130,000 ethnic Turks.[1][2] The Greek government refers to the Turkish community as Greek Muslims or Hellenic Muslims, and denies the existence of a Turkish minority in Western Thrace.[3]



Turks began to settle in Western Thrace during the twelfth century and the area was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1354,[4] remaining in Turkish hands until 1913 when it was taken over by Bulgaria, which had been victorious in the First Balkan War. France occupied the area at the end of the First World War, following the defeat of Bulgaria, and it passed into Greek hands under the Treaty of Sèvres in August 1920.[5]

In 1923, the population of Western Thrace was 191,699, of whom 129,120 (67%) were Turks and 33,910 (18%) were Greeks; the remaining 28,669 were mostly Bulgarians, along with small numbers of Jews and Armenians.[6]

Within the larger definition of the Muslim minority, the Turks of Western Thrace were exempted from the 1922-1923 Exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey and were granted special rights within the framework of Lausanne Treaty, such as education in the Turkish language.

Human rights issues



According to the Greek government, between 1955 and 1998, approximately 60,000 Greek Muslim individuals, predominantly Turkish, were deprived of their citizenship under Article 19. Of these 60,000, approximately 7,182 lost their citizenship between 1981 and 1997.[7]

Denial of ethnic identity

The Greek government denies the existence of a Turkish minority within its borders; government spokesmen say there are no Turks in Western Thrace.[8] They view the Turks as a religious minority, rather than as an ethnic or a national minority.[9][10] Greek courts have also outlawed the use of the word 'Turkish' to describe the Turkish community. In 1988, the Greek High Court affirmed a 1986 decision of the Court of Appeals of Thrace in which the Union of Turkish Associations of Western Thrace was ordered closed. The court held that the use of the word 'Turkish' referred to citizens of Turkey, and could not be used to describe citizens of Greece; the use of the word 'Turkish' to describe Greek Muslims was held to endanger public order.[11] This led to about 10,000 people demonstrating against the decision in Western Thrace. According to members of the Turkish minority, it was the first time ethnic Turks had taken to the streets.[12]

Degrading treatment

The Turkish minority continues to experience degrading treatment in the form of continued harassment by the police.[13]

Freedom of expression

The freedom of expression of the Turkish minority is frequently violated. However, they are allowed to issue newspapers and magazines in the Turkish language; newspapers and magazines published in Turkey are not allowed entry into Western Thrace, nor are Turkish books. In addition, Turkish television and sometimes Turkish radio are jammed.[14]

Religious freedom

According to the Lausanne Treaty, the Turkish minority is entitled to freedom of religion and to the right to control charitable and religious institutions. However, the Turkish community believes that these international law guarantees have been violated by the Greek government[15] by denying permission to repair or rebuild old mosques or to build new mosques, by denying the right to choose the muftis (this chief religious officers), and by efforts to control the Turkish communities charitable foundations.[16]


The Turkish community has a strong presence in Komotini (Turkish: Gümülcine) and Xanthi (Turkish: İskeçe).



Regions where the Turkish language is spoken



In 1990 a new electoral law was introduced in Greece, which set a threshold of at least 3% of the nationwide vote for a party to be represented in the parliament, independent Turkish MPs were thus barred from election at the 1993 elections. The participation of members of the minority in the Hellenic Parliament is since then assured by Turkish candidats from nationwide political parties, but the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace, which succeeded the Independent Muslim List in 1991, went on competing for elections at the prefectural and municipal levels. In the Parliament elected in 2007, there are 2 ethnically Turkish PASOK MPs, Çetin Mandacı and Ahmet Hacıosman. In the preceding legislature (2004-2007) there was only one Turkish MP, from New Democracy, İlhan Ahmet.

Greek legislative election, 2009

There are presently two Turkish MPs from Western Thrace, both affiliated to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Çetin Mandacı (Xanthi) and Ahmet Hacıosman (Rhodope), former president (1999-2007) of the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace created by former (1989) MP Sadık Ahmet in 1991[17].

At least 14 candidates from the Turkish minority have been nominated, mainly in Rhodope and Xanthi[18].

For New Democracy, former MP (2004-2007) İlhan Ahmet and Ahmet Ahmet are candidates in Rhodope[19], and in Xanthi Aysel Zeybek and Ahmet Budur[20]. Mrs Zeybek is a former victim of Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code, which allowed the government to revoke the citizenship of non-ethnic Greeks who left the country[21]. She won her case before the European Court of Human Rights and re-secured her Greek citizenship in 2001.

For PASOK, Çetin Mandacı and Seval Osmanoğlu are among the 5 candidates in Xanthi, Rıdvan Kocamümin and Ahmet Hacıosman among the 5 in Rhodope[22].

For the KKE (which presently has no MP in Xanthi or Rhodope), Faik Faik in Rhodope and Hasan Efendi in Xanthi.

For SYRIZA (which presently has no MP in Xanthi or Rhodope), Hasan Malkoç and Hüseyin Zeybek are candidates in Xanthi[23], and in Rhodope[24] Dr. Mustafa Mustafa (former MP) and Celalettin Yurtçu[25].

