''FULL THROTTLE'' ON EXPROPRIATION IN WESTERN THRACE
In 1952, President Celal Bayar visited a high school in Gümülcine, Western Thrace, that was named after him. Since 1993, there have been attempts to knock down the attached dormitory’s canteen. It was finally knocked down by the council “in exchange for building a new canteen inside the existing building and repairing that building”. And so, in spite of the EU acquis and the Treaty of Lausanne, another property belonging to a minority foundation was destroyed.
According to a report in Birlik newspaper, the court order was made after Sotiris Popouzis, lawyer to the Foundations Directorate, applied to the court for access to his own land. In spite of protests, the Celal Bayar dormitory canteen, which hosts students from the school, is no more. And it is not only the canteen that is set to go according to the city plans from 1933 under which the destruction was made.
There are plans afoot, according to 1996 modifications, for four mosques in the Western Thracian region to be placed under public ownership. Turks are reacting angrily to plans to destroy the mosques, many of them dating to Ottoman times, so as to build new roads.
Halit Habipoğlu, head of the European Western Thrace Turkish Federation (EWTTF), made a statement on the matter:
“The canteen, which hosted students from the Balkan branch, was knocked down during the course of the academic year, and this is affecting those students staying in the dormitories. The application of the 1933 city plans is occurring at the behest of Gümülcine Council. The Rodop governorship decided to put the Gümülcine plan into action in 1998, and the subsequent 2001 proposals to expropriate part of the Celal Bayar school in order to build a road has, in spite of our protests lasting many years, finally happened.
The Council’s application over foundation properties is an unacceptable situation. What is more, it is in contravention of the terms of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. If the city plan continues to be implemented, mosques belonging to our minority are set to be knocked down. To prevent the congregation and foundation possessions belonging to our minority from being destroyed, we must respond as one voice.”