2008 was full of unpleasant incidents for Western Thrace Turks. Disrespect to holy places, minarets, azan, cultural values and national identity reached highest levels. Here are some of the assessments of Millet newspaper on how the Western Thrace Turks lived 2008;
Great disrespect to sanctuaries
Opening of a night club next to the Tabakhane Mosque in Gümülcine city center draw reactions. According to the laws, night clubs must be located at least 50 meters away from the sanctuaries.
Foundations law was passed
Against all efforts, the commission approved the foundations law without any changes. Deputy Hacıosman said “the demands of the minority should be taken into consideration”. On January 15, Public Order and Justice Ministry Commission gathered for a meeting, in which the draft on “the management of properties of the West Thrace Muslim Minority’s foundations” was taken up. PASOK Party Rhodope deputy Ahmet Hacıosman expressed his views on the draft. At the beginning of the session, Rhodope deputy said the views of the Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association representatives should be listened to.
Karamanlis in Turkey…
Being the first Greek Prime Minister to visit Turkey after a 49 year-long break, Karamanlis was welcomed with an official ceremony by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. At the joint press conference after the meetings, it was declared that the leaders reached an agreement on the solution of the problems of the minorities. However, none of the results of this agreement were seen in Western Thrace.
January 29 incidents are a shame for this country
January 29 commemoration ceremonies that are organized by Western Thrace Turkish Minority Advisory Council each year, has took place in Gümülcine Turkish Youth Association this year. Advisory Council Chairman and Gümülcine Elected Mufti Ibrahim Şerif, then-Chairman of the Gümülcine Turkish Youth Association Arif Hüseyin, Sabık Deputy Ismail Rodoplu, and then-chairman of the Western Thrace Turkish Teachers Union Cahit Aliosman expressed their feelings and experiences.
8 months imprisonment for Mufti Mete
Iskeçe Mufti Ahmet Mete was tried on Friday February 8, at the Iskeçe one-judge Penal Court for having demolished the half-broken house next to the Iskeçe Mufti Premises without proper authorization. At the trial session that did not even last for 5 minutes Mufti Mete was found guilty, sentenced to 8 months in prison and a 5000 Euro of fine. Prison was a first time experience for Mufti Mete.
Foundations Law was passed in the Parliament
The draft that was put forward on February 6-7 2008, to regulate the foundation properties and management, as if it was a solution for the problems, became law in the parliament despite all objections. The legal regulation that was impossible to implement and far from meeting the needs and expectations of the minority became law just like the No. 240 Imam law on appointing religious personnel, which was also impossible to implement.
A Turk was sentenced to 10 months in prison in a controversial case opened by Hara Nikopulu, a teacher in Büyük Derbent village of Evros province. Over a dispute with village people and parents in recent months, parents collected signatures to reassign the teacher to a different location. Despite all efforts and initiatives of Turks, Hara Nikopulu is still serving in the school.
School Principal in Büyük Derbent Village was discharged
Following the incidents that started with Greek teacher Hara Nikopulu in Büyük Derbent Village, while the Greek government was expected to reassign the teacher to a different school, Principal Ali Abdurrahman was discharged. One of the teachers in the school Mehmet Şerif was appointed as the new Principal. The problems had started by Greek teacher Hara Nikopulu’s hostile behaviors against the Turkish minority in the region.
Nikopulu’s making racist remarks in his interviews with Greek TV channels and newspapers, draw reactions from the Turkish minority. In his statements, Nikopulu said education in Turkish minority schools should be in Greek to make the mother tongue of the Western Thrace Turks Greek, and he openly showed a racist approach against Western Thrace Turks.
Another insult to the Turkish identity
In a visit to Iskeçe on February 29, National Education Minister Evripidis Stilyanidis said in response to questions at the Governor’s office that: “Minority, is constituted of Pomaks, Gypsies and Turkish speakers”, which proved once again that the government’s policy on Turks was continuing “just as” it used to be.
ECHR confined Greece
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), found Greece guilty for closing the Iskece Turkish Union and Rodop Province Turkish Woman Culture Association for including the word “Turkish” in their names. ECHR said with the closure decision on the associations established by the Turkish minority, Greece has violated the “European Human Rights Convention’s 11th article on organization rights”. ECHR also pointed to the length of the trial on the second application and said “Greece has also violated the European Human Rights Convention’s 6th article on fair trial”.
Support for the minority case
On April 10, the 100.000 Euro suit for damages opened by Pomak Association’s Deputy Chairman Sebahattin Karahoca against the Millet newspaper was held in Iskeçe Court. Ihsan Ahmet Kaya was the lawyer of the daily. Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Council Gülbeyaz Karahasan was the witness. Deputies Cetin Mandacı and Ahmet Hacıosman, and Iskece Mufti Ahmet Mete took their places in the court in support of the fight for minority rights led by the Millet newspaper.
“Pomak Night” turned out a fiasco
Pomak Night organized by the Pomak Association turned out to be a real fiasco. Iskece Pomak Association that was set up to divide Western Thrace Turks organized its first official activity with the name “Pomak Night”. Nearly all of the attendants of the activity, which was an initiative to insult Turks, were extreme Greek nationalists.