According to the Turkish newspaper Zaman,

The ND and PASOK are upping the ante with get-out-the-vote measures aimed at Turks, including providing free bus transportation for 20,000 Greek citizens living in Turkey to Western Thrace so that they can cast their votes. They will also pay 50 euros per head for voters coming to Western Thrace[25]

In an earlier published Zaman article more details were mentioned:

PASOK party gives 50 euros for each voter, the ruling ND party, 40 Euro (...) 20,000 Greek citizens living in Istanbul and Bursa are to be moved by buses at no charge to Western Thrace. For the 2007 election, approximately 10 thousand had been flocked by buses to Western Thrace. (...) This time, electors living in Germany will be transported freely from Cologne to Thessaloniki on October 1, and from Düsseldorf on October 2 to Alexandroupoli. Those going to Komotini and Xanthi will be transported by free buses.[26]


There are some members of the Greek Muslim community among the some 350,000 Greeks living in Germany who are Turks or who espouse a Turkish identity.[27] The majority of Turks immigrated from Western Thrace.[28] In the 1960s and 1970s, the Thracian tobacco industry was affected by a sever crisis and many tobacco growers lost their income. This resulted in many Turks leaving their homes and immigrating to Germany with estimates suggesting that today there are now 12,000 residing in Germany.[29]

Notable Turks of Western Thrace

See also


  1. ^ Whitman 1990, i.
  2. ^ Levinson 1998, 41.
  3. ^ Whitman 1990, i.
  4. ^ Panayi 1999, 50.
  5. ^ Panayi 1999, 51.
  6. ^ Whitman 1990, 1.
  7. ^ http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/greece/Greec991-06.htm
  8. ^ Whitman 1990, 14.
  9. ^ Whitman 1990, 15.
  10. ^ Madianou 2005, 34.
  11. ^ Whitman 1990, 16.
  12. ^ Whitman 1990, 17.
  13. ^ Whitman 1990, 22.
  14. ^ Whitman 1990, 24.
  15. ^ Whitman 1990, 26.
  16. ^ Whitman 1990, 27.
  17. ^ Βιογραφικά - ΟΣΜΑΝ ΑΧΜΕΤ ΧΑΤΖΗ, ΒΟΥΛΕΥΤΗΣ ΡΟΔΟΠΗΣ, ΣΗΜΑ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΝΕΛΛΗΝΙΟΥ ΣΟΣΙΑΛΙΣΤΙΚΟΥ ΚΙΝΗΜΑΤΟΣ, Βουλή των Ελλήνων, , accessed on September 24, 2009
  18. ^ Chris Loutradis, Turkish candidate stirs debate in Greek polls, Hürriyet Daily News, September 22, 2009, accessed on September 24, 2009
  19. ^ candidates for the Rodopi circonscription, website of New Democracy, accessed on September 24, 2009
  20. ^ candidates for the Xanthi circonscription, website of New Democracy, accessed on September 24, 2009
  21. ^ Harassment of Aysel Zeybek and The Responses, The Balkan Human Rights Web Pages, accessed on September 24, 2009
  22. ^ (Turkish) Hasan Hacı, PASOK, Türk milletvekili adaylarını, Rodop Rüzgârı, September 10, 2009, accessed on September 25, 2009
  23. ^ ΞΑΝΘΗΣ Νομός ΞΑΝΘΗΣ - Υποψήφιοι
  24. ^ ΡΟΔΟΠΗΣ Νομός ΡΟΔΟΠΗΣ - Υποψήφιοι
  25. ^ a b Hasan Haci, Turkish minority vote worth its weight in gold in Greek elections, Today's Zaman, October 3, 2009
  26. ^ (Turkish) Yunanistan'da Türk oyları için bedava uçak ve otobüs seferleri, Cihan News Agency, September 25, 2009
  27. ^ Westerlund & Svanberg 1999, 320-321.
  28. ^ Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly 2007, 118.
  29. ^ Clogg 2002, 84.


  • Clogg, Richard (2002), Minorities in Greece: Aspects of a Plural Society, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, ISBN 185065705X  .
  • Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly (2007), Parliamentary Assembly: Working Papers 2007 Ordinary Session 22-26 January 2007, Council of Europe, ISBN 9287161917  .
  • Madianou, Mirca (2005), Mediating the nation: news, audiences and the politics of identity, Routledge Cavendish, ISBN 1844720284  .
  • Minahan, James (2002), Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: S-Z, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0313323844  .
  • Levinson, David (1998), Ethnic groups worldwide: a ready reference handbook, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0313323844  .
  • Panayi, Panikos (1999), Outsiders: a history of European minorities, Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 1573560197  .
  • Westerlund, David; Svanberg, Ingvar (1999), Islam Outside the Arab World, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0312226918  .
  • Whitman, Lois (1990), Destroying ethnic identity: the Turks of Greece, Human Rights Watch, ISBN 0929692705  .

External links


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