Western Thrace Turks have always experienced difficulties. The process from the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 to present day has been full of troubles. During tough times with the 1967 Colonels Junta, the Turkish minority gave a fight for their existence. Even there were times when Turks were banned to build or repair homes. There were unwritten rules as much as the written ones.
For instance, the Western Thrace Turks making a living on agriculture had the right to buy tractors but could not get driver’s licenses. They have always been disadvantaged in education, culture, politics, and administration. Some of the Western Thracians who could not endure the pressures immigrated to Turkey, European countries, Australia or the USA.
According to article 19 of the former Greek Citizenship Law, denationalized the immigrating Turks or ones travelling abroad. 20 years ago on January 29, 1988, Greece outlawed the “Gümülcine Turkish Youth Union”, “Turkish Teachers Association”, and “İskeçe Turkish Union”. Because there were not Turks in Greece… The Turkish minority, against all challenges and violent actions, gathered in Gümülcine city center and protested the decision. With this event, January 29 became the symbol of “national resistance” for Western Thracian Turks.
Since then, Western Thracian Turks have been celebrating January 29. On January 29, 1990, Western Thracian Turks celebrating the day were attacked by a group of fanatic Greeks. Hundreds of people were beaten and Turkish stores were attacked. January 29 was also celebrated this year. At least they attempted to celebrate it, because Turks were attacked once again. At the early hours of January 29, 2009 a petrol bomb was thrown in a street in Çayüstü region, that is mostly populated by Turks.
No one died or was injured in the attack, Turks put out the fire. Vehicles did not explode. Western Thrace Turks do still not have the minority status. They cannot demand their rights. Pasok Party spokesperson Yorgos Papakonstantinu says: “There is one minority in Greece, and it is the Muslim minority”. Athens, just as it claims Macedonia is not Macedonia, is claiming that Turks are not Turks but “only Muslims”.
On January 25, the cemetery in Musellim(Tekton) village of İskeçe were attacked by the construction vehicles of the municipality. Historical gravestones were destroyed. 10 days before this sad incident, Greek parents in Gümülcine held a meeting and decided not to send their children to school under the pretext of crowded classes, hepatitis and many other issues.
There are 150 Turkish and 80 Greek students attending that school! Another important issue is that, while Turkey is restoring Hagia Sophia, Ottman’s first and biggest mosque in the Balkans, Çelebi Sultan Mehmed Mosque in Dimetoka is in bad condition due to dilapidation….