Scandal in Mustafçova Municipality
Mustafçova municipality located on the Balkan side of Iskeçe was shaken by a scandal. An incident revealed by some Assembly members heated up the region. The discovery of disclaimed words like Pomak, Gypsies, and Pomakish in the 2007-2010 Enterprise Program (Epihirisiako Programa Dimu Mikis) of the municipality, draw reactions from the people in the region. The mayor claimed these words were included in the program without his knowledge. At a later Assembly session, the words in matter were expunged from the program.
Turkish Journalists were threatened and harassed in the “Pontus” activity
On May 24 “3 genocides 1 strategy” meeting of “Pontus” associations was held in Acadia Hotel in Gümülcine. Towards the end of the meeting, Turkish journalists in the hall, Ilhan Tahsin, Ahmet Davut and Ibrahim Baltalı were targeted. After some people’s finger pointing the cameras were turned towards Turkish journalists. They were photographed one by one.
Attack on the Imam
Imam of the Yalımlı village in Rhodope province, Bülent Hacı was attacked on June 15. In the attack, Imam Bülent Hacı was beaten and his arm was broken.
Minaret ban in Greece
Minister Stilyanidis said the minarets should be 7,5 meters high. Rhodope Deputy Ahmet Hacıosman presented a parliamentary question on the challenges faced during the minaret construction for mosques in Kalenderköy (Kalindiryo) and Demirbeyli (Venna) villages. National Education and Religious Affairs Minister Evripidis Stilyanidis answered the question by saying: “According to the law in effect, minarets cannot be higher than 7,5 meters”.
Greek Kindergarten’s are being dictated
The language of the education to be given in obligatory kindergartens is not certain yet. The Ministry is resisting to answer the Turkish deputies’ questions on the matter, and is continuously talking about multi-cultural kindergartens.
Minarets first, and now Azan
Iskece’s Karaköy and Alıtçılar village imams and representatives were called to the Yenice Police Center and warned about singing Azan in a lower tone. Kireççiler village imam was also called by the Iskece Police Center and asked to sing Azan in a lower tone, because of complaints from people.
New Democracy Party is determined to continue its anti-minority policies
After the New Democracy Party came to power, it continued its anti-minority policies. It made official job-opening announcements to actively implement the “240 Koran Teacher” law. The government published the “240 Koran Teacher” law in the official gazette and the National Education and Religious Affairs Ministry led by anti-minaret minister Evripidis Stilyanidis said the application period has started for the replacements of 240 religious educators.
The situation of the Yalı Mosque in Midilli
Yalı Mosque that was built in the name of Izmirli Hasan Paşa in Midilli Island in 1805 was turned into a store, and then the building of a restroom in it drew reactions. Before the Population Exchange projected by the Lausanne Agreement in 1923, Turks were living in the Espano Skala village where the Yalı Mosque was located. The minaret of the Yalı Mosque had collapsed and its dome was damaged, and it had been used as a butcher’s from World War II to 1998. As the law that anticipated all sanctuaries as historical buildings was not effective backwards, Yalı Mosque became a private property. Yalı Mosque, is being used as a store selling agricultural materials and fertilizers.
Incidents in Iskece Turkish Elementary School
Parents reacted to the Iskece Minority Elementary Schools Coordination’s deleting the registrations of some students in Iskece Center Turkish Minority Elementary School at the opening day of schools. Western Thrace Muslim-Turkish community expressed great reaction to the incident. On September 17, Turks gathered before the school and blocked the entrances of the school. Western Thrace Turkish Minority Advisory Council said the boycott would continue until the problem was resolved. Reactions to the incident reached the highest point with the protest walk on Monday September 22. Western Thrace Turks carried out a peaceful march to set an example to the whole world. Around 2500 people participated in the march and a military helicopter accompanied the walk in the sky.
Festival prayer on the street
In a neighborhood populated by thousands of Muslims in Greece, people had to do their Festival prayers on the street, because the administration did not allocate space for the construction of a Mosque.
Fine to the Turkish newspaper
Iskece Multi-Judge Court of First Instance carried out the trial case filed against the Millet Newspaper by Pomakish author Nikos Kokas, and sentenced the daily to a 50.000 Euro fine. The very same court decided Sebahattin Karahoca’s 100.000 Euro compensation demand to be as 50.000 Euros.
“Attempt of causing public disorder”…
In the 7 hour long trial case in Iskece Court on October 16, Millet Newspaper Editor Cengiz Ömer and Publishing coordinator Bilal Budur was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Millet Newspaper officials were found guilty of “attempt of causing public disorder” in their publications on “Pomak” association’s launch. A newspaper was sentenced because of a crime not included in law.
Greek demand was refused in ECHR
The Court refused the appeal application of Greece for the ECHR decision on the closure of Western Thrace Associations. 5 member Judges Committee of the Court refused the Greek application on October 1. The rightness of Western Thrace Turks was proved once again.
Festival under military supervision
In Ramadan, green and black beret troops passed through villages on the Balkan side and led to worries in the region. Villagers met the actions of the soldiers who gave the impression of a military drill on a Religious Festival Day, with worry and bewilderment.
Iskece Tukish Union applied to the court for the return of its official status
Iskece Turkish Union completed the legal paperwork to take its official status back and applied to the First Instance Court through its legal representative. The case was held on December 11, Thursday. However, the trial was postponed to February 19 2009. The case opened by Iskece Turkish Union’s lawyer Orhan Hacıibrahim demands the returning of the Iskece Turkish Union’s official status which it had 25 years ago.